Quick Write

What has been your greatest achievement? Think about why you did it? We are not gonna share, I just want you to think about this, we will get back to it later.



Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus

Let us break down the title. Frankenstein is the name of the Doctor that is telling us the story. What about the second part? What is Prometheus? What do you know about him?

Victor Frankenstein: The Narrator, Doctor, creator

Prometheus: ?

What does modern Prometheus mean then?

The Question

The question I want to consider now is: What it means to be human? Arguably, literary texts in charting human actions and emotions and so on, reflect back at us what makes us who we are? What makes us tick?

By looking at the monsters we create, we can learn what is means to be human and/or to be humane.

I want to focus on passages from Chapter 5 from the book. Here is the beginning passage:

Chapter 5

It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep. At length lassitude succeeded to the tumult I had before endured, and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness. But it was in vain; I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her, but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel. I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch—the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs. I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house which I inhabited, where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life.

Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.

I passed the night wretchedly. Sometimes my pulse beat so quickly and hardly that I felt the palpitation of every artery; at others, I nearly sank to the ground through languor and extreme weakness. Mingled with this horror, I felt the bitterness of disappointment; dreams that had been my food and pleasant rest for so long a space were now become a hell to me; and the change was so rapid, the overthrow so complete!

Dr. Frankenstein is trying to do a great thing. He wants to save human life. Why then is his greatest achievement, life, an abomination, a creature, a monster?

Why does he turn his back on the monster? What theory from Cohen would help us understand why the creation is a monster?

Who then is the monster? If you had a baby that was born with a physical or mental handicap, would you turn your back? Would you be horrified?

Let’s return now to the quick write. What was Dr. Frankenstein’s greatest achievement? Most would say it is the monster.

The Creation Scene

Dr. Frankenstein is trying to do a great thing: he wants to save human lives. Why then is his greatest achievement, life, an abomination, a creature, a monster?

Why does he turn his back on the monster? What theory from Cohen would help us understand why the creation is a monster?

Who then is the monster? If you had a baby that was born with a physical or mental handicap, would you turn your back? Would you be horrified?

Monster Theory and Frankenstein

In small groups, look at the seven theories to see which apply to Frankenstein and his Monster.

Quick Write

Which Monster theories apply to your monster?

Purpose of Evaluations

Let’s look at an example evaluation for a movie.

The Hunger Games: EW Review

Lisa Schwarzbaum is reviewing “The Hunger Games” movie.

  • Does she acknowledge what her mission is and who her audience is?
  • What criteria does she establish for it to succeed?
  • Does she anticipate her audience’s questions and reactions?
  • Does she address any differences between the book and movie?
  • What is her grade or judgment of the movie?

Dracula Untold 2014 Roger Ebert Review

In small groups, answer these questions.

  • How does he introduce us to the topic?
  • What is the purpose of each paragraph?
  • How does he evaluate the movie?
  • What is the final verdict?

Professor Evaluations

Come up with 3 -6 criteria for what makes a good Professor.

Evaluate a professor using the criteria.


Evaluation Notes

Writing an Evaluation: It is one thing to offer an opinion, yet it is an entirely different matter to back up a claim with reasons and evidence. Only when you do will readers take you seriously.

Explain your mission: Just what do you intend to evaluate and for whom? Are you writing for experts, a general audience, or novices? How much explaining do you need to do so that you audience follows you without getting annoyed with to much information.

Establish and defend criteria: Criteria are the standards by which objects are measured.

Successful presidents leave office with the country in better shape than when they entered.

When readers are likely to share your criteria, you need to explain little about them. When readers disagree or object, be prepared to defend your principles.

Remember: Monster Theory (Seven Theses) is a great starting point for establishing criteria. 

Offer convincing evidence: Evidence makes the connection between an opinion and the criteria for evaluation that supports it. Supply data to show that a product you judged faulty didn’t meet those minimal standards.

Offer worthwhile advice: Some evaluations are just for fun. Done right, most evaluations and reviews provide usable information, beneficial criticism or even ranked choices.

We evaluate everything from pizza, restaurants, movies, and even professors. Commentary and criticism of all sorts just happen. Doing them well is another matter. Here is a useful explanation of an evaluation to help you out.

The Evaluation Essay

Peer Review

  • Critical Thinking
  • Clarity of Thought
  • Analysis and Thesis
  • Images and Title
  • MLA and Works Cited

Thesis I. The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body

  • Each culture will produce their own monsters and their own versions of monsters. “The monstrous body is pure culture” (4).
  • The monsters is born as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment, a time, a feeling, and a place. A monster will always change because culture changes, our fears and beliefs are always changing (4).
  • The monster signifies something other than itself: it is a displacement, it inhabits the gap between when it was created and it is received, to be born again (4).

Quick Write

What is your grade or judgment of the monster? What’s the final verdict?

Evaluation Examples