We have explored from many different angles the parallel between Frankenstein and his monster. Yet as every story has a beginning, Mary Shelley’s novel begins through the eyes of a man named Robert Walton who is on a pursuit for his own insatiable thirst for knowledge. Walton begins his story through sentimental letters written to his beloved sister. These letters describe in great detail Walton’s adventure set a ship through the cold and ice across the vast sea to discover the North Pole. Walton is a genius in his own right, a man who in the earliest memories of his youth desired to learn about the world, and natural sciences. Quoting Walton, “This expedition has been the favourite dream of my early years” (2). These similarities to Victor Frankenstein’s own pursuit are the beginning of many between the two men. Walton endures the harsh adversities of nature, ignoring the needs of his health on his expedition to the North Sea.
Victor is initially known as “the stranger” and comes to us in this tale on the brink of death. Walton immediately finds affection for this lost traveler-even before Frankenstein’s story is told. As Walton assists Victor in regaining his health, the story and connection between the two men emerge.
“You seek knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been” (13). This is the warning given by Victor Frankenstein to Walton before he tells his new friend the story of where his relentless search for knowledge has taken him. As the reader and Walton listen to this tale we find a familiarity in the upbringing of the two men. Both from encouraging families and both captivated with the ways of natural philosophy. The reader, as well as Walton deeply feels the “delight and rapture” (31) as Victor discovers the key to the reanimation of life. We are afflicted by the gruesome details involved in the making of Victor’s monster, as we are wondrous when this creature comes to life. From this point on in the story the creator is now being pursued by his creation-for an explanation of his being. The anxiety fills the space between the narrator and his muse, as it fills our hearts as well. Shelley’s novel is brilliant in this respect.
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An excerpt from Sparknote’s.com explains “Walton functions as the conduit through which the reader hears the story of Victor and his monster. However, he also plays a role that parallels Victor’s in many ways. Like Victor, Walton is an explorer, chasing after that “country of eternal light”-unpossesed knowledge. Victor’s influence on him is paradoxical; one moment he exhorts Walton’s almost-mutinous men to stay the path courageously, regardless of danger; the next he serves as an abject example of the dangers of heedless scientific ambition”. This is a profound example of the contrasting emotions that Shelley engages the reader to feel, between the quest and the consequence.
Some things to consider: When Victor is at school and building the creature, he physically becomes ill (pale, fatigued, and thin). This suggests that the “search for knowledge” is fatal and destructive. However, when he is in nature, and back in Geneva he is rested and at peace, suggesting that mankind needs to find happiness in the simple pleasures of the world. Victor has the desire to be greater than God by creating the creature, and Walton wants to be greater than most men by traveling undiscovered regions of the world. Walton does not venture these places for the peace and solitude that they may offer, but as a means to fame and recognition, much like Victor’s desires to be famous for his ability to recreate life. Frankenstein sees this desire in Walton and warns him against it by telling him his own tale.
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An example is made of V. Frankenstein’s tale though the eyes of Walton, who gains an understanding of the realities in which reaping what you sow can bring upon man. I believe this knowledge surpasses even that of Victor’s seeing that Walton is the one character in this story who feels empathy for the monster. His visceral reaction upon seeing the creature is none different than any other man who has laid eyes on the monster as Walton cannot even bring his eyes to meet the creature. Yet, the beauty of this union between Walton and the Monster is perhaps a closure to the horror that has thrilled our hearts throughout this novel. Walton understands even more so the repercussions of choosing desire before reason than the creator himself had. Walton sees the monster not as “the fiend”, but as a creature of misfortune.
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