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ENG 110 Introduction to Literature - A. Dowd

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Frankenstein - A Character Study

This video is a clip from the National Theatre adaptation of Mary Shelley's gothic novel, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Everyone thinks that the creature is called Frankenstein, but the Doctor's creation is never given the dignity of a name. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller talk about giving this nameless creature a voice. You can watch both versions of Danny Boyle's monster hit, Frankenstein, streaming for free on YouTube.

Essay Assignment


English 110 Essay 2 Assignment Sheet (Prof. Dowd)

Brainstorming Worksheet Due: by Sunday 10/24 (11:59pm)

Complete Rough Draft Due: by Sunday 10/31 (11:59pm)

Final Draft Due: by Sunday 11/7 (11:59pm)

Length: 1,800 – 2,100 words (5-6 pages) write the word count at the bottom of the page. (The works cited page does not count towards the word count.)

Citation: A formal works cited page is required and multiple quotes are required.

Text Titles and Authors: The following are the texts used in Unit 2. You are required to use Frankenstein as your primary source of evidence, but you are also required to incorporate Asma and your own secondary source to help you analyze the text.

  1. Asma, Stephen T.: On Monsters—"Introduction,” “Freud,” “Torture Porn,” “Monsters and the Mechanization of Nature,” “Frankenstein,” and “Rage and Aggression”—use a minimum of 3 quotes from Asma (1 per section of the essay at minimum). You are welcome to use any chapter/s you choose.
  2. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein (1818)—use direct quotes to show your reader your ideas in action in the text. I expect to see this text quoted fairly heavily.
  3. The peer-reviewed source from your Annotated Bibliography assignment. You are required to use a minimum of 1 quote from this source to help you support and explain your discussion.

So, you see a giant, hideous creature shambling down the road towards you as you walk to work one morning. Your first instinct is to run away screaming, grab a mob of your closest friends, and drive this monster out of town. But wait! As an educated person, you stop yourself and ask the all-important question: ‘why’? Why did you call this creature a monster? Why did you react with violence?

Thinking back to your favorite English class, you contemplate your own assumptions about what a monster is. You think about your own culture and the fears and anxieties that you’re reading into this creature, and you wonder about the creature’s own life and motivation.

Then you see the creature pick up your next-door neighbor (the one with the 2am parties when you have to get up at 6 to open at your job. The one who keeps stealing your mail and running over your bike) and fold him in half like a pretzel.

‘Yup,’ you think, ‘that’s a monster.’ Then you sprint for a group of your closest torch and pitchfork wielding buddies.

Summary of Assignment:

For this essay we are going to be working with cultural definitions of ‘monster.’ We are going to be looking at why people in Frankenstein are so quick to label the Creature a monster. We’ll look at the cultural fears and anxieties that lead to the creation of the Creature. And finally, we’ll look at our own cultural obsession with understanding the motivation of monsters and decide if we can call the Creature a monster or not.

Section 1Why does the society in Frankenstein label the Creature ‘monster’?

  • The people in the book call the Creature a monster before they meet him and after they interact with him.
  • Your job with this section is to decide on and evaluate the criteria that the people in the book use to label the Creature ‘monster.’
  • You will need to pick representatives of the society and use those characters to help you explain and discuss the reasons and criteria the people use to label him as ‘monster.’

Section 2What are the fears and anxieties of 1818 that the creature represents?

  • If we think about the book as a time capsule, what are the fears and anxieties that the creature stands as metaphor for?
  • This section is all about the contradictions and the pulls of the society in 1818 when Shelley wrote Frankenstein.
  • You will need to look at and access the work that we’ve done on the cultural context of Frankenstein. Look at the contradicting philosophies and the shifts within the culture in terms of The Enlightenment and Romanticism.

Section 3How does a modern reader analyze the Creature? And can we label him ‘monster’ or not?

  • Modern society is obsessed with looking at motivation for ‘monsters.’
  • We look at childhood experiences and try and trace rage and aggression to their starting points. We look at socialization and the way that society outcasts ‘others.’
  • You will discuss how you read and analyze the Creature’s motivations and choices.
  • The other part of this section asks you to decide for yourself if YOU think that the Creature is a monster.
  • Looking at what Shelley’s context and looking at modern analysis, you must decide where you stand on the Creature’s monsterhood. Are you prepared to label him a monster or not and why?

Essay Construction

I. Introduction:

The introduction needs to bring your reader into the topic of the paper in an interesting way while giving him or her the required information necessary to understand the argument you are making in the body of the paper. Aim for no more than a page and a quarter (1 ¼ page) at the longest.

Include the following within the introduction:

  1. Hook—the start of the introduction should be an interesting way to think about the topic. I recommend reaching for pop-culture. Remember that you are offering a different way to think about Frankenstein, so the hook is a way to introduce the topic of your essay.
  2. Text—introduce Frankenstein in terms of the author and year of the text we are using. Introduce it in terms of the topic of your paper (MONSTERS!).
  3. Topic—explain the direction you are taking this paper. This is such a deep and complex text that the paper could go in any direction. Ease your audience into the discussion you are having on this topic. Make sure to introduce any information or ideas that they will need in order to understand the essay later.
  4. The Thesis—the last sentence needs to be a sentence that states the thesis of the essay. This is very important to have because it tells the readers what to expect from the rest of the paper. The thesis needs to generally cover the three sections of the paper.

Example Thesis: 1Society in Frankenstein labels the Creature ‘monster’ because of his appearance and violent actions. 2On a symbolic level, the Creature represents the fears and anxieties of the clash between the new Enlightenment ideas and the Counter Enlightenment movements. 3Modern society analyzes the Creature and recognizes that his rage comes from abandonment and isolation but cannot justify his premeditated violence.

Remember, the goal of the introduction is to suck the reader into your paper and to set him or her up to successfully understand your ideas and discussion in the body of the paper.

II. The Body:

The body of the paper is where you will do the work of analyzing Frankenstein. You will need to have three main sections for the body of the paper. I recommend titling each of the sections. This allows you to have a clear sense of what you are proving in the section. It also helps to cut a long paper into bite-sized pieces.

A. Why does the society in Frankenstein label the Creature ‘monster’?
Look at the criteria that the society in the book uses to define ‘monster’ in terms of the Creature.

  • Choose three characters and analyze their reactions to the monster in terms of one monster criteria each.
  • Remember what Asma says: there is no stable definition of monster. This means that you are going to need to clarify the criteria your characters use rather than picking from the criticism. (No quotes for a definition for monster—you have to create the definition based on the character’s reasons.)
  • Use quotes from Asma and Shelley.
  • Aim for 2-3 paragraphs.

B. What are the fears and anxieties of 1818 that the creature represents? This section is going more macro. You are working on the larger cultural fears and anxieties that we can see in the character of the Creature.

  • Make it clear to the reader what the cultural fears and anxieties are.
  • Explain some about the historical context, but don’t turn this into a summary. I need to see you discuss how these ideas and issues play out in THE BOOK.
  • Give the reader enough to follow along but remember that this is in service to your argument.
  • This section should be 2-3 paragraphs.
  • Make sure that you support your ideas with quotes from Frankenstein and Asma.

C. How does a modern reader analyze the Creature? And can we label him ‘monster’ or not? This section has two requirements—you will need to analyze the Creature’s actions in terms of motivation. You will then have to decide if you are willing to label the Creature ‘monster’ and why or why not.

  • Your topic sentence must state how modern society would view the Creature’s past as informing his actions.
  • It must also state your position on his monsterhood.
  • This section will probably draw heavily on Asma to help you discuss the analysis of the Creature’s background.
  • Your own judgement on the Creature will require you to clarify your own definition of monster to prove how the Creature fits or does not fit your definition.
  • Make sure to bring in specific examples to prove your ideas.
  • You are required to use quotes from Frankenstein and Asma to support your points but be careful not to slide into summary of the source material.

III. Conclusion:

The conclusion needs to wrap up the ideas within the paper while not resorting to summary.

  • Think about what you want the audience to take away from your paper about Frankenstein.
  • What do you want the audience to have learned about monstrosity in Frankenstein?
  • How should they start thinking about the value of Frankenstein now?
  • These questions need to drive your discussion on the conclusion of the paper.

Organization of Assignment: The paper should be organized into three sections—the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.

Use of Evidence in the Essay: Each section of the body is required to include quotes from the fairy tale under discussion as well as quotes from the critical work. Direct quotes should be carefully selected, properly contextualized, and introduced beforehand, and commented upon afterwards. Remember the 20/80 rule. If more than 20% of the essay is devoted to quotation, then there is not enough analysis and explanation. I need to see more of your analysis than source material.

Use of MLA in the Essay: Essays should be formatted according to MLA style rules.  In addition, all quotations and paraphrases should be properly cited according to MLA rules, and all texts should be cited on a Works Cited page, properly formatted in MLA style. 

Grammar / Correctness:  Any final draft writing should be formal and clear, and the essay should contain few errors.  The goal to strive for is fewer than one error per page.  Remember that using ‘I’ infrequently is acceptable. Using ‘you’ is not acceptable. Remember that ‘you’ either sounds accusatorial or assumes a personal relationship with the reader that a writer does not have. Be careful with possession vs. contraction. If grammar has been a problem this semester, make an appointment with the writing center and get extra help editing your own paper.


  • Heading—name, date, class, assignment (upper right corner)
  • Headers—in the top right margin last name and page number
  • Title (12pt, no underline or bold)
  • Times New Roman
  • 12 pt size
  • Double space
  • 1” margins

Revision Policy: You are welcome to revise Essay 2 if you are not happy with your grade on the final draft. If you choose to revise, you will need to meet the following requirements.

  1. Meet with me to discuss the necessary requirements.
  2. Make SUBSTANTIAL changes in the revised draft.
  3. Annotate the changes you have made to the draft (mark and label all of your changes).
  4. Upload the revision to the original assignment in Blackboard
  5. If these requirements are not met, I will not accept the revision.

Evaluation of Essay: Look at the posted scoring guide for Essay 2 for details.

Competent essays will do the following:

  • Present information and ideas from texts with accurate quotation, paraphrase, and summary and, when appropriate, enough explication/interpretation/evaluation to develop a coherent analysis or synthesis. 
  • This includes:
    • Demonstrating a clear understanding of central ideas in both texts.
    • Using relevant information from texts to support arguments.
    • Using appropriate numbers of quotation, paraphrase, and summary.
  • Use important conventions particular to expository essay writing,
  • This Includes:
    • The use of a clear thesis,
    • Effective paragraphing, and an organizational pattern, including effective transitions, that develops an idea over the course of an essay rather than simply listing supporting ideas. 
    • Using a writing style that is appropriate for a specific audience.
    • Developing a clear thesis statement.
    • Creating paragraphs with central points and clear, relevant details.
    • Using transitions to bridge paragraph points.
  • Use language that generally conveys a meaning to readers and contains few errors and an ability to ethically and accurately use MLA format to cite and document sources. This includes:
  • Making few grammatical/spelling errors.
  • Writing in a way that conveys clear meaning.
  • Writing in a formal, academic voice.
  • Introducing quotes correctly, per MLA rules.
  • Citing quotes and paraphrases correctly, per MLA rules.
  • Including a Works Cited page listing all assignment texts, properly formatted per MLA rules.


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