Frankenstein - Sample exam question

The question

Starting with this extract, discuss how Victor's ambitions go so badly wrong.

Write about:

  • what Victor's ambitions are and how he sets about achieving them
  • the difference between the ambitions Victor has and the reality that he faces
  • what happens as a result of Victor's ambitions

The extract

It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! -- Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room'.

From chapter 5

Before you go on to the next page, make some notes about what you might write.


  • Think about the key words in the question ('discuss', 'ambitions').
  • Think about this extract – what is happening at this point? How does Shelley give the reader a sense that things are already going badly? Highlight some key points.
  • Think about Victor's attitude towards what is happening.