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Frankenstein

Steel engraving (993 x 71mm) for frontispiece ...

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley,  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The fourth book is another story better known through film than book.  For the fourth week of this on line course with Coursera, Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World  by Eric Rabkin we are reading Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. 

I don’t remember ever having read this book. I thought I had but once I started reading it it did not seem at all familiar. I think I must remember it through film. I found it tedious to read. There is a lot of description and very little action. The letters from the captain to his sister set the scene but were too long. This was I guess more usual at the time the book was written. What I liked about the book was the creature who became the most eloquent speaker and served to contrast the totally self absorbed and mean character of Frankenstein.

Please write an essay that aims to enrich the reading of a fellow student who is both intelligent and attentive to the readings and to the course. Each essay should be between 270 and 320 words.

Here is the essay that I submitted which received an overall score of  4.5. I changed my method for this essay and put quotations in the ‘works cited’  section in order to give myself more words.


In the epistolary novel Frankenstein texts are of primary importance in general and to the creature in particular. His education, discovery of the world and his place within it come from five texts.

He ‘master(s) language’ and ‘the science of letters’ from Volney[1]. Also learning about society and that man is ‘powerful’, ‘virtuous’, ‘magnificent’, ‘yet so vicious and base’. He comprehends that he has nothing considered valuable, no family, friends or property.

He discovers “a leathern portmanteau” containing three works of literature. Through these books he is transported to ‘ecstasy and ‘the lowest dejection’. Goeth’s epistolary novel[2] describes Werter’s unrequited infatuation for Lotte. In despair he kills himself. Death from the lack of love emphasises the creature’s lack. Empathising with Werter he weeps. ‘Plutarch’[3] elevates him and teaches him more about society, the world and to “love the heroes of past ages”. He manages to put humanity into perspective.

Milton[4], which he read “as a true history”, has the most profound effect.  This story parallels his; he’s also a unique creation. Adam, though, had Eve ‘to sooth his sorrows’ and had the protection of his creator. After reading this he feels “wretched, helpless, and alone”. He compares himself to Satan, created and rejected. When he first meets Victor he implores him “by the virtues I once possessed” further suggesting the fallen angel. After burning his ‘protectors’’ cottage he contemplates “”And now, with the world before me, whither should I bend my steps?” – an echo of the end of the epic poem when Adam and Eve are caste out of the Garden “The World was all before them, where to choose.”

Finally the creature finds Frankenstein’s laboratory journal. Reading of his own creation confirms his parallel to Satan[5]. He understands his creator has abandoned him. It’s this journal that allows the creature to find his creator and demand his own ‘Eve’.

Through these texts the creature moves from being empty and barely self-aware. They result in the extraordinary eloquence, sentiments and understanding of society shown on the ice in Chamounix 


Works cited:

Please note that this essay is written in British English.

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

Chapter 13

[1] “The book from which Felix instructed Safie was Volney’s Ruins of Empires”

Chapter 15

[2] “In ‘The Sorrows of Werter’…I found a never-ending source of speculation and astonishment”

[3] “Plutarch(’s Lives) taught me high thoughts:”

[4] “Paradise Lost excited different and far deeper emotions.”

[5] “Another circumstance strengthened and confirmed these feelings…..your journal”


Peer Review 

The review process is split into three parts.

Part one FORM

Please indicate in 30-150 words your judgment of the FORM of the essay you have just read.  FORM here refers to matters of grammar, usage, and structure. Are the sentences grammatically correct?  Are the words properly used?  Is the exposition and argument laid out clearly?  An ideal response would note one aspect of Form that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Form that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

peer 1 → Very good structure, but I missed a title, in order to be fastly introduced to your points. Also, the conclusion let a bit to be desired, although correct, too short in my opinion.
peer 2 → Vague struture. At some place it is ambiguous. Needs rephrasing.
peer 3 → Form, content, context and grammar all seamlessly converge in a fascinating manner to form a lucid analysis of Mary Shelley’s epic.
peer 4 → You’ve written a well-structured and well-rounded essay, complete with proficient use of vocabulary and grammar. Your argument is clearly presented and wonderfully supported by textual evidence.

Please grade the FORM of the essay you have just read on a scale of 1 to 3. FORM here refers to matters of grammar, usage, and structure. Are the sentences grammatically correct? Are the words properly used? Is the exposition and argument laid out clearly? An ideal response would note one aspect of Form that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Form that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

Since everyone can learn to write better, at least 10% but no more than 30% of the grades should be 1. Everyone should strive for perfect grammar. However, if someone writes in ways that are particularly vivid or uses particularly incisive key terms to focus the argument or in some other way is outstanding in usage or structure, that essay should be awarded a 3 but no more than 20% of the grades should be a 3 because, by definition, “outstanding” is comparatively rare. Most grades should be 2.

Score from your peers: 2


Part two CONTENT

Please indicate in 30-150 words your judgment of the CONTENT of the essay you have just read. CONTENT here refers to matters of insight, argument, and example. Does the essay show a deep understanding of some aspect of the work or of a pattern that one can see in the work? Does the argument make sense, feel persuasive, and reveal the significance of the insight or insights? Are there concrete details from the text that support the argument and that we come to understand more powerfully because of the argument? An ideal response would note one aspect of Content that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Content that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

peer 1 → Content is great: original, authentic and imaginative. I really loved the comparation within the books the creature read and its behaviour. It was a very nice idea that enriched very much my reading. Hope to find a text from you again.
peer 2 → Content is well thought but has not been gripped properly.
peer 3 → This rather complex and erudite analysis displays the depth of knowledge assimilated, absorbed and acquired by the author with reference to Mary Shelley’s epistolary work.
peer 4 → Your essay is insightful. It displays an intriguing catalogue of the texts, which influenced the emotional development of the creature and his self-awareness. The argument is wonderfully presented and it broadens the reader’s interpretation of this significant work of fiction. I applaud your appropriate use of quotes from the novel. Thank you for your insights.

Please grade the CONTENT of the essay you have just read on a scale of 1 to 3. CONTENT here refers to matters of insight, argument, and example. Does the essay show a deep understanding of some aspect of the work or of a pattern that one can see in the work? Does the argument make sense, feel persuasive, and reveal the significance of the insight or insights? Are there concrete details from the text that support the argument and that we come to understand more powerfully because of the argument? An ideal response would note one aspect of Content that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Content that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

Since everyone can learn to write better, at least 10% but no more than 30% of the grades should be 1. Most people will offer their readers a new insight and some detailed reference to the text that argues for the significance of that insight and for an appreciation of how that detail functions, so most essays will enrich our reading and earn a 2. Some essays will be astonishingly new or persuasive or useful by making the story much richer and even by helping you understand better how to read stories in general. Such essays earn a 3 in Content, but no more than 20% of the grades should be a 3 because, by definition, “outstanding” is comparatively rare. Most grades should be 2.

Score from your peers: 2.5


Part three COMMENTS 

Please write here any other comments which you feel might be of use to you or the writer of this essay.
peer 2 → The pronoun ‘he’ does not specify the persons mentioned in the first sentence that creates ambiguity.. The concept of creation with reference to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost is a good approach but needs more elaboration. May be the limitation of words does not allpw you iito caternwith such a vast toplc.
peer 4 → Keep up the good work!

What I will take forward. 

A very mixed response but I can see that peers one and two are not native English speakers. I have left in their spelling and grammar errors, the comments above are copied from the site.  This is the first time that someone has said that I need a title. I don’t think that I will carry this forward. I am not sure what peer 2 means by the final comments. As the whole essay is about the creature the pronoun ‘he’ is not ambiguous.  I feel my essay writing is improving and I will carry on in the same way. Certainly this had more positive than negative comments.

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2 Comments

  1. Many people also asked me to add titles; in addition, Americans really like to have the conclusion summed up as the thesis in an introductory sentence (I think of this as the “too long, didn’t read” or TL: DR phenomenon). I tried to kill two birds with one stone by using titles that carried that theme, but it still feels a bit facile.

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