Shelley’s Allusion

There is loads of allusion featured in the novel. By the time you get through the letters you have already encountered atleast two. Milton’s Paradise Lost, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Goethe’s Sorrows of Werter and Plutarch’s Lives  are all referred to. This isn’t so surprising really, given that Shelley grew up amongst great writers and loved to read herself. Her stepmother tried to disuade her of such practices and attempted to educate her to be a ‘proper lady’. Fortunately for us she failed!

Each of you will pick-up one literary allusion to investigate. You will need to cover the following ideas:

  1. Where is it found in Frankenstein
  2. Summarise the text that is alluded to
  3. explain allusions significance. How does it add to the text?

“Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

There are some direct references, as well as some clear parallels, between Shelley’s novel and Coleridge’s poem. You can read the poem here and find a clear summary here. The wikipedia article also features readings from Libravox.

In chapter 15, the creature is given a variety of literature by his “protectors”, each of which adds to the dimensions on the character. Indeed, the creature sees much of himself within the stories. Investigate:

“Paradise Lost”

“Paradise Lost” is an epic poem that revolves around the fall of mankind as presented in the Adam and Eve story of the christian bible. Interestingly, the poem also appears to depict Satan as a sort of unwitting hero; a feature that has caused much discussion since its publication in 1667

You can find a summary of the poem here and an overview of the subject and context here. Make sure you go find the original passage. It’s in book X (use your search skills).

Sorrows of Werter

Sorrows is a story of unrequited love that eventually ends in the fall of the protagonist. You can find a summary of the story here.


Plutarch’s Lives is a series of biographies of Roman and Greek statesmen and other public figures. It investigates the virtues and failures of leaders as well as the effects of large communities of people. You can use this source to find a little about it (infotrac):

“Plutarch.” DISCovering Biography. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 7 Dec. 2011.

What do we learn?

Now that you have conducted an investigation into the various allusions of the text, consider what the creature learns from his own investigation of the villages?

Skim through pages 101 – 130.  Consider:

  • What does the creature have to say about the actions of the villages he patiently observes?
  • What does the outcome of this relationship teach the creature?
  • What thematic ideas are enhance here?


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