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How far do Walton's letters prepare us for the tale which is about to unfold?

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Helen Williams How far do Walton's letters prepare us for the tale which is about to unfold? Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is written in several different narrative frames, the first being Captain Robert Walton's letters to his sister in England, whilst he is on a voyage of discovery to the North Pole. He relates the sightings of the creature and the discovery of Victor Frankenstein in his letters. At the end of the final letter, Walton introduces Victor's tale, and we are then assured that the main narrator throughout the novel will be Walton, and that the tale of Victor (and later the tale of the creation) will be related through him. This theme of listening happens to be ongoing throughout the novel. Frankenstein's creation tells him: "Listen to my tale: when you have heard that, abandon or commiserate me, as you shall judge that I deserve. But hear me. The guilty are allowed, by human laws, bloody as they are, to speak in their own defence before they are condemned." Listening to stories is the essential ingredient to the future success of each of the characters in this novel. We can derive from his letters that Walton's values and morals aren't ideal, but from listening to the story of Victor Frankenstein, we assume that Walton can reassess his life and change its course. ...read more.


"...elevates me to heaven." Walton seems to be playing God or somebody of high divinity by generously giving out 'heavenly' phrases. This is quite foreboding, as the oppressiveness in the historical context also suggests that all is not well. This is backed up by Walton acting against his father's dying injunction; not to embark in a seafaring life. This is not a very 'divine' thing to do. This is an underlying theme at this early stage in the novel, but as Victor confesses his story of playing God, we realise that this theme mutely prepares us for the tale that is about to unfold. The desire to find out the unknown and to be the first to discover the unseen is a tragic flaw of both Walton and the Victor Frankenstein, and from the very first letter, the theme of glory is heavily established. Walton states: "I preferred glory." Of course there are only a select few who have achieved this timeless goal, yet those who pursue it are encouraged by the immortality and recognition awarded to the victorious. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a literary rumination of the quest for glory, Walton's discovery of the North Pole being the backdrop for the tale of the title character's pursuit of the knowledge of life. ...read more.


Whether this is a good or bad thing, that is for the individual to decide. There are faults in the letters, however. Mary Shelley has a very amateur style of writing which is very apparent in certain phrases. As a woman writing for the point of view of a male character, she doesn't seem to capture a very masculine 'voice:' "His full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness." "Being even now in wreck so attractive an amiable." "My affection for my guest increases each day. He excites at once my admiration and my pity to an astonishing degree." It is in these examples that a male's (Walton's) description of another male (Victor) aren't entirely convincing. Shelley's age and gender become apparent and we realise that she isn't a very experienced author, and can't relate to the colloquial style of men whilst writing, although she wasn't deprive of male company in the slightest even at the young age (18) she was when she wrote Frankenstein. She was married at the time. However, this fault is probably due to her youth and inexperience, and is hardly mentionable given that Frankenstein is often perceived as one of the greatest Gothic novels ever written. 1 ...read more.

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