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Discussion Questions

Published onJun 17, 2019
Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions

Chapter I

  1. Why does Victor delay fulfilling his promise to the creature? What reason do you think is most important?

  2. Mary is very self-conscious of the social impossibilities in her world—for example, that women, people from lower social classes, immigrants, non-Christians, and slaves cannot partake in the full range of social and political possibilities that are reserved for people (usually men) of privilege. This problem is represented in this chapter by Elizabeth’s inability to accompany Victor on his two-year jaunt across Europe. Frankenstein is also a novel about technical possibilities and impossibilities. How do social (im)possibilities and technical (im)possibilities play into each other in the novel? Does the relative lack of technical impossibility help us understand or feel differently toward the presence of social impossibility?

    Chapter II

  3. Why is there no account of what Frankenstein learns from his contacts in London, “the information necessary for the completion of my promise” (here)? What might Victor need to learn to assemble a female creature that he did not already know?

  4. Victor refers to himself as “a blasted tree; the bolt has entered my soul” (here). To what does this refer? How might you compare Victor’s metaphor of being struck by lightning to the creature’s experience of the “spark of life”?

  5. There are differences between how Victor approaches his first experiment and how he approaches his second experiment, despite his solitude in the latter. What are they? Is there a relationship between his different attitudes and their respective outcomes? Does Victor have a clearer sense of the second experiment’s potential outcomes? Why? Can we fully think things out in advance?

    Chapter III

  6. Why does Victor decide to destroy the new creature? Is it simply because of the first creature’s appearance and a “countenance [that] expressed the utmost extent of malice and treachery” (here), observed in the dimmest of light? If the creature had not appeared, would Victor have finished his work?

  7. The confrontation between the creature—“You are my creator, but I am your master;—obey!” (here)—and Victor in this chapter is perhaps the most dramatic scene in the novel. Is the creature’s wrath justified? Have the tables turned as thoroughly as the creature imagines? Does Victor fully understand the scope of his decision not to cooperate with the creature’s demands?

  8. What else must Victor believe if he believes that creating a new creature would be an act of “the basest and most atrocious selfishness” (here)? Can he reasonably hold this belief in his head while at the same time feeling that he “was about the commission of a dreadful crime” (here) when he is disposing of the torn-apart remains of the second creature?

    Chapter IV

  9. Victor refers to destiny often in this chapter. Is choice now extinguished for him, and is fulfilling his destiny all that he has left to do? In what does Victor see his destiny? Are there points when he could have changed it? Is destiny the same thing as path dependency?

  10. Compare the respective legal cases against Justine and Victor and how they play out. What are the crucial pieces of evidence? How do the accused and the judicial authorities behave? How do the physical evidence, the circumstances, and other factors come together for a verdict?

    Chapter V

  11. Why does Victor continue to insist to his father that he is a murderer?

    Chapter VI

  12. Why does Victor not tell Elizabeth about the creature, especially before or at least on their wedding night? Are his potential reasons the same as or different from his reasons for not telling his father or Clerval?

  13. Why does Victor skip quickly over his period of madness after Elizabeth’s murder and his father’s consequent death? Might he have been subject to another trial, this time for the murder of his bride?

  14. Victor finally tells the whole story to someone in this chapter—a magistrate of Geneva—who listens politely and then interestedly but uses elements of Victor’s own story about the timeline and the creature’s superior power in his refusal to assist Victor. Is this denial ironic? A condemnation of bureaucracy? A convenient plot device?

    Chapter VII

  15. Victor expresses an extensive oath (or small prayer?) in this chapter, seemingly the first time he has invoked some religious or quasi-religious power. Where does this oath come from? Does his turn to spirituality here have anything to do with his experience with science? With law?

  16. Why does Victor makes a distinction between the “ardent desire of [his] soul” and “the mechanical impulse of some [external] power” (here)? Is this distinction easy to make for him? For us? Can Victor’s creature make such a distinction? If we were to make such a creature today, would it be able to do so?

    Walton’s Letters (continued)

  17. Why, in his letter to Margaret, does Captain Walton tell her that he really believes Victor’s story? Is Victor’s account sufficient?

  18. Even if science fiction, Mary’s novel is set in the past. Given that the novel is told through letters and stories passed from one person to another, do you think the readers of its day might have taken it as a real-life, nonfiction account? As an alternate history? As something like the radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds in 1938?

  19. Walton quotes Victor as calling the creature a “sensitive and rational animal” and then shortly afterward “a man” (here). Is the former a good and full definition of the latter? How do we define personhood today? Can personhood include nonrational animals? Rational nonanimals? Is personhood unitary, or can there be different varieties of it?

  20. Victor recognizes that he has a duty to support “his [creature’s] happiness and well-being” and a duty to humanity “paramount to that” (here). What is the logic of Victor’s assigning the duty to humanity the paramount value? Is this view utilitarian—emphasizing the good of the many over the good of the one? Is it communitarian—that the creature really doesn’t belong to a broader community, whose values and safety are more important than the outsider’s? Is Victor’s logic here instead simply an excuse for his earlier mistakes? Are there times when the logic of privileging the larger number over the smaller number is incorrect and we should risk the well-being of the community for the individual?

  21. Across the novel, there is something of a comparative ethics of suffering: Victor asserts that his suffering is greater than Justine’s, and Walton overhears the creature claiming that his suffering is greater than Victor’s. Is there any sense to be made of these comparisons? Can one being suffer more than another? Can suffering be objectively determined? Or is it entirely subjective? Is my suffering always more than yours simply because it is mine?

  22. Do you agree with Walton that the creature does not feel true remorse but instead feels only frustrated that Victor is now free of him?

  23. Do you believe the creature will extinguish himself? If you believe that promise, then do you believe the rest of his representations of his feelings and intentions? Why or why not?


I happened to listen to the audio book, and I came to the conclusion that the monster is just a figment of Victor's imagination. An imagination that was largely rationalized by Victor's creative mind, but still only a purely imaginary experience. However, Victor has no idea that the monster was just a figment of his imagination. There is some evidence in favor of this understanding of reading that I would like to clarify, as well as justify the confusing ending of the book which seems to contradict what I have just written.


1 - The story is purposely made so that there are unreliable narrators. Firstly, Captain Walton is writing letters to his sister. Then, he finds Victor. Victor narrates a story to him, and Walton writes that story to his sister. Victor forms friendships with Walton, and then revises the story written by Walton to ensure the accuracy of what he said is preserved. In an important part of the story, Victor narrates word for word what the Monster said to him, with a particularly large speech being what the Monster hypothetically made. In the end Victor dies and leaves Walton the mission, if possible, of killing the Monster. So Walton almost dies along with his crew, but is saved by weather changes and decides to return to England instead of reaching the North Pole. And so, Walton writes that he alone witnessed the Monster's appearance. In Walton's words, the Monster claims to mourn Victor's death and his own life. The Monster then states that he would fulfill what Walton wanted most: reach the North Pole and at the same time fulfill what Victor wanted most, which was the Monster's death.

All these narratives are unreliable as they are evidently produced by characters who may be misled by their own imaginations, especially Victor. In Walton's case, he might in the end have decided to write that he witnessed the Monster's mysterious appearance alone for two reasons: trying to prove that his friend wasn't crazy by creating an imaginary monster (although he was), and trying to make the Imaginary Monster arrive as far as the North Pole, thus somehow making his goal have somehow been accomplished by an imaginary creature, piggybacking on Victor's story. These may have been intentional lies by Walton or unintentional, meaning he may have come to imagine Monster the same way Victor had, having spent so much time listening to those stories, perhaps even having a case of madness at sea.

I want you to understand what I said at first as a possibility, but the evidence I will present makes this possibility even more believable.


2 - The initial theme of the book is family life and relationships between people considered friends. As well as sometimes people sacrifice their family lives for personal goals or for the sake of principles (in the case of marriages). This is evident in Captain Walton's relationship with his sister, in the brief narrative about a man who stopped marrying a woman because she was in love with another (he even financially supported the new couple), and finally in the Victor's parents, his relationship with his step-sister and future fiancée Elizabeth, his relationship with his friend Henry Clerval, and Victor's relationship with his own father. After that, when "The Monster" himself narrates a story, through Victor's narration, he dwells largely on the family life of Felix, his father, his sister, his father-in-law and his fiancée. All this thematic would be unnecessary if the book were about a real monster that simply kills people. It is notable, however, that the monster does not kill anyone other than people directly related to Victor. The theme of the book at no time seems to be a horror. All the time it seems to be family dramas. Death, illness, disappointments in love, misfortune affect all important characters, with family dramas that are almost timeless. But victor's family drama, unlike the rest of humanity, in his mind, is caused by a monster he created. If his brother dies, it was the monster he killed. If his wife dies, it was the monster that killed her. If a family friend is accused of murder, it was the monster who planned to frame her. If the best friend dies, it was the Monster who killed him. The Monster doesn't harm anyone else, except people related to Victor. This is very strange. That in itself doesn't prove the monster is imaginary, but it does make me raise my eyebrows. The amount of concrete family dramas and without the need for a monster permeate the story is so great, that it seems strange to me that no one has made the connection between the elements of "sci-fi/fantasy/horror" and the family drama elements so present in the story. To me, it is very evident that Victor is putting his family problems on the account of an imaginary monster. If he feels guilty for creating the monster, it's actually because he feels guilty for other reasons.


3 - The Creation of the Monster and the moments after the creation of the Monster: Victor is very laconic with respect to the scientific processes in which he brought the Monster to life. He justifies this by saying that he does not want the information to be public knowledge so that others do not replicate the experience. However, it is implied that he was influenced by ancient alchemists, whose writings were derided by his father, and by his professors in college, and ultimately by himself. Furthermore, Victor seems to indicate that creating the monster required electrical energy and dead body parts. He claims to have created the Monster in his own home. Victor spent 6 years studying in Ingolstadt, and left his family virtually without news for at least 2 of those 6 years, disobeying his father's only instruction, that he keep in touch by letter. The beginning of Victor's family problems was his lack of communication with his family. And from the start, he blames the Monster for that, meaning the process of creating the Monster kept him from talking to the family. To me, this is just a rationalization of the fact that he prioritized his studies over his family. And so, in his imagination, as soon as the Monster opens his eyes, he goes through a massive mental shock. The Monster simply opened his eyes, and in Victor's menet, he was already born guilty of his family problems. As soon as Victor leaves the house, hypothetically the day the Monster opened his eyes, he runs into his best friend who has come to visit him. And when he sees him, he starts to feel sick, due to mental breakdown. When they arrived at Vicor's house, there wasn't even a trace of the Monster or the rest of it. There was no physical evidence that made Clerval, his best friend, even suspect that he was dealing with dead and decaying bodies in his own home. The very idea that this could actually be done in one's home is itself fanciful, and totally out of step with the serious and realistic tone of all parts of the book that are not closely related to the monster. In the narrative the monster supposedly gave Victor, he claims to have left Victor's house and headed towards a forest. I can say that it is highly unlikely that a 2.4 meter humanoid with monstrous features would go completely unnoticed in a populous city, so this subject was not even mentioned in the newspapers for 2 months. (That was Victor's recovery time from his sick and delusional state). It should be noted that Victor's sick and delusional state is something that happens repeatedly throughout history, this being the first time that this is recorded and recognized by Victor himself. In other words, asking me to believe that the monster is real is asking me to believe the story told by a man who creates a monster in his own home with no reliable witnesses to prove what he claims, and which admittedly has to from time to time mental disorders and who did not seek help to treat it, is asking too much of me. At a certain point in the story, the Monster asks Victor to create a female version of the monster, whom he can marry. I'll talk about this again later. However, for the moment, I need to point out how meaningless the description of the partial creation of the female monster was. According to Victor, he started to create her during a trip made together with Clerval. How could he handle the process of raising the female while traveling without Clerval realizing it? It is assumed, from what was described in the creation of the original monster, that Victor needed a body, or even several bodies, to give life to a monster. But the way he describes creating the female, it would only take a few chemicals. All the material he could hypothetically need to create a monster could perhaps have been found at his college or in some other way in a crowded city. But miraculously, it wouldn't need anything so sophisticated or difficult to obtain, as to be able to create and transport the resulting progress of its new construction during a journey made by train, on horseback and finally by boat. Lastly, he claims to have asked Clerval for some privacy. So he found an island, which had few inhabitants, he broke into an uninhabited house and went to work on creating the female monster there, in the middle of nowhere. I mean, if the female monster were real, he'd be transporting dead body pieces and mysterious chemicals and working on reassembling a body during a trip using various modes of transport, and Clerval didn't notice? That doesn't make sense. What stopped his work was not the difficulty of obtaining material, but his determination not to fulfill his promise. In his mind, he was indeed about to create another living creature. But I want to emphasize that this creation does not make sense within the story itself, if the creation is something real in that universe. Something interesting to add on the subject is the compliments that Professor Waldman gives Victor when he recovers. They are apparently sincere praise of his progress in studies. However, apparently no one else knows about his studies involving the creation of life. Apparently, the studies Victor was very involved in were serious scientific studies of great academic recognition. Further proof of his advances in conventional academic studies is the praise of Professor Krempe, who was a critic at first, and later was sincerely surprised by Victor's increase in scientific knowledge. The criticism consisted precisely of the fact that Victor had clung as a teenager to studies of ancient alchemists. If the professor believed that Victor was clinging to goals like those of these ancient alchemists, I'm sure he wouldn't praise Victor on the matter.  All of this points not to a man bent on building a monster, but to a man who sacrificed his mental health and family appreciation to achieve academic prestige, but ended up succumbing to the stress and pressure of pHD. It is quite possible that the hallucinations about the monster's creation arose during the 2 month period he spent recovering from the mental shock. The hallucinations felt like old memories when he finally woke up. No teacher commented on Victor being isolated in his home for 2 years without making progress in other areas. Nobody talked about his work with dead animals. And he came to have an aversion to instruments linked to chemistry, not biology studies. All of this points to a pHD involving chemistry (or perhaps biochemistry) but nothing about spending days studying dead bodies and the processes of decomposition.

4 - The study of foreign literature - Victor demonstrated to Captain Walton and the rest of his crew a great knowledge of literature. And this is not surprising. Victor studied literature alongside Clerval after his recovery (after having the mental shock after hypothetically creating the monster). This is an almost unnecessary detail in the story unless it serves to show the sources of inspiration for some of Victor's hallucinations. This also explains why the Monster, hypothetically narrating his own story, cites what happened to Felix's family in such a detailed and specific way. An interesting detail is that Victor studied literature that included Arabic literature. And in the narration made by the presumptive monster, Felix's bride is Arab. Victor remembers every detail of the words used by "Monster", even being able to correct some "inaccuracies" and syntheses made by Walton in the Monster's narrative. What may seem like evidence that the "Monster" narrative is real is actually evidence against it. Because if you listen to a large and detailed narrative, your memory naturally records the essence of what was said, and not word for word of what was said. If Victor can remember it word-for-word, it's because that experience of talking to the Monster happened only in his imagination, which had been heavily influenced by foreign literature, and that's why it's so full of details. Even Felix's hypothetical letters, which Victor has with him when talking to Walton, may have been produced by Victor himself, only for him to convince himself that he had material proof that he was not insane. (But actually, he was).

5 - Analyzing the death of William and the criminal charge of Justine: After learning of the death of William, his younger brother, Victor returned from Ingolstadt to Switzerland. There, while he was alone, he saw the Monster in the distance performing a superhuman act, displaying the strength and dexterity of climbing a mountain too fast for a human. With no proof, no evidence of it, Victor declared The Monster guilty of his brother's death, since "The Demon" in the story is just too weird. The Monster didn't seem to be trying to hide, nor did it seem to be trying to show itself just to Victor. Still, he presented perfect timing, to appear to Victor exactly when he was alone, and no one else could witness the creature's feat. Something interesting to note is that, in the story that the hypothetical monster tells, what led him to capture a random child was the desire to raise a child as his own child. That desire had never arisen in him before, and it never did again. It was just a rationalization of Victor's mind, to make the monster guilty in some way, as this was an uncharacteristic behavior that the imaginary character he created displayed. Because that's how the imaginary characters that persecute us and convince us that they are real are like this: they act strangely when it suits the hallucinations and leave script holes in the strange stories they tell us.

6 - William's death appears to have been the most "normal" of murders. If you think there's a monster of superhuman strength and speed killing people out there, you're unlikely to believe that this monster will kill someone choking. More than that, you are unlikely to believe that the gigantic Monster did this without leaving monstrous evidence of its presence. You are even less likely to believe that the Monster knew exactly what to do to frame exactly the person who could be framed for larceny and executed such a well-thought-out frame of incrimination and was lucky that the person he was going to frame was in a geographical position that would allow it. It is true that the account of the "Monster" seems to make sense, but even in his account, he was lucky that the first person he met in Geneva was exactly Victor's brother. And for no reason he took the jewel Justine wanted and placed it next to her, which was in the stable he'd decided to enter out of coincidence. And he did all that, he even stayed on the outskirts of the city, without anyone else having seen him, except for Victor who happened to see him when he arrived in Geneva. All this seems to me a forced rationalization by Victor himself. Evidence points to William being killed by a human. Justine then becomes an unreliable narrator in narrating what happened. We will never know if she is innocent or not, but the evidence is against her. Either she killed William, or someone killed William and framed her. But in neither case was it necessary for a gigantic and virtually invisible Monster to appear to other humans to kill William. Everything indicates that, in blaming the monster, Victor was looking for a way to rationalize that horrible fact: the murder of his younger brother. A death in the family, when he wasn't there or paying attention to the family through letters. In Victor's mind, the absence was the monster's creation's fault and the death was the monster's own fault. And because he created the monster, it was his fault.


7 - Victor's first conversation with the Monster - In addition to being an unreliable narration, as I've already explained, the essence of the story is about how the monster clings to a family that is originally made up of an elderly father and two brothers. It doesn't take much trouble to relate this family (even with differences) to the stature of Victor's family. Victor's family consisted in practice of him, a brother, a sister and a father. The monster encountered the same familiar structure. Like Victor's family, that family had struggled but found emotional comfort with each other. Victor unconsciously saw himself as the monster. Someone who cared about that family but who might no longer be a part of it because of his absence. The father of the fictional family was blind. This was possibly related to the fact that Victor's father loved him without considering his faults. But could he expect the same from his brother and sister? What the monster feared most was what Victor feared most: familiar rejection when they saw his true self. And the arrival of the Arab woman in the family, possibly represented the arrival of Clerval as a close friend. In the fictional story, the arrival of the woman represented the monster's increase in scholarship, while in real life, Clerval's arrival in Ingolstadt represented his increase in literary knowledge.

8 - The monster's request at the end of his speech - When the monster asked Victor to create a wife for him, I guessed what would happen in Victor's life: the subject of his marriage to Elizabeth would come up. I was already imagining that the events involving the monster were closely linked to the events of Victor's life. If the monster wanted to get married, Victor would want to get married too. Maybe even the fact that he wanted to marry his step-sister made him feel even more like a monster inside. (Or maybe not). But the thing is, the desire to get married was in both at the same time. So when Victor apparently destroyed the female monster's body, I deduced the doom that would befall Elizabeth.

9 - The monster's superpower to find Victor when he wants to, as long as Victor is alone. - This superpower is used to make the monster find him and have that long conversation on Mont Blanc. Then the monster swears he will make Victor suffer on his wedding night. How could the monster know about Victor's wedding? Was he watching everything from a distance, with no one else seeing him? Also, as soon as Victor destroys the hypothetical female monster's body, the monster appears in the window of the small house he was in. To get there, Victor made long journeys using various means of transport. How did the Monster present perfect timing? How could he find Victor in the first place? And how could he be so sure that on the wedding night he would actually find himself and get revenge on Victor, since he didn't even know where Victor's wedding or wedding room would be? All of this is explained with the Monster being a figment of Victor's imagination.

10 - Clerval's Death - Victor claims that eyewitnesses saw a man using a craft similar to his during the night leaving the beach, moments before they found the body. However, Victor claims that people on the island he did the experiments on confirmed that Victor was on the island when the body was found. Importantly, Clerval's body was still warm when it was found, and he showed no signs of a struggle. To me, Victor murdered Clerval, assuming the identity of the Monster. For me, Victor was with Clerval the whole time on that island, drugged. But Victor thought he was experimenting. Clerval's letters never arrived, they are simply a figment of Victor's imagination. And a simple confusion with nighttime hours (very common in the 18th century, when people generally didn't have reliable clocks) allowed Victor's halibi to seem to make sense. Because there is no logic in believing that the Monster found Clerval in some other town, brought him to the beach alive, killed him right there on the beach (since the body was still alive) and then left in a vessel similar to Victor's towards to the sea. Clerval must have been drugged, Victor strangled him but the definitive death only came a few minutes later, when Victor was already on his way back to the island, leaving Clerval's body without a fight mark but only the strangulation mark. The fact that Victor, when he saw Clerval's body, had another shock that lasted for months and that caused him to have hallucinations again only confirms how the hallucinations themselves may have seemed to him like memories when he woke up.

11 - Elisabeth's death - Everything indicates that Victor killed her, assuming the identity of the monster, in a similar way to Clerval's death. She was drugged when she was strangled. Hence the scream that was heard was apparently heard only by Victor. And again, the only one who saw the monster was Victor. The fact that Victor didn't tell his lover about the monster is really very suspicious. It is inconceivable that he, such an intelligent person, would not have imagined that the monster could put his wife's life at risk. When the subject of the wedding night was brought up by the monster in connection with Victor refusing to give the monster himself a wife, it was evident that the life of Victor's future wife was at risk. Why didn't he think about protecting his wife? This is strong evidence that in his twisted subconscious, Victor hatched a plan to kill his wife on the wedding night. He just couldn't consciously realize it. Even if he believed that the monster would attack him, there would be no point in not telling his wife about it, because in any situation she would be at risk if a fight were to break out at the inn. This all indicates that Victor was on a campaign of self-destruction and destruction of all those who could bring him happiness. Normally, after the death of Clerval, a person who was hypothetically killed without warning by the monster, one would expect Victor to see to it that his family was as safe as possible. He demonstrated that he knew his family was at risk when his father came to visit him in prison. But even realizing that the monster had not yet attacked his other familiars, he did nothing to protect them from a killer who had hypothetically set a target on everyone Victor loved. This only points to the fact that Victor himself unconsciously planned his wife's death.

12 - Apparent appearances of the Monster to other people: The appearances narrated by the monster itself are only Victor's imagination. The other apparitions are purposely in situations similar to the ones that Victor was in: The "monster" was seen in a vessel equal to the one Victor was in, he was seen invading the house of people who lived near the polar circle carrying firearms, when Victor himself was hunting the monster carrying firearms. The monster was seen by the ship's crew in the distance, in a sled pulled by dogs, when Victor himself was also in a sled pulled by dogs. This is a pattern that repeats itself. In all cases, it seems that a mechanism identical to what happened in Clerval's murder is involved: Vicotor, possessed by the alter-ego of the monster he created in his imagination, appears in a certain place and then returns to the same place already in his normal sense. In the boat's appearance, Victor narrates that he spent time unconscious before appearing to the public as Vicgor. In the sled appearance, he narrates that he spent time resting before appearing to the public as Victor. All this seems to indicate that it was actually Victor himself who came to act like the Monster. He killed Clerval, killed his wife and indirectly killed his father. And finally, the captain added verisimilitude to his unreliable narrative, as I have already explained.

13 - And finally, the monster uses vocabulary very similar to Victor's. He seems to have religious beliefs from when he was in the forest. He couldn't speak, but he knew the names of things and birds. He became as wordy as Victor.

Thomas Besgen:

In response to question 20 I think Victor’s logic is in fact an excuse for his earlier mistakes. He feels obligated to help his creature because he left it to be chased down by the people and now he feels like he has left it out to die and fend for itself which he knows it can’t do. I do think however it is worth risking the well being of the community over the individual though.

Thomas Besgen:

In response to question 19 I believe that the former is a good and full definition of the ladder. I am currently enrolled in philosophy and we have been talking about person hood and how it is defined. One of the bigger treats that defines personhood is the ability to think and rationalize. I don’t believe personhood can include non-rational animals considering they cannot rationalize.