In Frankenstein How Does The Use Of Three Narrators Affect The Reader's Response To The Novel?
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In Frankenstein How Does The Use Of Three Narrators Affect The Reader's Response To The Novel? Written by Mary Shelley in 1816, Frankenstein is a novel that conveys several messages and themes. It was written at a time of social and political upheaval: the incredible advances in science and movements in art and culture were changing the way people lived dramatically. For example, the use of electricity, the French Revolution and the Romantic Movement, were leading people to have totally radical, bohemian lifestyles. Shelley allowed these revolutionary ideas to move and inspire her, enabling her to write one of the most remarkable and intriguing pieces of literature in the world. In the novel, Shelley uses three narrators: Robert Walton; Victor Frankenstein; and the monster, or modern Prometheus, as he was intended to be. The purpose of this essay is to explore what effect this has on our response to the novel overall. I shall do this by explaining how they affect our understanding of the main themes of the novel; the complex time and structure; and the narrators as characters. Mary Shelley's classic novel discusses three major themes: ambition and its consequences; the importance of family; and community and isolation. Victor's horrific tale shows how blind ambition and ruthlessness can destroy you morally and physically. This happens to Victor as he loses everything dear to him and eventually his own life. Upon hearing Victor's story of death and revenge, suffering and loneliness, Walton gives up his own ambition of discovering the North Pole, realising that he has sacrificed his sister for his obsession with success. Thus he is saved before it is to late. Victor on the other hand has caused his own downfall: he becomes so obsessed with his creation that he neglects his family by refusing to go home when Elizabeth writes to him. This ultimately leads to the deaths of his family, Justine and William are killed in the monster's fit of revenge, and his suffering and loneliness begin to devour him.
Shunned and both verbally and physically abused by all people who see him, he grows up an orphan with no farther figure to guide and teach him how to behave. He is miserable and lonely because his appearance is so revolting. "I bore a hell within me; and finding myself unsympathised with, wished to...spread havoc and destruction with me." In the last section, however, our sympathies are divided. We feel sorry for Victor for losing his beloved Elizabeth and being accused of the murder of Clerval; and we sympathise with the creature because Victor reuses to live up to his responsibilities to him and he is denied the companion he was promised. The letter format is used throughout the novel and unifies it. This way, extraordinary events seem more credible as a letter is intended to inform with facts, rather than entertain like a story. Victor's evidence of the letters between Felix and Safie make both the monster and Victor's tales more believable for Walton and the reader. It is also used to inform you of character's lives in the meantime, for example Elizabeth's and Alphonce's letters to Victor. Walton's meeting with the monster at the end makes sense of Victor's tale, makes it more credible for the reader and acts as a sort of resolution. It is in this way that the use of three narrators helps us to understand the complex time and structure of the novel. The first narrator we hear from in the novel is Robert Walton. At 28-years-old, he is ambitious and extremely volatile. At times he seems very passionate and excited about his voyage, and at others deeply depressed about the hardships it brings. For example, Walton quotes "My courage and my resolution is firm: but my hopes fluctuate and my spirits are often depressed." His letters often reflect these sudden mood swings between optimism and gloom. His determination leads to ruthlessness: his need to succeed blinkers his understanding of the crew's threat of mutiny.
He influenced the young Mary Shelley in his novel Emile. His natural attraction to humans and child-like wonder at the world around him excites our attention and evokes sympathy as we realise he is just like an innocent child struggling through the world alone. This great appreciation of nature, society and literature is evidence that the Romantic Movement influenced Shelley's writing too. We see goodness in him when he collects wood for the DeLacey's and saves a girl from drowning. The DeLacy family call him the "good spirit", a total contrast from the imagery Shelley first describes him with. Our sympathy is again evoked with his desire for friendship and the prejudice he suffers from. The barrier between the monster and humans is ugliness, and the way in which Shelley writes reminds the reader of how cruel we ourselves are and makes us feel guilty. In being blind, DeLacy can accept him for who he is, but when this dream is shattered; Victor is his only hope at fulfilling his demand for a companion, subsequently providing justice, which Victor denies. The way he is mistreated turns him from an innocent creature into a vindictive, bloodthirsty monster. The three narrators are described by each other in great detail to help us understand more clearly their personalities and their characters. As the novel deals with some rather fantastical, disturbing ideas, it is understandably difficult to comprehend. However, the use of three narrators helps the reader to understand the complex ideas and breaks the novel down into sections which helps us to appreciate the complicated time and structure. It also shows us a more open-minded view of the characters. We see things from one perspective that we would not see from another, and therefore are able to independently have an opinion of the characters. Although I found the language and structure of the novel hard to comprehend, I did enjoy reading the novel and it has influenced the way in which I view the world, and brought awareness against ambition and isolation.
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