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FrankensteinFrankenstein

  • Subject: Literature
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections

Objectives


Students will
  • Active readers interpret a novel—its characters, plot, setting, and theme—in different ways.
  • Great literature can be and has been adapted in many ways over time.

Materials


  • Simplified legal guides
  • Dictionaries
  • Space to set up mock trial
  • Frankenstein DVD and DVD player

Procedures

  1. After watching the video, discuss Frankenstein's nature. Was he inherently evil? What made him so angry and vengeful?
  2. Point out to the class that in the United States these days, when litigation is so popular, a new version ofFrankenstein set here might show the monster, before going off to the Arctic, suing his creator in civil court for negligence, malpractice, and emotional and physical distress. Tell students that they are going to stage a mock trial of Victor Frankenstein for the above-mentioned charges. The trial, like the novel, can have science-fiction or fantasy elements.
  3. Explain that the case will be heard in civil court, where a suit is brought by one individual (plaintiff) against another (defendant), whereas in criminal court, the case is between the state (prosecution) and the defendant.
  4. Proceed by making sure students know what the charges are. They can research the definitions, used in the legal profession, ofnegligence ,malpractice , andemotional andphysical distress . To find definitions, students may use materials prepared for jurors in local courts; in addition, some college-level and most unabridged dictionaries will give law-specific definitions for at least negligence and malpractice.
  5. Ask students to help you determine what roles the following characters will play in the trial, and then assign students to those roles:
    • Victor Frankenstein
    • the ghost of William Frankenstein
    • the ghost of Justine Moritz
    • the ghost of Henry Clerval
    • the ghost of Elizabeth Lavenza
    • the monster
    • witnesses for the plaintiff, including medical expert and ethicist
    • witnesses for the defendant, including medical expert and ethicist
    • attorney for the plaintiff
    • attorney for the defendant
    • judge
    Because this mock trial is a civil case, assign six jurors and one alternate. Take the role of bailiff, the person who keeps order in the court.
  6. Go over with students the order in which they may carry out their mock trial:
    • opening statement by plaintiff's attorney
    • opening statement by defendant's attorney
    • interrogation of plaintiff's witnesses by attorney for the plaintiff
    • cross-examination of plaintiff's witnesses by attorney for the defendant
    • interrogation of defendant's witnesses by attorney for the defendant
    • cross-examination of defendant's witnesses by attorney for the plaintiff
    • closing arguments by both attorneys
  7. Give each participating student time to prepare for his or her role by reviewing the novel.
  8. During the trial, the judge may intervene to help the witnesses and to respond to objections by attorneys. After both sides have rested their cases, the judge should remind the jury of its obligations. Then you can invite the jury to deliberate in front of the class. The jury should submit a verdict in writing to the judge, who will read it aloud.
  9. Determine for your class whether the trial will end with the jury's verdict, or, if found guilty, the defendant will hear what damages he must pay to the monster. The judge, the original jurors, or a new panel of jurors may determine damages.
  10. Ask the students who did not participate in the mock trial to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the students taking part in the mock trial.

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Adaptations


Instead of conducting a full-blown mock trial, initiate a discussion in class of what each side would claim in such a trial. What position would each side take, and what kind of evidence could each side offer?

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Discussion Questions


  1. Some scholars have used Frankenstein as a central piece in their argument against the development of cloning technology. Others argue that the problem was not with Victor Frankenstein's scientific methods but with his responses to his creation—that we should develop cloning technology, but use it wisely. Debate whether the novel is either "for" or "against" cloning. Support your argument with passages from the book.
  2. One of the tragedies of Frankenstein is the refusal of other characters in the novel to recognize the monster as a full human being. Brainstorm a list of the qualities that make us human. Which of these qualities does the monster have? Which does he not have?
  3. Discuss the role that nature plays in Shelley's novel. Include examples that support your answer.
  4. Analyze Mary Shelley's use of setting throughout the novel. Why, for example, does she use the Arctic as the setting for Victor Frankenstein's final confrontation with his creation?
  5. When Frankenstein was first published in 1818, it had mixed reviews. Not everyone understood or enjoyed it. Today, however, we think of the book as a classic. Speculate about why some important pieces of literature aren't treasured right away, while others that are immediately popular eventually fade away.
  6. Compare Victor Frankenstein with the monster he created. In what ways are their life experiences similar? In what ways are they different?

Evaluation


Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:  creating the role and staying in role very well; very well thought out questions or statements; clearly delivered questions or statements
  • Two points:  creating the role and staying in role moderately well; fairly well thought out questions or statements; most questions or statements well delivered
  • One point:  poor job of creating the role and staying in role; questions or statements not clearly thought out; questions or statements not well delivered

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Extensions


Frankenstein on Broadway
Over the years, there have been numerous cinematic versions of Frankenstein. Few playwrights, however, have attempted to adapt the book for the stage. Divide your students into groups, and assign each group a different chapter or sequence of chapters from the novel. Each group should produce for the rest of the class a small stage version of its chapter(s), complete with dialogue, stage directions, and minimal sets and costumes. The group's goal should be to capture the dramatic essence of a scene without performing the entire scene. Not all of the novel's dialogue, for example, needs to appear in the scene. You might also want to encourage students to take liberties with the plot—by casting a female monster, for example, or writing a different ending.

Modern-Day Monster
What if Frankenstein were set in modern times? Some of the ideas it raises would certainly be the same, but the novel could also be drastically different. If the story were set within the last few years in students' own hometown, what would be different or new to the story? How would the residents react to the monster, for example? What might the monster look like? How would it be created? What would the Victor Frankenstein character be like? Ask your students to consider these questions (as well as any others they might think of) and then write an outline for a modern-day Frankenstein.

Suggested Readings


Mary Shelley: Frankenstein's Creator: First Science Fiction Writer
Joan Kane Nichols. Conari Press, 1998.
Students of this gothic tale are drawn to the life and mind of its 19-year-old creator, Mary Shelley. The story of her life is as gripping as the novel she wrote. High school students will relate to her story of risk-taking and trying to stay true to her own values and goals in life.

Mary Shelly: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters
Anne K. Mellor. Routledge, 1990.
This book will fascinate students of Frankenstein and other gothic tales. It connects Shelley's fears as a 19-year-old woman to the creation of her universal literary monster.

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Links


Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature
This exhibition looks at the world from which Mary Shelley came, at how popular culture has embraced the Frankenstein story, and at how Shelley's creation continues to illuminate the blurred, uncertain boundaries of what we consider "acceptable" science.

Frankenstein by Project Gutenberg
A public domain copy of the e-text of Frankenstein is available for downloading.

A Frankenstein Study
Complete site with essays, Frankenstein FAQs, information, and links.

Vocabulary


Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    anonymous
Definition: Not named or identified; of unknown authorship or origin.
Context: Frankenstein was published anonymously in London in 1818.

speaker    benevolent
Definition: Marked by or disposed to doing good.
Context: I was benevolent once; my soul glowed with love and understanding.

speaker    formidable
Definition: Causing fear, dread, or apprehension; tending to inspire awe or wonder.
Context: Most people thought it was a very powerful, strong, formidable subject.

speaker    obsession
Definition: A persistent, disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling.
Context: Victor Frankenstein's dream of creating life became his obsession.

speaker    poignant
Definition: Painfully affecting the feelings.
Context: Frankenstein illustrates the poignant struggle of an outcast trying to fit in to society.

speaker    predatory
Definition: Inclined or intended to injure or exploit others for personal gain or profit.
Context: The experience of being abandoned drives him into this violent, predatory rage.

speaker    progeny
Definition: Offspring of animals or plants.
Context: Mary Shelley refers to her book as "my hideous progeny."

speaker    surreal
Definition: Having the intense irrational reality of a dream.
Context: It is imaginatively described as a kind of wasteland, a surreal chase.

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Standards


This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning in Aurora, Colorado.

Grade level: 9-12

Subject area: language arts

Standard:
Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the reading process.

Benchmarks:

  • Determines figurative, idiomatic, and technical meanings of terms through context.
  • Identifies and analyzes the philosophical assumptions and basic beliefs underlying an author's work.

Standard:
Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for reading a variety of literary texts.

Benchmarks:

  • Understands influences on a reader's response to a text (e.g., personal values, perspectives, and experiences).
  • Analyzes the effectiveness of complex elements of plot (e.g., time frame, cause-and-effect relationships, conflicts, resolutions).
  • Makes connections among literary works based on theme (e.g., universal themes in literature of different cultures, major themes in American literature).

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