In the beginning of the novel, the epistolary stage, we are initially brought to believe that Captain Walton and Victor Frankenstein are the two main protagonists, whereas Victor’s creation, the ‘monster’, is portrayed as a “demon” and a creature that deserves little sympathy. But, as the novel progresses we begin to develop an understanding with the monster and we realise he himself is worthy of much more and Victor and Walton quite the opposite.
The novel opens, and effectively closes, with the narration of Walton on board his ship travelling to the harsh, gothic winter land of the North Pole, at that time unexplored and presumed dangerous by the ‘civilized world’. From this location we are also, in succession, given in depth accounts of both Victor’s and the monster’s pasts including their quite harmonic upbringings and devastatingly tragic downfalls.
Walton, as I mentioned before, is initially portrayed in his epistolary stage to be the conventional hero, brave, intelligent and passionate, “I am practically industrious- painstaking- a workman to execute with perseverance and labour:- but besides this, there is a love for the marvelous, a belief in the marvelous, intertwined in all my projects, which hurries me out of the common pathways of men, even to the wild sea and unvisited regions I am about to explore”.
But as this character unfolds his true persona we realise his arrogance does not stretch to the levels of charisma but reveal him to be shallow, self-righteousness and extremely self- absorbed. Any sympathy for him could be granted in the realisation that he is ultimately a terribly lonely man. This though is all dashed away along with his protagonist figure as we learn that this loneliness is completely self-imposed and the result of egotism and snobbishness, “I shall certainly find no friend on the Wide Ocean, nor even here in Archangel, among merchants and seamen”.
Frankenstein effectively begins and ends with the sometimes pretentiously grandiloquent language of Captain Robert Walton, “Having conquered the violence of his feelings, he appeared to dispise himself for being the slave of passion; and quelling the dark tyranny of despair… ” In the parts of the novel that Walton features in we are only ever given a first person description of him which actually to a degree emphasizes his arrogance and pompousness. If, for example, Walton was described in second person his portrayal could be exaggerated cruelly or kindly.
This too though applies to a first person description; the difference though is that you can judge the self-righteousness of Walton just by the language he uses and the self detail he indulges into. He is truly pompous, self-absorbed and shallow, the exact reasons why he is not one of the protagonists. On page 18 he clearly claims, “There is something at work in my soul which I do not understand”. So this is merely an excuse to validate Walton’s acts and in effect Frankenstein’s because they are doppelgangers of each other.
This cannot though entirely justify their obsessive behaviour because, yes although they are young, passionate and ultimately nai?? ve, this still doesn’t change the fact that they are both well educated human beings, ninety percent responsible for their acts and fully conscious of what they are doing to the people they abandon Upon ‘discarding’ his own creation, acts on the levels of hypercriticism, having been cherished by his own ‘creators’; single-mindedness because he does not empathize with the monster’s ‘disability’ and is totally self-absorbed in the notion that he has formed.
But this passion, or more accurately obsession for success seems strangely unjustified in that Walton feels that his behaviour is actually out of his control.. What is quite interesting about the two characters though is that they both, upon So arrogant as he is Walton cries out in his letters to his sister, “the very stars themselves being witnesses and testimonies of my triumph” and whilst formulating his experiment with “the instruments of life”