Study Guide

Frankenstein Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Mary Shelley

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

(Click the themes infographic to download.)

Surprise: a book about creating life has a lot to say (or, at least ask) about life and consciousness. Like, "Are we really just born this way?" And, "How much can we blame our parents for, honestly?" And, "Does playing Mass Effect 29 really make us more violent?" Okay, the last one is a little bit of a stretch—but Frankenstein does wonder how our reading habits form our minds and attitudes. If Mary Shelley had been writing in the 21st century, she probably would have had Frankenstein pick up an Xbox controller. (And hopefully have suggested a little counseling.)


Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

  1. In what ways is Victor like God? In what ways is he not? Are we supposed to admire Victor, or be alarmed—very alarmed—at his life's goal?
  2. Does Victor have a responsibility to the monster beyond giving it life? Does every creator have a responsibility to what he creates? What does that mean in the context of "creation" as opposed to, say, motherhood or fatherhood?
  3. Shelley seems to think that the monster is basically a blank slate. He's born without any sense of who he is and learns through his reading and interactions with people. Is she suggesting that we're all born good and then turned evil by society?
  4. The monster appears to be a blank slate, but Frankenstein seems to suggest that it was his "destiny" to turn out the way he did. Are these contradictory ideas?

Chew on This

Shelley suggests that all men, women, and monsters are born essentially the same, and we're made different by our experiences.

Frankenstein suggests that our experiences are only part of our personalities; we're all born with essential parts of our consciousness formed.

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