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Importance of Listening in Frankenstein 



By imwong Oct 28, 2010 1391 Words
In Frankenstein, point of view is an important literary device that brings to light the theme of listening. The novel is written in a framed narrative form, which allows for one central story to be relayed through other characters several times. The reader and Mrs. Saville are the first people who listen to Frankenstein's story through Robert Walton's letters home. Walton listens to Victor's story from Victor, and Frankenstein listens to the monster's story. Each person has a message or warning that they need to relay to the other. They stress the importance that the other person listens as best as possible in order to understand the message they are trying to get across. Frankenstein emphasizes the importance of listening through a series of key characters. 

 

 Mrs. Saville and the rest of society read Walton's letters, which tell Victor Frankenstein's story. This is the outermost layer of the framed narrative format of the novel. Mrs. Saville is Walton's sister. He begins writing her letters on his mission to the Artic to let her know that he's okay. Walton's initial cause seems to be one that is sincere and truly focused on the world as a whole. But it becomes evident later on in his letter that he is concentrated on a more selfish purpose. Walton is overly confident that his effort will leave him glorified. He says, "Success shall crown my endeavors. Wherefore not? Thus far I have gone, tracing a secure way over the pathless sea, the very stars themselves being witnesses and testimonies of my triumph" (p.17). Then he comes across \Frankenstein and he records Frankenstein's story in his letters home. Frankenstein's story is supposed to communicate a warning to society. While the result of Walton's journey is not yet revealed, it is evident that Frankenstein foresees deep failure, which he must thwart. He says Walton's aspirations are a result of having "drank of the intoxication draft." (p.22). Frankenstein understands the downfall glory can cause to mankind in general and takes it upon himself to relieve Walton of the burning desire that so many have fallen prisoner to. Frankenstein had been through a lot in his quest to create life. He was so wrapped up in his scientific studies that he isolated himself from his family and friends and society in general. He let his ambition guide him rather than his common sense. The result of this is a frustrated monster. When Frankenstein comes across Walton in the artic, he sees a reflection of himself. Walton shows characteristics much like those that Frankenstein himself possesses. He notices that Walton is physically isolating himself rather than emotionally by going far away from his family and friends to make new discoveries in the Artic region. Walton is uninterested in the crew and isolates himself from them. He says the life of one of his crewmembers would be "a small price to pay" (p.11) in the pursuit of success. Walton is essentially being told by Frankenstein to not become so wrapped up in the pursuit of knowledge that contact with other people becomes unimportant. Hearing it from Walton’s point of view shows that a message in the story is to not isolate ones self in the quest for glory and science. Listening to this message is important because it foreshadows the demise of Frankenstein because he warns out of experience. In order to prevent others from making the same mistakes he did, Frankenstein tells Walton his story to get it out in the open. 

 

 Walton is a good listener and is eager to hear what happened with Victor's scientific experiment. By the end of the book, it is apparent that Victor's story has affected Walton. Walton decides to head home back to his family. Victor's story gives Walton a personal account of the dangers that can surface when one becomes excessively consumed in their studies. Fear possibly drove Walton to change his mind about his voyage. Having heard all that Victor Frankenstein went through with the monster. It is dubious that Walton would feel like continuing with his journey when he has just learned the value of family and friends. Victor lost his little brother, his friendly maid, and his wife. He is totally alone and being chased by a monster that he created. That alone is enough to make Walton want to be with his family to love and protect them and not leave them for the sake of science. Walton takes to heart what Frankenstein says, “Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries” (205). The central story of the framed narrative is the monster's story as told to Frankenstein. Frankenstein was so caught up in his creation of life that he forgot to think of the possible consequences that come with his work. “Under the guidance of my new preceptors, I entered with great diligence into the search of the...elixir of life”(42). As a scientist, he is responsible for whatever he creates or does. Frankenstein did not understand how dangerous his experiment was until it was too late. He created a monster and then, scared and shocked at what he had done, ran away and left the monster to fend for himself. The monster wants revenge but at the same time he wants Victor to listen to his story and realize the mistakes he has made. Listen to my tale: when you have heard that, abandon or commiserate me, as you shall judge that I deserve. But hear me. The guilty are allowed, by human laws, bloody as they are, to speak in their own defense before they are condemned”(69). Victor had no comprehension of how selfish he had been. He gave this creature life and then wished he could just take it away because of the monster's looks alone. He had a responsibility to teach him the ways of life and instill morals and ethics in him as a person. The monster explains how he just wanted a friend, someone who could relate to him and not be horrified by his appearance. This shows the selfishness in Frankenstein's actions. He himself knows what it feels like to be isolated from society and yet he deliberately created a creature that had no place where he belongs. Here, the monster expresses his sorrow and says “Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous”(69). The monster's story shows Frankenstein just how bad the situation that he has gotten himself into is. The monster's story should touch Frankenstein and make him realize that he owes the monster something for abandoning him in his time of need. However, Frankenstein is still too horrified with the monster and himself to do anything to correct his mistakes. 

 

 Listening to others' stories gives people different perspectives and views of different situations. Society can read Victor's story and reevaluate their lives and decisions. They can make sure that they don't make the same mistake he did. Walton is an example of a person who reevaluated his life. He realized that he was falling right into the same trap that Frankenstein fell into. His quest for knowledge and science was taking precedence over his family and friends. Frankenstein even learned something from listening to the monster's story. He saw just how serious the consequences were. Maybe he even felt a tiny bit bad for the monster. The monster allowed Frankenstein to recognize his biggest mistake: creating life and not taking responsibility for his creation. It's unfortunate that Frankenstein didn't do anything to solve the problems he created for the monster. However, because of listening, everyone's story was heard and re-told. If the message is accurately portrayed, then others have the option to correct their own mistakes or change their own life paths, before it's too late.

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