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In what ways do Walton's letters at the start of the novel help engage the reader's interest and prepare them for what is to come?

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Frankenstein Essay: In what ways do Walton's letters at the start of the novel help engage the reader's interest and prepare them for what is to come? Walton's letters are a vital and integral part of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein. They deal with many issues of character and theme which are present within the main body of the novel. The letters are written by intrepid British explorer to his sister who is living in Britain Mrs. Saville. The letters tell the tale of Walton's experiences in the arctic and of his strange meeting with a man on the ice, who we find out to be Victor Frankenstein. The letters which Walton uses are a narrative framework to the story, and therefore an introduction of sorts. The first thing that requires discussion within the letters is the setting in which Walton finds himself when he is writing these letters. Shelley chose for Walton to be writing the letters from cold desolate and perhaps most significantly isolated land. By setting the scene in such a place she is causing presumptions to be made about the novel and casting it in a certain light. The cold inhospitable setting immediately turns any readers mind to one of the main themes driving the novel- a feeling of loneliness. This is something which is held in common between Walton, Victor and the monster within the novel. ...read more.


Victor tells Walton "You seek knowledge and wisdom as I once did; and ardently hope that gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been." This theme of destructive knowledge is continued and developed throughout the novel as the tragic circumstances of Victor's obsessive search for understanding are revealed. This thirst for knowledge and ambition which is shown in Walton's letters, leads the characters of Walton and Victor far away from their homes. They both have been bitten by the bug and stray from the comfort of the family home to pursue it. Walton hopes he "may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man" and Victor finds in science "a continual food for discovery and wonder." To make this dream of having knowledge a reality both Victor and Walton cut close ties with their family. Walton goes against the will of his father in undertaking his exploration "my fathers dying injunction had forbidden my uncle allow me to embark on a seafaring life." This certainly then rings true with the experiences of Victor Frankenstein? After all his father was "not scientific" and in his youth Victor was left "to struggle with a child's blindness." Therefore the "ignorance" of the respective fathers causes their sons to fly the nest to slake there thirst for knowledge, it could be perceived that by leaving there families and defying their fathers wishes they are rebelling against their upbringings. ...read more.


Victor describes how "order would then arise but I had no power to produce it." Both lines give the impression that something is working within their soul driving them to discover and in doing so penetrate further than they are allowed. This has literary links with the character of Dr Faustus created by Christopher Marlowe, I believe that the devil may be driving their souls and they are doing very little o stop him and so are Faustian characters. It is my belief that by including the letters of Walton at the beginning of the novel Mary Shelley is giving an outline of what the themes of the novel may be. This serves to make the reader focused on what she is trying to convey to them, and keeps them engaged. It gives the reader a reference point to look at when thinking over the themes and morals of the play. She makes Walton view Victor as admirable and therefore initially the readers view him as such, although it is almost all one sided at this (although she does show Walton turning back where Victor didn't) she does include a little sympathy for the monster. This then makes the reader biased towards Victor and challenges them to think in the main body of the novel whether this is justifiable. Finally by making Walton and the Monster have some common traits she sets the ball rolling toward investigating just how much difference there is between man and monster. ...read more.

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