How Successfully Do Walton's Letters Introduce the Central Themes and Concerns of the Novel "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley?

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How successfully do Walton's letters introduce the central themes and concerns of the novel "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley?

Walton is a sailor looking for a paradise. He believes that it exists on the north pole, even though most people would strongly disagree with this hypothesis. There are many similarities between his character and that of Victor Frankenstein, helping introduce the central themes and concerns to the novel. Walton's letters to his sister are the frame of the story. Even the main part of the story is written by Walton and sent to his sister.

The first letter is written in December and is sent from St. Petersburgh. Here, we find out about Walton's journey and goal. Walton describes the paradise that he imagines to be on the north pole “the region of beauty and delight. (…) the sun is for ever visible”. A place like this is one where many people would be grateful to be in, so if Walton does find it, he will be glorious and famous. The journey can also be interpreted as a metaphor for both Frankenstein's and Walton's ambitions. They start out with their families, in a safe place, but their over-ambitiousness leads to deaths of people they need. This makes us question where this journey leads, especially since it's set in such wild and inhospitable locations. Walton, similarly to Frankenstein, describes the scenery in huge detail, which is typical of a Gothic novel. The wild landscapes could be representing Frankenstein's or Walton's states of mind; the geological frontiers symbolising their inability to realise where ethical frontiers stand. Both Frankenstein and Walton refuse to live a normal and calm life and decide to go on adventures for knowledge. Neither of them can see reason and they prefer glory and fame to wealth. They pursue science and exploration to benefit mankind, but also for personal glory. A question the readers often ask is whether they have good motifs, or whether their ambitions are driving them crazy.

Walton's language reflections on his passion and warm-heartedness. He writes “I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven”. His use of metaphors makes him seem educated and noble. Right from the beginning, it is clear that his sister is against this expedition, so like Frankenstein, he is going against his family's will. Both of them are also chasing impossible dreams. Walton wants to find a non-existing paradise on the north pole, and Frankenstein wants to play God and defeat death. What neither of them realise is that with such high levels of commitment, they can be left all alone, without any friends of family, because of spending their entire time working on their projects rather than spending time with their loved ones. Throughout the first letter, Walton's ideas usually flow, but sometimes he contradicts himself, showing that his state of mind is a bit uneven. The first letter is finished by Walton his sister his plans for the near future and telling her he loves her by signing it with the words “Your affectionate brother”. This letter introduces to us the motif of family relations, between brother and sister. The main difference between the relations of Walton and Frankenstein and their sisters is that Walton's sister is married, so they will never be joined in union, unlike Victor and Elizabeth. This letter also introduces the theme of over-ambition, and it leading to loss of loved ones, and not necessarily glory and fame.

The next letter is sent in March the following year, from Archangel. In this letter, Walton moans to his sister that on the boat he has no friends. He directly tells her “I have no friend, Margaret”. This is different to Frankenstein, because when he travelled to England, for example, he took his dear friend, Clerval. The monster, also, is in need of a friend, but no one will look past his looks to be one of his friends, or to help him get one. Walton wants a friendly companion to have a stabilising influence. In this letter, he...
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