Frankenstein Application Essay: A Novel Review
Task: The Frankenstein Application Essay
Literary works like Frankenstein explore the "human condition" or experiences that humans encounter. The study guides for Frankenstein offer several "Real Life Considerations" meant to help you critically analyze the applications of the work's themes in today's world. Now, you will choose one of these topics and explore it using secondary resources to learn more about the novel and its relevant social topics. You might find information about social issues in familiar sources such as magazines, newspapers, or social science journals. Make sure your sources are credible - you do not want a random website or an encyclopedic website such as Wikipedia.2 Your sources will preferably be scholarly ones. Here are some ideas of places where you might find appropriate sources for this assignment:
- Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/ (note that this is different from regular Google)
- Microsoft Academic Search: http://academic.research.microsoft.com/
- Cornell University's arXiv (open access sources in math, biology, physics, and other fields): http://arxiv.org/
- Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE): https://www.base-search.net/
- Your local library
Your thesis statement and paper must address both the literary qualities and the social issues as you evaluate the novel, Frankenstein. However, keep in mind, your essay does not have to answer ALL of the questions listed under each topic. Only answer the questions you feel are the most relevant to the thesis statement you choose. Develop your essay so it has a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. Ensure that each of your claims is supported with valid evidence from the novel, Frankenstein, and at least three other credible external sources.3
Using proper MLA style, insert parenthetical citations and signal phrases for all borrowed information in addition to a Works Cited page for Frankenstein and your chosen external sources.
You have several options for this assignment:
Option #1: Can science go too far?
There is an ongoing battle between faith or spirituality and science that has been active even before the time of Mary Shelley. What are some of the dilemmas she addresses that are still important today? What are some of the ethical questions she brings up regarding the scientific definition of life and death? What does she illustrate about the power science has to blur the line between life and death? What is a current news item that is similar to this issue?
Hint: Develop a thesis that answers a question like this one: "How and how well does Mary Shelley's Frankenstein address ethical issues of science and/or faith for audiences, regardless of when they read the novel?"
Option #2: Discovery
Both Frankenstein and Walton are trying to discover something important to them. What parts of their real lives drive them to discovery? Does that drive still exist today? While we've mapped the globe, are there still geographical places for people to explore? In science, are people still trying to discover the meaning of life, how to save life, and how to defeat death? What methods do they use? Are there better ways to accomplish these goals than others? What are some of today's motivations for discovery?
Note: Develop a thesis that answers questions like this one: "How and how well does Mary Shelley's Frankenstein address human discovery as a theme?"
Option #3: World Perception and Prejudice
Reread the paragraph where the creature describes the book from which Felix teaches Safie. It begins: "The book from which Felix instructed Safie was Volney's Ruins of Empires..."
What are some of the perceptions and prejudices from the book that Felix teaches Safie? How have these perceptions and prejudices changed, if they have, in today's society? What are some present-day situations and references that may claim a lack of prejudice or an open-mindedness, but, in fact, are still very prejudiced, racist, sexist, etc.? Why do you think these situations still happen? Can anything be done about it?
Hint: Develop a thesis that answers a question like this one: "How and how well does Mary Shelley's Frankenstein address human prejudice in the world throughout time?"
Option #4: Personal Perception
It could be argued that the creature did not consider itself a monster and didn't do awful things until people treated him like a monster. What are some real-world instances in which people's actions could be a reaction to abuse from others? Who do you feel is accountable in these situations? Why?
Hint: Develop a thesis that answers a question like this one: "How and how well does Mary Shelley's Frankenstein address the effect of peer perceptions on personal development?"
Option #5: Death and Suicide
At the end of the book, the creature promises to destroy himself. Is this a justifiable end for him? Could he have been redeemed? Would he have had a place in the world of Shelley's novel? How could this relate to current-day issues like suicide or the death penalty?
Hint: Develop a thesis that answers a question like this one: "How and how well does Mary Shelley's Frankenstein address the value of an individual's life and death?"
Option #6: Nature vs. Nurture
The creature argues that had someone properly guided him, he would not have been so wretched. Frankenstein4 argues that the creature was evil to begin with, so it would have been useless to teach him at all. What are some current debates - especially in education - where these kinds of arguments still arise? How much of behavior of you think is based on nature (how a person IS) and how much is based on nurture (what a person LEARNS or EXPERIENCES)? What examples from the present support your opinion? What do you feel is the truth? Why?
Hint: Develop a thesis that answers a question like this one: "How and how well does Mary Shelley's Frankenstein address existing personality traits versus how a person is taught to act?"
Option #7: Feminism
The feminist perspective is often explored in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. How are the women characters treated in the novel? What perceptions of women did Shelley use and comment on? How did she handle the theme of motherhood?
Hint: Develop a thesis that answers a question like this one: "How and how well does Mary Shelley incorporate responses to feminist issues into the novel, Frankenstein?"
Introduction to Frankenstein Application Essay
Frankenstein is a famous English novel which was written in the year 1818 by Mary Shelly. The novel narrates the story of the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, who was a young scientist and created a sapient creature. This creature was created during a scientific experiment which was unorthodox. This novel was started when the author, Shelley was only 18 years old. The first edition of Frankenstein, was published when Shelley turned 20 in 1818, on January 1, but the author name was mentioned as anonymous. However, during the second edition her name was mentioned as the author in 1821 (Crook, Nora, and Betty T. Bennett).
While writing Frankenstein, Shelley thought of a scientist who wanted to create life. However, during the experiment the scientist ends up creating something horrific. The novel, is full of Gothic novel elements as well as aspects of Romantic movement. Frankenstein as per Crook, Nora, is considered to be the first ever work of true science fiction. The novel has also created space for writing horror stories. Though there are various layers and interesting aspects of novel, in this essay, the novel, Frankenstein, will be viewed from the feminist angle.
Feminism in Frankenstein
The concept of Feminism refers to the economic, social and political equality of the sexes. In literature, there is a feminist approach to the reading, which is concerned about the manner in which the piece of literature undermines or reinforces the social, economic, psychological and political oppression over women. In the novel, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, the women characters are seen to be or described as disposable, passive and serving the utilitarian function. There are very few female characters in the novel which include, Justine, Elizabeth, Safie, Agatha and Margaret. These are no significant characters in the novel. They are mainly acting as a link or medium of action for the major male characters in Frankenstein (Kostadinova, Vitana).
In the novel, Mary Shelley actually criticizes the norms and gender roles created by the society. The traditional roles of the genders imposed by the society are criticised by Shelley in a way by punishing the characters who subscribe or succumb to the societal gender roles. The characters in the novel are seen to conform to the stereotypical gender roles. The male characters in Frankenstein, are self-centred and ambitious. The female characters on the other hand are docile and self-sacrificing. The protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, represents the beliefs of the society which are patriarchal in nature. Victor is also seen to be unable to showcase any female attributes. This lack of feminism leads to the demise of the characters, including those Victor himself and those he cared for. The novel also highlights how the male characters of the novel consider the females to be insignificant. The female voice is hardly heard in the novel. However, Mary Shelley describes nature to be feminine and active. This feminine nature rewards or punishes the characters as per their actions (Sampson).
In the novel, Frankenstein, the protagonist Victor is punished for his biggest crime, which is violation of domesticity. In the novel a very strange thing is to be noticed, i.e., it is a ‘male’ narration. The three narrators in the novel, Victor Frankenstein, Robert Walton and the Creature are males. As the narration is from male perspective, it shows how the women are through their lens. The female characters are either passive throughout or absent in most situations. The male narration talks of the male relationships and endeavours while neglecting the females. In the events, the female characters are seen to be side-lined. The males are so busy in their masculine quest and vaulting ambition, that they do not consider the household care as a work at all, demeaning the role of women in the house. Though the female characters are passive, an in-depth reading of the novel shows that even the apparently insignificant female character is important. For instance, Robert writes the letters to his sister, Margaret. Though Margaret is passive, her existence makes space for the letters and narration. However, the author has not given space to the character of Margaret to speak, making her totally invisible and one of the quietest characters of the novel (Shelley).
In other instances, Victor is seen to have enough interaction with Elizabeth Lavenza. She is described by him as beautiful. Here one should note that the description of a woman as beautiful or pretty signifies patriarchy, because the nature of the woman, intelligence, kindness, etc. is not valued. What matters to Victor is the physical appearance of Elizabeth.
Caroline, the mother of Victor is also seen to be highly impacted by patriarchy. She brings Elizabeth to her son as his object of pleasure. Victor starts believing that he can get what he desires, as his mother instil this idea in him. He goes further to consider Elizabeth as his possession. In the course of the novel, the female characters, Caroline, Elizabeth and Justine die. They die as they constantly try to sacrifice their lives and please the male characters. Though there are no female role models in the novel. Frankenstein, the novel is still feminist. The feminist politics can be prevalent even in the absence of major, influential female characters. The feminist politics in Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, exists even in the absence of female role models. The critique of the decision of Frankenstein to create a masculine reproduction mode has exhibited the feminist politics. The novel shows how Frankenstein creates the male creature and then uncreates the female creature. This absence of female creature yields the monstrosity, which eventually leads to the end of Frankenstein. Shelley has incorporated the female angle by showing how Victor started creating a female companion for the male sapient creature. The creature talks about living ‘happy forever’ with his companion, which hints at the concept of marriage. Victor also fears of creating the female companion because he is afraid that the female creature will be created with the autonomy and authority to decide what she wants. This indicates how the male dominated society undermines and oppresses women as they fear that they would develop autonomy. The female creature is destroyed when its making was almost. Victor wanted to create things without the involvement of any woman. This absence of female creature or characters trigger many events and leads to the despair and loneliness of the creature and other males (Rouhette, Anne).
Therefore, it can be concluded that the women are peripheral to the main plot of the novel Frankenstein. However, the female characters are central to the novel, more so because they are not present. The patriarchal ideas, the feminist politics, the underlying role of females, etc. have been highlighted throughout the novel. Thus, the novel suggests that even after side-lining the female characters they emerge to be significant for the novel.
Crook, Nora, and Betty T. Bennett. The Novels and Selected Works of Mary Shelley: Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Routledge, 2020.
Crook, Nora. "Mary Shelley: Geology, Statuary, and “The Attacked Escort”." The Wordsworth Circle 50.3 (2019): 348-369.
Kostadinova, Vitana. "MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN TRANSLATED: MONSTROSITY AND DEMONISATION." (2019).
Rouhette, Anne. "Elizabeth Lavenza in Frankenstein (I): From the Beast to the Blonde?(1818-1831)." Frankenstein Application Essay Représentations: la revue électronique du CEMRA (2018).
Sampson, Fiona. In search of Mary Shelley: The girl who wrote Frankenstein. Profile Books, 2018.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein: Annotated for scientists, engineers, and creators of all kinds. Mit Press, 2017.