Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
Focus on the theme or issue of the family or intimate relations in the novel, and make the
scene(s) when the monster hangs out in the woodshed spying on the impoverished family
central to or important for an interpretation of the novel. It may be that you start right off
in your introduction establishing why the monster’s interaction with the cottage family is
crucial to our understanding of the novel’s overall meaning; it may be that you look almost
exclusively at just the cottage scenes in terms of how the monster’s sensibility expands or
grows; or it may be that you establish a sequence/trajectory of broader or more
encompassing ideas in which you use the cottage episode or refer to it specifically only ½
or 2/3rd of the way through your paper. It is possible, as you develop your ideas, that the
family theme becomes subordinate to another theme (e.g., Victor’s ambition). That’s
For a more elaborate example of the last point: say you think the novel is mainly about
Victor’s inability to maintain connection with his family (because of his ambition or ego).
Certainly the scenes in which the monster wants to be part of the cottage family would be
key or linked to that main idea–but you might not review the pertinent scenes as evidence
until midway in your paper; you would, presumably, start by showing how Victor is
alienated, by his ambition, from his own family. Your paper might be about alienation
from family structure or dynamics, with a key piece of evidence/interpretation being the
Literary analysis requires a shaping idea or theme or thesis, spelled out or implied in your
opening paragraph or opening paragraphs (an introduction can be longer than one
paragraph!). But unlike some other forms of analysis, the KEY scene that the analysis
hooks around, if there is one key scene, might not be trotted out in your analysis until
midway through. Interpretation of literature–that is, somebody reading YOUR
interpretation–can become fun because it is a process of discovery, an inductive argument
that builds complexity upon complexity, rather than a deductive argument by which you
state the main point, and then follow up with subpoints and evidence. (See a review of
inductive and deductive analysis in the instructions for the first essay: the first “builds up”
an argument, the second “breaks it down”.)
Here is a sample organizational roadmap for a hypothetical essay on Frankenstein, using
the topic above:
–1st 5th: author’s anxieties about family/mothering/nurturing
–2nd 5th: translates into a narrative about education and family structures needed for
education/development of a sensibility
–3rd 5th: Victor’s alienation from his family; seeking of knowledge at the cost of sacrificing
–4th 5th: what other critics have said on these issues + monster’s take on education
–5th 5th: the consequences of a bad or interrupted education for the monster
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