Wither by Lauren DeStefano & Frankenstein

Posted April 26, 2011 by Sara | Novel Novice 3 Comments


We make no secret here at Novel Novice about our desire to relate new YA books to classroom lessons. And our April Book of the Month, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, is no exception. Today and tomorrow, we’ve got two different ways to relate Wither to traditional classroom topics.

Today, we’re showing you how to relate Wither to the classic novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. In Wither, Linden reads Frankenstein to Rhine when she is recovering from injury & illness, and the irony of the book compared to the world she lives in is not lost on Rhine:

Linden is always by my side, fluffing my pillow, working on his designs, and reading library books to me. I find Frankenstein to be unnervingly ironic.
– pg. 176

Frankenstein, written by Shelley in 1818 when she was only 18 years old, tells the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his quest to cheat death by creating life from dead matter. And within Wither is the story of Housemaster Vaughn, and is efforts to cure the genetic fault that causes all men to die at age 25 and all women to die at age 20. In essence — both Dr. Frankenstein and Vaughn are trying to find a way around death.

I think of the book Linden read to me while I was recovering. Frankenstein. It was about a madman who constructed a human out of pieces from corpses. I think of Rose’s cold hand with its pink nail polish, and Gabriel’s blue eyes, and the stone-small heart of a dead infant, and even before I realize I’ve moved, I’m vomiting, and Jenna is holding back my hair, and the world is spinning out of control. But not the real world. Vaughn’s world.
– pg. 234

Themes abound within Frankenstein that easily overlap with Wither:

  • cheating death; “playing God”
  • what defines a “monster”
  • Galvanism (animating dead tissue through the use of electricity)
  • Vengeance

You can also easily compare characters & moments from both books. For example:

  • Dr. Frankenstein & Vaughn in Wither
  • Elizabeth in Frankenstein vs. Rhine, Rose & the other wives in Wither
  • The act of creating life (in Frankenstein) vs. the act of avoiding death (in Wither)

Using the quotes from Wither above, consider the following questions:

  • Why does Rhine find it “unnervingly ironic” that Linden is reading Frankenstein to her? How does she relate the book to what she was witnessed in Vaughn’s basement?
  • After learning that Gabriel has been taken to Vaughn’s basement for “work,” why is Rhine reminded of reading Frankenstein?
  • Rhine calls the basement “Vaughn’s windowless basement of horrors” (pg. 234). How does this relate to her recollection of reading Frankenstein?

Other themes you can also explore and compare between Frankenstein & Wither include:

  • Elements of the Gothic novel
  • Horror genre
  • Themes in science fiction

For the comments: Have you studied Frankenstein? What other ways can you think to compare Frankenstein & Wither?

Sara | Novel Novice
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Posted in: Book of the Month, Classroom Ideas, Educational Content Tags:

3 responses to “Wither by Lauren DeStefano & Frankenstein

  1. This is great for teachers! I’m working on pairing YAL with the canon and I thought Wither would also go well with 1984, You can read more about my novel pairings at: companionstothecanon.weebly.com

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