Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
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Contributors (1)
Published
Jun 17, 2019

Discussion Questions

Chapter I

  1. Victor does not seek forgiveness from those he loves, choosing instead to withdraw further from human society. Are his choices so far forgivable? Why or why not?


    Chapter II

  2. Why would Mary choose such an awe-filled and sublime environment as the Alpine glacier for the confrontation between Victor and the creature? Is it just dumb luck that both Victor and the creature end up there?

  3. Why does the creature not accept Victor’s offer to fight, a fight that the creature would most surely win?

  4. In this chapter, Victor finally expresses some ambivalence and even self-doubt—about the circumstances of William’s murder and about his treatment of the creature. Why?

    Chapter III

  5. How credible do you find the creature’s account (or, rather, Walton’s account of Frankenstein’s account of the creature’s account) of his early days and weeks? Do you find it surprising that the creature is such an exacting observer? Why or why not?

  6. Why do the people the creature meets react to him with fear or hostility or both? Is it the same fear with which Frankenstein reacts?

  7. How are the creature’s “childhood days” like or unlike Victor’s described at the outset of the novel?

    Chapter IV

  8. What do we learn about the creature from his interaction with the old man and the two young people who live in the cottage? What does the creature learn about himself?

  9. What is the creature’s view of spoken language? Of what importance is it for him to say that he “learned and applied” (here, emphasis added) specific words? What is the difference between the words he learns and applies quickly and those that are still difficult for him?

  10. How does the creature hope to overcome the “deformity” to which he attributes the inspiration of fear and hostility in the humans he meets? Is this hope reasonable?

    Chapter V

  11. What is the significance for the creature of Safie’s arrival at the cottage? What does her presence mean for his understanding of language? Of emotion?

  12. Again like Victor earlier in the novel, the creature experiences the ambivalence of the acquisition of knowledge—sometimes it is greatly for his benefit, but sometimes it causes pain. How does the creature experience this ambivalence? How does he propose to manage it?

  13. Whereas the earlier chapters—for example, those about Victor’s gathering of research materials—remind us more of contemporary biomedical research, the narrative of the later chapters, when the creature starts to find his own voice, is more reminiscent of issues with artificial intelligence. How do you imagine the creature’s experience compares with that of a machine that has a dawning consciousness?

    Chapter VI

  14. Why does the creature think that he has to produce copies of the letters between Safie and Felix in order for Victor to believe him?

  15. What is the purpose of the creature’s long digression into the affairs of the De Lacey family and of Safie and her family? What can we learn about Victor and the creature through comparison with these two families’ experiences?

    Chapter VII

  16. Mary has the creature stumble upon Paradise Lost (Milton), Plutarch’s Lives, and The Sorrows of Young Werther (Goethe). What three poems, histories, or novels (or even songs or other creative works) would you choose to educate a creature created today?

  17. Each of us imagines that we are a singular “I” with a unitary body and mind and genetic makeup. At various times, this imagination comes under assault: Freud opened up the world of the subconscious, fracturing the unitary mind. More contemporary discoveries of the importance of microbiota pose the problem of a fragmented body, even after a long history of replacement of lost limbs with prostheses. Contemporary discoveries of chimerism can fragment our genetic unity. In so many ways, the “I” is really a complex collective. What are the implications of such fragmentation, and what are its consequences for understanding who we are as well for the pursuit of science and technology? Does it provide us with new motivations? Does it result in different kinds of knowledge or different kinds of technologies?

  18. The creature says he read Paradise Lost as a “true history.” What mistakes do we make when we read fiction as fact? How do we know?

  19. It turns out that Victor did make notes or keep a journal of his experiments, and the creature finds them and reads them, although the reader is never given any details from them. How would these notes differ from the letters exchanged elsewhere in the novel?

  20. If you were designing a creature that you intended to be sentient and sapient, what form or type would you give it? Why? Would it depend on its function? Would you take into account its feelings, if any, regarding how it looks, or would you take into account the feelings of the people among whom it would live and work?

  21. The creature refers to his designed encounter with the elder De Lacey as a “trial.” How is this trial like or not like the other trials in the novel—for instance, those of Justine and Victor?

    Chapter VIII

  22. When the creature arrives in Geneva and meets William, the child’s identity is unknown to him, and he does not have murder on his mind. He imagines that William is too young to have formed a prejudice against his deformity, but he is wrong and in his anger and discovery of William’s identity strangles the boy. Where does William’s prejudice (or fear) come from? Why is the creature wrong about William’s innocence of such knowledge?

  23. At the end of the chapter, the creature announces his plan to Victor: that Victor create for him “one as deformed and horrible as myself [who] would not deny herself to me” (here). The creature recognizes himself as intelligent, and he has all of Victor’s notes about how he was made. So why doesn’t the creature himself make his mate or propose to Victor that he teach him or that they collaborate in the making of his mate? Why does he demand, “This being you must create” (here)?

    Chapter IX

  24. Victor concludes about the creature’s proposition that “justice due both to him and my fellow-creatures demanded of me that I should comply with his request” (here). What competing forms or definitions of justice are at play here?

  25. If you were Victor, would you agree to make the creature a mate? Why or why not? Are there perhaps other, unexplored possibilities?

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