Here are the questions I omitted from Tuesday’s instruction sheet.  I apologize for the confusion.  Start the writing far enough so that you can submit a completed essay at the end of next class.  You can count on that whole class for this work.

Does Mary Shelley present one core struggle that governs all others in her novel?  Or is her story a collection of valuable themes* that operate separately, without contributing to a single, all-encompassing argument?


If you answer yes to the first question, clearly identify the core struggle and make a compelling case for the ways in which this specific struggle governs at least one other important one. Conclude your essay by explaining why, in today’s world, it is valuable to consider this core struggle.


If, instead, you answer yes to the second question, identify at least two valuable themes*, while making the case that they operate independently of one another. In other words, show that these themes have little, if any, relationship to one another. Conclude by explaining how your analysis shows that the novel should be removed from the senior honors curriculum.


Whichever way you answer, be sure to carefully select and explain quotations from the text. Ideally, you have an overall strategy for organizing the essay’s main supporting ideas—so that the ideas build on each other.


For your consideration, here are some topics generated by recent student responses to the question of core struggle. Feel free to use one, or more, or none of these topics in your essay:


solitude / isolation / loneliness

curiosity / scientific pursuit


social (in)justice

individual humans’ needs / society’s needs

pursuit of / response to the unknown

conscience / moral responsibility

knowledge / wisdom

human companionship

monstrous acts

human limitations

lost paradise

*THEME The main idea or underlying meaning of a literary work. A theme may be stated or implied. Theme differs from the subject or topic of a literary work in that it involves a statement or opinion about the topic. Not every literary work has a theme. Themes may be major or minor. A major theme is an idea the author returns to time and again. It becomes one of the most important ideas in the story. Minor themes are ideas that may appear from time to time.

It is important to recognize the difference between the theme of a literary work and the subject of a literary work. The subject is the topic on which an author has chosen to write. The theme, however, makes some statement about or expresses some opinion on that topic. For example, the subject of a story might be war, while the theme might be the idea that war is useless.