Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is written in several different narrative frames, the first being Captain Robert Walton’s letters to his sister in England, whilst he is on a voyage of discovery to the North Pole. He relates the sightings of the creature and the discovery of Victor Frankenstein in his letters. At the end of the final letter, Walton introduces Victor’s tale, and we are then assured that the main narrator throughout the novel will be Walton, and that the tale of Victor (and later the tale of the creation) will be related through him. This theme of listening happens to be ongoing throughout the novel.
Frankenstein’s creation tells him: “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 defence before they are condemned. ” Listening to stories is the essential ingredient to the future success of each of the characters in this novel. We can derive from his letters that Walton’s values and morals aren’t ideal, but from listening to the story of Victor Frankenstein, we assume that Walton can reassess his life and change its course.
The telling of stories allows another perspective to be taken into account. Later in the novel we find out that if Victor had heard the tale of his creation before he judged and rejected it, things would have been very different. If the moral in a story is accurately transferred, then the listeners then have the option of rectifying their mistakes and setting themselves back on track. What remains to be seen of course is if the characters identify this opportunity and make use of it. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein fits into the genre of Gothic Horror. In Walton’s first letter, even his sister had anticipated his journey with “evil forebodings.
” This is typically gothic; it is daunting and incites trepidation in the reader. We also find out Walton’s aims and aspirations, and the plans for his voyage of discovery. Walton seems to be very self-satisfied with his plans, and we get the feeling of pride when he says: “I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. ” Of course this is the typical use of dramatic irony in the Victorian era when “pride comes before a fall” was a phrase commonly used.
This stimulates a feeling of gothic foreboding in the reader, a kind of preparation for what is to come. There is much gothic typicality in the fourth letter, when at the beginning of his story Frankenstein proclaims: “Prepare to hear of occurrences which are usually deemed marvellous. ” Walton’s last comment in letter four is equally foreboding: “Strange and harrowing must be his story, frightful the storm which embraced the gallant vessel on its course and wrecked it – thus! ” I think these statements are small insights to the tale that is about to unfold – they prepare us for the horror of Victor’s story.