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Reading Fiction for Historical Context: Frankenstein

In this worksheet, students read an extract from Frankenstein and study how the historical and social context has influenced the text.

'Reading Fiction for Historical Context: Frankenstein' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:   Reading

Curriculum subtopic:   Support Comprehension Through Knowledge

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Frankenstein was written in 1818 by Mary Shelley. She was only 20 years old at the time.

 

First, read this extract from the novel. At this point, Robert Walton is on his way to the North Pole on a big ship. He writes a letter to his sister to tell her about a strange sight he has seen, and then a man who he has found:

 

 

...We perceived a low carriage, fixed on a sledge and drawn by dogs, pass on towards the north, at the distance of half a mile: a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature, sat in the sledge, and guided the dogs. We watched the rapid progress of the traveller with our telescopes, until he was lost among the distant inequalities of the ice...

 

 

In the morning,... as soon as it was light, I went upon the deck, and found all the sailors busy on one side of the vessel, apparently talking to some one in the sea. It was, in fact, a sledge, like that we had seen before, which had drifted towards us in the night, on a large fragment of ice. Only one dog remained alive; but there was a human being within it, whom the sailors were persuading to enter the vessel. He was not, as the other traveller seemed to be, a savage inhabitant of some undiscovered island, but an European. When I appeared on deck, the master said, "Here is our captain, and he will not allow you to perish on the open sea."

 

 

Next, we will go through some questions, comparing how the text was written differently in 1818 to how it would be written in the modern day. If you need to read the text again while answering the questions, you can do so by clicking on the Help button.

Match up the old-fashioned words with the modern versions.

Column A

Column B

perceived
die
stature
piece
vessel
boat
inhabitant
size
perish
saw
fragment
someone who lives somewhere

Read the first paragraph again. The first strange thing the crew see is a sledge, pulled by dogs, travelling quickly, with a huge "being" sitting on it. They could not follow it because the boat was stuck in ice.

 

How would this have been different in a modern novel? Tick THREE boxes.

They could have taken photos or filmed it.

They could have used other transport to follow.

They could have used GPS or tracking technology.

They would have ignored it.

They would have tried to run away.

Re-read this quotation:

 

In the morning,... as soon as it was light, I went upon the deck, and found all the sailors busy on one side of the vessel

 

What does this tell the reader about Captain Walton, the narrator?

He is afraid of the dark.

He prefers the port side of the ship.

He can get up when he likes because he is the boss.

On the first sledge, which they saw through telescopes, there were "dogs" pulling it. On the second sledge, with the man on it: "only one dog remained alive".

 

What might this tell us about the two strangers?

 Sledge oneSledge two
had more food
had less food
the driver ate more food himself
the driver ate less himself
lucky
unlucky
was prepared
was not prepared

Re-read this quotation:

 

"He was not, as the other traveller seemed to be, a savage inhabitant of some undiscovered island, but an European."

 

Why would we not find this language used in a modern-day novel? Tick TWO boxes.

Modern writers use shorter sentences.

The word "savage" would be considered to be racist.

It is not exciting enough.

It makes a "European" sound better than everyone else, we do not think like that these days.

Read this student's work:

 

Back in the time that Shelley was writing, there was a strong class system in English society. Walton would have been upper class to have been captain of a whole ship. In the quotation: ______________________________ Shelley is showing us that even in the middle of the Arctic, Walton is in charge and superior to everyone else there. 

 

Now choose the best quotation to fill in the blank.

 

Whom the sailors were persuading to enter the vessel.

Here is our captain, he will not allow you to perish.

He was not as the other traveller seemed to be.

Read this student's work:

 

Mary Shelley shows us through the text that this is a long voyage and no-one on board is in a rush to do anything. It will take them years to get to the north pole and back again. When Walton writes: ________________________________ This point is made clear, even though he has seen a "gigantic" creature, he is not in a rush to follow it or do anything dramatic or rash.

 

Now choose the best quotation to fill in the blank.

We watched the rapid progress of the traveller... (then he goes to sleep). In the morning, .....

We perceived a low carriage.

...apparently talking to someone in the sea.

Most of the novel Frankenstein is told through letters sent between the main characters.

Modern novels today might use emails, phone calls, text messages, the internet, or conversations over walkie-talkie style head sets to communicate their message. 

Some advantages of this could be that a faster pace could entertain the reader more and develop the story more quickly.

 

What advantages (pros) could there be to writing it through letters, with a slower paced story? Tick THREE boxes.

A slower pace can be more frightening as it builds more tension.

Mary Shelley should have made it into a film instead.

Using technology will stop readers from getting too bored.

You can learn more when it takes longer to get to the main story.

If the story moves too quickly, you don't have enough time to really get to know the characters and guess what might happen next.

  • Question 1

Match up the old-fashioned words with the modern versions.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

perceived
saw
stature
size
vessel
boat
inhabitant
someone who lives somewhere
perish
die
fragment
piece
  • Question 2

Read the first paragraph again. The first strange thing the crew see is a sledge, pulled by dogs, travelling quickly, with a huge "being" sitting on it. They could not follow it because the boat was stuck in ice.

 

How would this have been different in a modern novel? Tick THREE boxes.

CORRECT ANSWER
They could have taken photos or filmed it.
They could have used other transport to follow.
They could have used GPS or tracking technology.
EDDIE SAYS
In a modern day novel, they would have used advanced technology (which was not around when Mary Shelley wrote Frakenstein) to find out exactly what the 'being' was; such as GPS devices, cameras and other modes of transport.
  • Question 3

Re-read this quotation:

 

In the morning,... as soon as it was light, I went upon the deck, and found all the sailors busy on one side of the vessel

 

What does this tell the reader about Captain Walton, the narrator?

CORRECT ANSWER
He can get up when he likes because he is the boss.
EDDIE SAYS
Captain Walton is in charge of the ship and the sailors, he does not have to follow orders, they obey him.
  • Question 4

On the first sledge, which they saw through telescopes, there were "dogs" pulling it. On the second sledge, with the man on it: "only one dog remained alive".

 

What might this tell us about the two strangers?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Sledge oneSledge two
had more food
had less food
the driver ate more food himself
the driver ate less himself
lucky
unlucky
was prepared
was not prepared
  • Question 5

Re-read this quotation:

 

"He was not, as the other traveller seemed to be, a savage inhabitant of some undiscovered island, but an European."

 

Why would we not find this language used in a modern-day novel? Tick TWO boxes.

CORRECT ANSWER
The word "savage" would be considered to be racist.
It makes a "European" sound better than everyone else, we do not think like that these days.
EDDIE SAYS
In modern day writing it would be considered racist to call someone a 'savage'. Also, people do not consider themselves to be superior based on the country that they come from, as Shelley suggests in the text (that the European is better than the other traveller).
  • Question 6

Read this student's work:

 

Back in the time that Shelley was writing, there was a strong class system in English society. Walton would have been upper class to have been captain of a whole ship. In the quotation: ______________________________ Shelley is showing us that even in the middle of the Arctic, Walton is in charge and superior to everyone else there. 

 

Now choose the best quotation to fill in the blank.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Here is our captain, he will not allow you to perish.
EDDIE SAYS
The quote here suggests that, due to his upper class status, Walton has immense power, even in the middle of the Arctic.
  • Question 7

Read this student's work:

 

Mary Shelley shows us through the text that this is a long voyage and no-one on board is in a rush to do anything. It will take them years to get to the north pole and back again. When Walton writes: ________________________________ This point is made clear, even though he has seen a "gigantic" creature, he is not in a rush to follow it or do anything dramatic or rash.

 

Now choose the best quotation to fill in the blank.

CORRECT ANSWER
We watched the rapid progress of the traveller... (then he goes to sleep). In the morning, .....
EDDIE SAYS
The first quotation is the best one as it shows that Walton saw the creature, then went to bed, then started again the next morning with his tale.
  • Question 8

Most of the novel Frankenstein is told through letters sent between the main characters.

Modern novels today might use emails, phone calls, text messages, the internet, or conversations over walkie-talkie style head sets to communicate their message. 

Some advantages of this could be that a faster pace could entertain the reader more and develop the story more quickly.

 

What advantages (pros) could there be to writing it through letters, with a slower paced story? Tick THREE boxes.

CORRECT ANSWER
A slower pace can be more frightening as it builds more tension.
You can learn more when it takes longer to get to the main story.
If the story moves too quickly, you don't have enough time to really get to know the characters and guess what might happen next.
EDDIE SAYS
The advantages of using the slower pace of letters are that it enables the author to develop the characters in between the letters, giving the reader more time to get to know the characters. It also allows the author to build suspense, causing the reader to try and guess what will happen next.
---- OR ----

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