English - Revive a monster tale

3rd February 2012 at 00:00

What it's all about

I spoke to a group of sixth-formers at a school recently, who were studying Gothic literature and had begun by looking at Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Although they had enjoyed some aspects, and clearly thought it important and clever, they were just not emotionally engaged or excited by it, writes Chris Priestley.

I was far from a bookish teenager, spending a good deal of time reading Marvel comics. And yet, 40 years later, I have written a book based on Shelley's novel: Mister Creecher. So why did Frankenstein thrill me and not these students? How can we bring Shelley's creation to life again? Frankenstein is a flawed novel, but it deserves to be read and enjoyed.

Although few students, if any, had seen the 1931 movie adaptation of Frankenstein, they were familiar with the Boris Karloff image. The movie bears little relation to the novel, but that just makes the book more exciting, because the differences are all spectacular. The creature is not a shambling, badly stitched-together mute, but a huge, raven-haired anti- hero. He talks. He has feelings. The terror in his appearance comes from his great size and the fact that he looks lifeless.

Shelley was a teenager when she had the nightmare that would become Frankenstein. That amazed me and should amaze students now.

What is a monster?

Facetious compares Frankenstein's monster with real people considered monstrous.

Develop pupils' confidence with essay writing on Shelley's novel with TES English's lesson plan and activity.

Is the monster guilty?

Debate this in a trial role-play shared by Temperance.

A wealth of Frankenstein resources is available on the TES website.

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