Frankenstein

 

The Assignment
Write a sustained analysis of one central theme that appears in Frankenstein. I have organized our class discussions in terms of five main themes. You may choose one of these themes or formulate your own theme using the options presented below as a guide. If you choose your own theme, run it by me first.
1. The Bad Parenting Theme. Is the tragedy of Frankenstein caused by bad parenting? Who are the good parents in the novel? The bad parents? What are the characteristics of each? What are the results of parental neglect? What is the contract between parents and children? What happens if either parents or children break the contract? How do references to God and Adam and address this theme?
2. The Novel as Political Allegory. How can the novel be said to tell the tale of the French Revolution? In this allegory, what does the Creature represent? What does Victor represent? How do ideas of the social contract enter into their relationship? What does the novel say about the obligations of the upper classes? About the rights of and/or the threats posed by the lower classes? (allegory: story in which people, things, happenings have symbolic meaning; story that offers moral lesson)
3. The Ethics of Scientific Inquiry Debate. What message does Frankenstein ultimately send about the value of scientific/technological investigation? Does science mean progress? Does the work of men of genius always lead, as Professor Waldman asserts, to ?the solid advantage of mankind?? What are the novel?s attitudes toward Victor?s work? Toward the Creature? If science is to benefit humanity, what needs to happen? How is this theme still relevant today?
4. The Value of Ties of Affection/Danger of Solitude Theme. Throughout Frankenstein we see many statements of the value of friendship and of ties of affection. In particular the domestic family unit holds primary value in the lives of both Victor and the Creature. How is this domestic space important to each character? What are the values associated with the domestic sphere? What happens when characters lose their domestic bonds? How does the novel assert the danger of solitude/self-absorption? If you would like, you can shape this topic as a feminist argument about the importance of the private/feminine/domestic sphere whose value system is opposed to the public/masculine sphere of science, politics, commerce etc.
5. Use Frankenstein to construct a definition of a human being. What qualities must one have to be considered human? Which characters in the book possess these qualities? What are the rights and responsibilities associated with being a human being? What makes one a monster? Who are the humans and who are the monsters in the novel and why?

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