In what ways do Walton’s letters at the start of the novel help engage the reader’s interest and prepare them for what is to come? Walton’s letters are a vital and integral part of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. They deal with many issues of character and theme which are present within the main body of the novel. The letters are written by intrepid British explorer to his sister who is living in Britain Mrs. Saville. The letters tell the tale of Walton’s experiences in the arctic and of his strange meeting with a man on the ice, who we find out to be Victor Frankenstein.Order now
The letters which Walton uses are a narrative framework to the story, and therefore an introduction of sorts. The first thing that requires discussion within the letters is the setting in which Walton finds himself when he is writing these letters. Shelley chose for Walton to be writing the letters from cold desolate and perhaps most significantly isolated land. By setting the scene in such a place she is causing presumptions to be made about the novel and casting it in a certain light. The cold inhospitable setting immediately turns any readers mind to one of the main themes driving the novel- a feeling of loneliness. This is something which is held in common between Walton, Victor and the monster within the novel.
In fact the setting combines with the words used within the letters (in particularly letter 2) to create the feeling of loneliness which Walton Shows. Walton complains he has no friends with which to share his triumphs and failures. Therefore Walton turns to a stranger in the form of Victor to form a friendship; this attempt to form a friendship with a stranger parallels the monsters desire for a friend later in the book. This parallel between man and monster, still hidden in these early letters but increasingly clear as the novel progresses, suggests that man and monster may not be as different as they seem.
The setting also hints at the themes of discovery which are pivotal within the novel, with Walton making his expedition and the yearning for discovery which is laced throughout Victor’s soul (showed when trying to discover the meaning of life.) The place from which Walton writes his letters is one untouched by man hence the reason he is trying to reach it, this immediately brings up imagery of exploration and discovery into the head of a reader and so sets the tone of the whole book. So already with the land that Walton is exploring the reader has an idea of what some of the main themes and ideas of the novel may explore, however by analyzing the words used by Walton we can gain ideas about even more themes and clarify other ones.
The novel shows that both Victor and Walton are very ambitious men. For instance when describing his feelings for the expedition that he has embarked upon Walton says “This expedition has been the favorite dream of my early years.” This shows more than a passing resemblance to the ambition and adventure which comes to be synonymous with the character of Victor Frankenstein. “I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers.”
Is Victor’s reaction after hearing the fundamental speech of M Waldman. In fact this unrelenting search for knowledge is a theme that is introduced during Walton’s letters; however it is introduced as a dangerous and ultimately unrewarded search. Victor tells Walton “You seek knowledge and wisdom as I once did; and ardently hope that gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been.” This theme of destructive knowledge is continued and developed throughout the novel as the tragic circumstances of Victor’s obsessive search for understanding are revealed.
This thirst for knowledge and ambition which is shown in Walton’s letters, leads the characters of Walton and Victor far away from their homes. They both have been bitten by the bug and stray from the comfort of the family home to pursue it. Walton hopes he “may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man” and Victor finds in science “a continual food for discovery and wonder.”