How To Read Literature Like A Professor

Using the table below, write a chapter summary in the center column for the corresponding chapter of Thomas Foster’s How to Read Literature like a Professor (HTRLLAP). In the right column, consider how the chapter provides insight into Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Provide support for and explain your connection to the novel. You are to include at least one quotation from Frankenstein in each Connection response (including MLA style citations). Type your answers directly into the chart (you may expand the boxes) and save electronically to be uploaded to turnitin.com.

HTRLLAP Chapter

HTRLLAP Summary

Frankenstein Connection

Chapter 1:

“Every Trip is a Quest”

Foster states the essential criteria for a quest: a character to embark on the quest, a destination, the initial reason for reaching the destination, difficulties faced on the way, and the actual reason to reach the destination. The character many times does not complete the initial assignment, instead achieving an increased understanding of themselves, which Foster explains is always the actual reason for a quest. Because of this, the protagonist is normally young and has not gained independence. The initial reason usually wanes with progression of the story.

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“Had I a right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations?…I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price perhaps of the existence of the whole human race.” (Shelley 114-115) Assuming that Frankenstein’s quest was to create another being to accompany his monster so that the monster would leave Frankenstein’s loved ones unscathed, his initial assignment was uncompleted as he tore apart the being he was making. Instead, Frankenstein gains knowledge of where his priorities lie and how his loyalty to the human race prevailed over his own wants and needs.

Chapter 6:

“When in doubt,…”

The effects of Shakespeare’s work on other authors are on hand for discussion in this chapter. Foster addresses the perpetual presence of Shakespeare in the minds of most writers, and how that causes them to at times build off of his work and use it as a foundation for their own. Foster also gives detail on how prevalent Shakespeare is in modern times in the form of quotes that one would be able to recognize even having never read his work. Also mentioned with regards to Shakespeare is intertextuality, or the indirect to direct communication between Shakespeare and later works, where the latter derives influence from Shakespeare.

“Seek happiness in tranquility, and avoid ambition, even if it be the only apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries. Yet why do I say this? I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed.” (Shelley 152) The aspect of the novel which features the desire for knowledge, power and recognition is not unlike that of Macbeth in which the main character, like Frankenstein, desires something greater than he has, and loses a loved one(s) in the process of trying to control his future. Both characters die having not reached their goals, as the result of going too far in pursuit of them. Macbeth does not become king, as Frankenstein does not destroy his monster.

Chapter 9:

“It’s Greek to Me”

Foster addresses the role that myths can take on in a work of literature. Having faith in the myths that an author writes about is immaterial, he says, and what really contains importance is the way a myth or legend can provide substance for works that follow it. This works are not limited to writing, and include works of visual art, music, etc. Since myths can donate theme, imagery and other elements to subsequent works by other writers, Foster recommends that readers become familiar with mythology in order to enhance their understanding of literature.

“By degrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me, and I continued my journey towards Geneva.” (Shelley 47) “Persecuted and tortured as I am and have been, can death be any evil to me?” (Shelley 124) These two quotes, along with the knowledge of what Frankenstein has done and where he has journeyed in reference to science, show the effect that it has caused upon him. Shelley calls Frankenstein a “Modern Prometheus,” and just as Prometheus went past the boundaries of man, so did Frankenstein, and the former’s punishment was to have his liver eaten by an eagle, only to have it be restored overnight. This identifies with Frankenstein’s inner torture, temporarily muted by the peace of nature but always to return again.

Chapter 10:

“It’s More than Just Rain or Snow”

Atmospheric conditions in literature are not to be taken lightly, Foster expresses. Temperature and precipitation often have concealed purposes, no matter what the temperature or what type of precipitation. Rain is a common element used to alter the atmosphere and mood of a story, and can also be used as a plot device and unite characters that otherwise would have been unaffiliated. However, it can range in meaning from pertaining to Noah’s Ark to symbolizing rebirth and restoration to showing that it affects all characters, regardless of their status or personality. Also mentioned are fog, which denotes bewilderment, and snow whose meaning is decided by the writer.

“…we witnessed a most violent and terrible thunderstorm…I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak…I eagerly inquired of my father the nature and origin of thunder and lightning…This last stroke completed the overthrow of Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus, who had so long reigned the lords of my imagination.” (Shelley, 22-23) In this instance, rain was used as a plot device to indirectly cause the cessation of Frankenstein’s interest in the philosopher’s stone and Agrippa, Magnus and Paracelsus, and lead him onto other subjects concluding with the creation of his monster. He had initially been preoccupied with creation of a philosopher’s stone, but later with this event became convinced to turn his efforts elsewhere.

Chapter 11:

“…More than it’s Gonna Hurt You: Concerning Violence”

Foster next directs attention to the use of violence in literature. It can translate into a variety of meanings, and many times there is not just one meaning, but several. There are two forms of violence in literature: distinct injuries inflicted on the characters by themselves or other characters, and violence caused by the authors onto often multiple characters simultaneously; such as death and misfortune, used to continue the plot. Unlike violence in everyday life, literary violence always has meaning behind it, no matter how many purposes it serves.

“…I had hardly placed my foot within the door, before the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted. The whole village was roused, some fled, some attacked me, until, grievously bruised by stones and many other kinds of missile weapons, I escaped…” (Shelley 70-71) This event of violence aimed at the monster convinced him that he would never be accepted in a human society due to its tendency to prejudge him based on his appearance, which increased his resentment for Frankenstein for creating him that way. It also meant that he would have to learn human etiquette and language before trying to interact with humans, leading to his endeavor with De Lacy and his family.

Chapter 12:

“Is that a Symbol?”

Symbols are prevalent in this chapter, as Foster elaborates on how they are to be understood. Foster states that one dilemma to arise regarding symbols is that at times readers will expect them to possess only one meaning, when in fact if this were true they would be known as allegories and not symbols. Also at hand is the tendency for readers to assume that symbols are only introduced as images and tangible items rather than occurrences and activities. It would aid readers to refer to their prior experience with symbols in literature while focusing on the meaning of a symbol.

“One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire which had been left by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at the warmth I experienced from it. In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!” (Shelley, 69) The fire in this scene is related to the light associated with knowledge and scientific advancement, and symbolizes the ambivalence of scientific progress: it can give comfort when admired from a distance, but when one approaches it too closely it causes pain and destruction.

Chapter 13:

“It’s all political”

First expressed in this chapter are the disadvantages of political writing: how it can at worst be elementary, pompous, and colorless. However, at best it can be thought-provoking and engaging. Traces of political writing can be found in many works, but not all. The cause for this rests in the fact that writers often take heed to the world around them, which includes the political circumstances of their time.

“‘I would willingly afford you every aid in your pursuit; but the creature of whom you speak appears to have powers which would put all my exertions to defiance. Who can follow an animal which can traverse the sea of ice, and inhabit caves and dens, where no man would venture to intrude?’” (Shelley 139) This quote, spoken by the magistrate in response to Frankenstein, expresses how uncontrollable the monster is and how futile would be the efforts made against it. The monster is a symbol of a political leader in possession of absolute power, and Shelley expresses in the novel the dangers associated with these rulers.

Chapter 19:

“Geography really matters”

Foster clarifies that writers are obligated to choose where their stories take place. Some fabricate the location, while others elect to use a pre-existing location. This may be essential to the plot, and it not limited to city or town; but rather may include people and other aspects of society. Geography in literature centers more on the relationship that a group has with its physical surroundings, and can advance the plot while also indicating themes and symbols. Foster states that when a character travels south, usually it is so that they can rebel. This rebellion is to communicate with the character’s subconscious.

“My courage and perseverance were invigorated by these scoffing words; I resolved not to fail in my purpose; and, calling on heaven to support me, I continued with unabated fervour to traverse immense deserts, until the ocean appeared at a distance, and formed the utmost boundary of the horizon.” (Shelley, 143) At this point in the story, the geography advanced the plot by affecting Frankenstein’s situation and causing it to become desperate because of the climate and surroundings which did not allow him to comfortably survive, unlike his monster, who was physically fit for the conditions. As they ventured further north, the geography caused Frankenstein to become trapped on a floating, melting block of ice, which caused him to finally encounter Walton’s vessel.

Chapter 20:

“So does season”

Foster calls to attention in this chapter the importance of season. The use of seasons in a work of literature for meaning has been around since the days of mythology, and each season has certain qualities associated with it. Summer is identified with courtship and maturity, winter with senility, death, and bitterness, spring with prime and youth, and autumn with fatigue and harvest. However, this is not set in stone and writers may make alterations to the meanings of seasons. Seasons, and the circumstances that accompany them, may be used to cause emotion to many characters.

“As I still pursued my journey to the northward, the snows thickened, and the cold increased in a degree almost too severe to support…The rivers were covered with ice, and no fish could be procured; and thus I was cut off from my chief article of maintenance.” (Shelley 142-143) As Foster says and Shelley proves, winter in literature is a season of hardship and old age, as Frankenstein endures the last season of his life, which weakens him greatly before he finally dies. His monster dies in winter as well, having suffered not physically but emotionally to the point where after Frankenstein’s death, he has no other purpose left but to die himself.

Chapter 21:

“Marked for Greatness”

Addressed in this chapter are the physical imperfections that may identify a character. They inform the audience of something that needs to be known about the character, whereas in real life they have no real meaning. To differ the main character from the rest of the characters would always provide multiple opportunities for the writer, and the hero of a story always has something that sets him apart. Distinguishing marks on characters are not important for every work, but since it is more difficult for a writer to include such a character in his story, many times the deformity possesses meaning.

“‘Why do you not execrate the rustic who sought to destroy the saviour of his child?…I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on. Even now my blood boils at the recollection of this injustice.’” (Shelley 155) In this quote the monster further reveals his feelings of isolation from humankind and subsequent frustration and misery. If the monster looked as an average human would look, he would have had no desire for revenge against Frankenstein for creating him, and would not have been alienated from society. The monster received his features, height and strength because it would set him apart from everyone else and allow him to commit acts that other humans would not be capable of.

Chapter 22:

“He’s blind for a reason, you know”

Foster in this chapter calls attention to characters with little or no vision, and the usual reason for their inclusion in literature. Introducing blind characters into a story means that the writer has to decide what the effects of their blindness are, on them and on every other character that they interact with. This usually means that the concept of sight is of prominence in the story, but this can also be true even when blindness is not featured. In what he names the “Indiana Jones Principle”, Foster expresses that any abnormal quality pertaining to a character must be addressed by the author before that quality becomes relevant.

“I am blind, and cannot judge of your countenance, but there is something in your words which persuades me that you are sincere. I am poor, and in exile, but it will afford me true pleasure to be in any way serviceable to a human creature.” (Shelley, 91) This quotes comes from the conversation that the monster had with De Lacy before being driven from him by Felix, and shows how De Lacy saw the monster’s true personality and intentions like no other human being because of his inability to view the monster’s physical features. Like other examples mentioned by Foster, this situation is ironic and demonstrates how the blindness of one person gives him the sight that those with functioning eyes did not possess.

Chapter 25:

“Don’t Read with your Eyes”

The importance of having an open perspective while reading is at hand in this chapter, as Foster tells readers to see the reason for certain events in a story. While no one can forego all attachment to their own values and ideals, too much of this can in fact hinder the understanding and enjoyment that are supposed to be received. Openness can be achieved when one takes into account the situations that the author was writing in.

“I confess to you, my cousin, that I love you, and that in my airy dreams of futurity you have been my constant friend and companion.”(Shelley, 130) The knowledge that Frankenstein and Elizabeth are both biologically related and betrothed at this point in time would startle some, as such a union is considered by most to be inappropriate. However, with some knowledge of nineteenth century society one would realize that it was not uncommon then, and that nineteenth century readers would have thought nothing of it.

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