or, The Modern Prometheus

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Mary Shelley
Contributor: Robin Miller

Victor Frankenstein, a strange but brilliant scientist, discovers a method of imparting life to inanimate matter. The Monster is thus born: a hideous, 8-foot-tall creature of muscle, speed, and intellect. Frankenstein’s rejection of his appalling creation sends it into a spiral of despair, and Frankenstein’s life is never the same.

Considered by many to be the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein is a powerful narrative that explores complex themes of belonging, morality, and the consequences of the power over life and death. This edition is based on Shelley’s revised 1831 edition.

Theodore Von Holst (1810-1844), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Check out Robert Horten's book Frankenstein available from Ebook Central through the Graduate Center library.

Before you read: Frankenstein Letters 1–4


What do you think spurs people to explore the unknown?

Share Ideas

In a small group, list ways in which people throughout the ages have explored the unknown. Also, identify some reasons why individuals devote themselves to a life of exploration and discovery. Does such devotion involve sacrifices?

Setting a Purpose

Read to find out how two eighteenth-century men’s lives are changed as they pursue their separate dreams of exploring the unknown.


  1. ardent [ärd'ənt] adj. passionate
  2. countenance [koun'tə nəns] n. face; expression
  3. dauntless [dônt'lis] adj. fearless
  4. harrowing [har'ō ing] adj. extremely distressing
  5. irrevocably [i rev'ə kə blē] adv. in a way impossible to change
  6. mariner [mar'ə nər] n. navigator of a ship
  7. perseverance [pur ́sə vēr'əns] n. steady persistence

Analyzing Literature

Recall and Interpret

  • Who is Robert Walton?
    • What is he searching for?
    • What is his attitude toward his quest?
    • What do these details suggest to you about his character?
  • In this letter to his sister, what does Walton say he longs for?
    • Why do you think Walton feels lonely even though he is on board a ship with a full crew?
  • How does Walton respond to the stranger?
    • Why do you think Walton is attracted to the stranger?

The actor Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster

The actor Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster

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    Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus

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    Mary Shelley: A Biography

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    Frankenstein 1910 poster

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    Frankenstein frontispiece 1831


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