How Does Frankenstein Benefit from Walton as a Narrator?

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How does the novel Frankenstein benefit from Walton as a narrator? By Alex Hewitt

The beginning and ending of the novel Frankenstein are written in epistolary form as a series of letters from Robert Walton, to his sister. The letters are unusual as they contain very little information about Walton’s sister and mostly detail Walton’s exploits in exploring the Arctic in search of the North-West Passage, in this way resembling journal entries instead of letters. While Walton spends many pages explaining his adventures in a “land surpassing in wonders and beauty,” the few questions asked to his sister are either rhetorical such as “do you understand this feeling?” which is also condescending, snidely suggesting his sisters incapacity to comprehend sublime emotions, or refer solely to himself such as “when shall I return?” In fact one of the few pieces of information collected about his sister is revealed in the last series of letters and that she has a “husband and lovely children,” something common to many women and making her remarkably indistinguishable. Because of the total lack of any real detail about his sister the reader effectively takes her place in a listener-speaker dynamic.

In extension of this the reader is but the outermost layer of a Russian doll style of embedded narratives of not just Walton relating Frankenstein’s story, Frankenstein the monsters and letters from both Elizabeth and Frankenstein’s father but also many extra-textural references, most notably Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Milton’s Paradise Lost. As noted in D. Punter and G.Byron’s, The Gothic, these are texts the novel can both be related to, the first being “another tale of an alienated individual,” and be used to understand the characters “changing situations” as detailed in the second. However one of the most significant of these is Dante’s Divine Comedey, referenced briefly when describing the monster as “a thing such as Dante could not even...
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