Compare and contrast the narrators in Gulliver’s Travels and Frankenstein, the narrative methods, and the effects of these different ways of telling a story in Gulliver’s Travels and Frankenstein.
S2 English H
8 April 2010
Word count: 1491
Why do authors use different types of narrators? Jonathan Swift and Mary Shelly have both chosen a first-person narrator in their novels Gulliver’s Travels and Frankenstein. In Gulliver’s Travels the narrator is Gulliver and the book is a personal account of four voyages to unexplored lands around the globe. In the first voyage he winds up in Littleput where everyone is tiny. During his second trip he is taken to a land of giants called Brobdingnag and on his next journey to Laputa, a floating island of academics. His final journey takes him to a strange land where horses called Houyhnhnms rule humans called Yahoos. Frankenstein is a collection of John Walton’s letters. John Walton is the fictional captain of a ship bound for the North Pole who picks up a passenger, Frankenstein, who tells them a strange tale. He tells Walton an account of his scientific creation of a creature that ends up killing all his loved ones. Frankenstein dies and John Walton meets the creature who tells him of his plans to burn himself. While both authors choose to use first-person narration, Swift employs a single narrator while Shelly uses a combination of three. Multiple narrators are needed by Mary Shelly to make her story stronger but Jonathan Swift only uses one narrator because he is writing a travel log. The narrators in both novels along with their effects on the stories can be compared to each other since they are similar but the narrative method used by each author creates unique effects on the reader.
The narrators in Frankenstein and Gulliver’s Travels have many similarities. John Walton is the narrator for Frankenstein but sections of the story are told by Victor and the creature giving the story a number of narrators. The reader hears the story from John Walton’s letters in which he has written Frankenstein’s story. Halfway through the story the narration is given by the creature who tells his story from chapters 11-16. Victor Frankenstein is the main narrator in Frankenstein; therefore, he will be the narrator compared to Gulliver. Frankenstein starts off as a narrator the reader can relate to. In the early stages of the book he is innocent and young; Frankenstein is fascinated by science and strives to achieve great things. Over the course of the novel we watch as that innocent youth is mutated into a disillusioned and obsessed man whose only remaining ambition is to destroy the results of his arrogant scientific experiments. Frankenstein’s passion for science drives him so close to insanity that when he was narrating he felt the urge to remind us that it was not “the vision of a madman”.(Shelly 53) Another example when Frankenstein’s word is not believed is when the Genevan magistrate reverted to his tale as “the effect of delirium.”(Shelly 204) Without the support of John Walton’s letter Frankenstein would be taken as the tale of a madman since Frankenstein holds very little credibility as a narrator. Like Frankenstein, Gulliver is, originally, logical and reliable. He is able to calmly access the situation in Littleput and our trust is built up in Gulliver as we understand the decisions he made and we agree with him. When he defeats the Blefuscu army, enemies of the Littleputians, the Littleputians plan to enslave the Blefuscudians. However, Gulliver “would never be an Instrument of bringing a free and brave People into Slavery.”(Swift 40) Gulliver’s refusal to support slavery further builds up our faith in him. His sense of righteousness can be compared to Frankenstein’s determination to discover the unknown. However, by as early as book 2 in Gulliver’s Travels the narrator has gotten less reliable. In...
Cited: Shelly, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Dover, 2003.
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels. Great Britain: Oxford University Press, 1998.
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