The Final Exam, Annotated


I pulled out a few choice sentences that students wrote for my English 10 final exam, which consisted mostly of an essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. 

The monster ended up going on a killing spree because he read The Grapes of Wrath and got the wrong idea about human kind.

I have no idea how this particular student conflated Steinbeck’s novel with Milton’s Paradise Lost. The monster in Shelley’s novel had skills, no doubt, but time traveling was not one of them, as far as I can tell.

Then someone else gets killed because everyone thought she had killed everyone that was dying.

Killed to death, as they say, for dying too much. I don’t know who “she” is. Maybe this student holds the author responsible for all the death and destruction. That’s fair.

Here’s a pretty astute craft observation about Mary Shelley’s tone:

So it shows tone because in some sentences it has capitals for all the letters if someone is yelling. If they are just talking it’s normal writing, and if someone is whispering then the letters are smaller than the rest.

Indeed. I had not noticed before that everything the monster says in this novel is in all capital letters. No wonder I felt like I was being yelled at. How did I miss this?

Without teachers there would be no life. We would just be a big sack of potatoes.

I’m so happy to know that I am responsible for my students not becoming sacks of potatoes. Career win.

The monster learning to be good and kind was sort of pointless if he’s just gonna go around strangling people.

Indubitably. All that goodness gone to waste.

Here’s another craft observation, more heart-felt than brainy:

The writer’s choice is to mostly write words that hit your feels and make you think awhile on the life you have.

I know this holds true for me. The first time I read this novel (I was about 35), I got hit in the feels all over. I, too, like this next student, was making powerful personal connections:

My father had not made me very happy in my life. And I felt the same way the monster did at this point. The only difference is that I did not go and kill his whole family.

My connections weren’t about my deadbeat dad. My dad was anything but deadbeat. I was the deadbeat dad, although, truth be told, I wasn’t a dad at the time. I just, in those years, felt more like the mad scientist than the monster; in other words, I was the bad guy.

Here’s some inventive historical context:

Frankenstein is an 1818 novel in a time of pitchforks and torches.

Oh, those were the days. You couldn’t spit in any direction without hitting a pitchfork or a torch. Kind of like coffee shops today, or, in Oregon, pot dispensaries.

And then, apropos not of Shelley, but Galway Kinnell:

This poem is about eating blackberries and I don’t know why anyone would write a poem about that.

Crazy poets.






Filed under Education, Literature, Teaching, Writing and Reading

4 responses to “The Final Exam, Annotated

  1. Just so you know, it was completely WORTH IT to write that because I laughed until my face hurt and my belly aches and maybe I annoyed my neighbors with the noisy outbursts of psychotic laughter. I now consider you one of my best friends, a kindred” spirit and someone I definitely want to meet in person some day, like at a coffee shop or somewhere else respectable where your honor or mine won’t be called into question in any way. Maybe we could host a forum on the differences in teaching children aged 9-11 and those who are in high school. “Children aged 9-11 still care that you love them,” will be the first thing that I share. Well done! Loved it! Will reread so that I can ache again. Because I just love aching. And so does she.

    • Thank you so much, Lorien. It would be lovely to meet you. You are far away from the NW, yes? I don’t remember where you live. If you ever swing through Portland or thereabouts, let me know. Coffee would be nice. I want to say something funny here about honor. I tried several times and failed. I hope you are well. So happy to have made you laugh.

      • Yes, I’m an east coast sister, in MD. Turns out my twin is in Oregon right now though! You could meet her! And my mom and two nephews. They just arrived from CA and before then, from HI. My sis lives on the big island and had to vacate because of Pele’s wrath. I wish I were in OR right now. One of my dreams. 💖🌈🙏🏼✨😊

      • Your sister can’t be as cool, could she be? Well, if you have relatives out here, a visit is in order. Let me know. Next summer I might be in MA, but that’s a whole four letters away from MD. But the states are tiny out there, aren’t they? Cheers.

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