Critical Lens Essay



This essay represents 50% of your final exam grade.

            *Silver Day students:  Your essay is due in TurnItIn BEFORE Monday, 12/16.

            *Green Day students:  Your essay is due in TurnItIn BEFORE Tuesday, 12/17.


Turn the paper in to the section labeled “paper.”  There are several revisions available in case your plagiarism return is higher than 10%.  If this is the case, rewrite the sections that are plagiarized and submit to Revision 1, etc.


For each of the following topic areas, there is an essay question and a series of questions related to the essay topic.  You are not required to answer each of the questions in your essay; the questions are there to help you think more deeply about your topic.


Choose ONE topic to explore thoroughly in a well-written essay, 3-4 pages in length with MLA citations and correct in-text citations of researched material.  One of the most important facets of your essay is the fact that you are considering Frankenstein through at least one of the critical lenses we studied this semester.




Topic Choice #1:  Journeys

(Archetypal Lens)


In many works of literature, a physical journey – the literal movement from one place to another – plays a central role.  Using Frankenstein, discuss how the journey adds to the meaning of the work as a whole.  Avoid mere plot summary.


  • Find passages that describe each significant setting in the novel.
  • Examine how the setting descriptions contribute to the following areas:

a.  Tone and/or mood

b.  Fulfillment of romantic notion of nature/natural settings

c.  Overall effect of the work


  • Trace how the increasingly isolated setting contributes to an understanding of characterization.










Topic Choice #2:  Portrayal of Women

(Feminist/Gender Lens)


Female characters often encounter issues and difficulties vastly different than their male counterparts.  Examine how Shelley uses the female characters in Frankenstein.  Avoid mere plot summary.


  • How do the female characters reflect Shelley’s own biographical situation?
  • What are the similarities and differences between Frankenstein’s mother, Justine Moritz, and Elizabeth?  What function does each character serve?  How important are these women in the overall structure of the work?  Are they credited with their own existence or are they used in service of other facets of the story?
  • Why does Shelley depict these women as essentially powerless?
  • How is Victor’s encroachment on the uniquely feminine power of creation significant?
  • Why does the monster want a wife?  Is this similar to the role the other women play in the lives of their mates?
  • Find key passages that illuminate and support the questions above.





Topic Choice #3:  Identity

(Historical/Sociological Lens)


Authors throughout the ages have questioned what creates individual identity.  Some theorize that identity is innate, others that society creates our identity.  Exploring the significant characters in Frankenstein, consider the factors that contribute to their identity.  How does this portrayal affect the meaning of the work as a whole?  Avoid mere plot summary.


  • How does Shelley portray the role of fate in the lives of characters?  How much are they in control of their own destiny?  How does this contribute to their identity?
  • To what degree are the characters portrayed as innately good or innately evil?  How does this contribute to their identity?
  • What role do reading and education play in the formation of character/identity?  Trace through multiple characters.  How are they educated?  What are they ramifications of self education vs. formal schooling?  How does this relate to the idea of character/identity?
  • What role does society play in the formation of identity?  What about isolation? 
  • How does a character’s appearance affect their identity?
  • Find key passages that relate to the above questions.








Topic Choice #4:  Power

(Historical/Sociological Lens)


One of the strongest human drives seems to be a desire for power.  Write an essay in which you discuss how a character or characters in Frankenstein free themselves from the power of others or seek to gain power over others.  Be sure to demonstrate in your essay how the author uses this power struggle to enhance the meaning of the work.  Avoid mere plot summary.


  • Why is Walton exploring the arctic?  What is his internal motivation?
  • What drives Frankenstein to scientific exploration?  What motivates him?
  • How does the monster assert his power over Victor?  What motivates him?
  • Consider the difference between intellectual and physical power and the power in destruction and power in creation.
  • Find key passages that relate to the above questions.





Topic Choice #5:  Narrative POV/Structure

(Psychoanalytic Lens)


Many novels use multiple voices to highlight the effect of narrative point of view.  Write an essay exploring how the narrative structure and differing points of view contribute to the effect of Frankenstein as a whole.


  • Identify the three narrators and the similarities and differences in their goals and perspectives.  Might consider the following areas:  isolation, ambition, view on power, acquisition of knowledge, exploration, exemplification of Romantic ideals.
  • Why does Shelley use three narrators?  What is the effect of having the differing viewpoints?  How are their stories the same/how are they different?
  • Isolate key passages that illuminate the questions above.
  • How does the framed story device amplify the situation of each man/creature?





Topic Choice #6:  Your unique topic

(Your choice of lens)


If you wish to write about Frankenstein through a lens I haven’t considered, or if you wish to combine ideas from the topics listed above, please craft your own topic and we’ll sit down and talk.  Don’t begin writing until you’ve cleared your exceptional idea with me, please.