Frankenstein Study Guide

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein is presented as a frame tale, told by Captain Walton while on an expedition to the North Pole, where he finds Frankenstein. Frankenstein is a scientist who created a monstrous human-like Creature. The Creature tried to explain his murders to Frankenstein, claiming that people rejected and feared him, begging Frankenstein to make him a mate. Frankenstein first agrees then destroys the mate. The enraged Creature kills Frankenstein's wife, fleeing to the North Pole. After Frankenstein dies, Walton sees the Creature mourning as he floats away on a raft.

Brief Summary

Robert Walton's second letter to his sister Mrs. Margaret Saville, is dated about two and a half months after his first letter, and is sent from Archangel, Russia. On his voyage to the North Pole, Walton is lonely for true companionship. He desires an intelligent and sympathetic friend with whom he can share his thoughts.

Walton describes the lieutenant of his ship as a man of great integrity, courageous and gentle. It is his gentleness that most attracted Walton, as he himself is repulsed by the brutality of sailor life. He attributes this feeling to having been raised by his sister.

Walton's feels both excited and afraid about the trip. He confides in Margaret that his passion for the ocean, and for unexplored territories has been fostered by the words of poets.

Walton closes the letter with another warning that his sister may never see him again.

In his third letter, Walton writes that he will sadly not be able to see his homeland of England for perhaps many years, and then declares with complete confidence that his efforts will prove successful. He can see no way in which nature could stop a man as determined as he is. He lovingly bestows blessings on his sister and ends the letter.

Detailed Summary

Robert Walton's second letter to his sister Mrs. Margaret Saville, is dated March 28, supposedly about two and a half months after his first letter, and this time from Archangel, Russia. Walton bemoans the fact that he does not have any good friends with him on his voyage to the North Pole. While the men he is choosing to be his sailors will be brave and reliable during the trip, Walton is lonely for true companionship. He desires a fellow man with whom he can share his thoughts, and who will be a sympathetic and intelligent conversationalist. Being self-educated, Walton wishes to have a friend who will discuss things with him and give Walton feedback about his thoughts, a kind of sounding board.

Walton writes about the lieutenant of his ship with great respect and admiration, describing him as a man of great integrity, courageous and gentle. It is his gentleness that most attracted Walton, as he himself is repulsed by the brutality of sailor life. He attributes this feeling to having been raised by his sister, in a feminine environment. This lieutenant, Walton continues, is so generous he even gave away his entire property and wealth to the man with whom his fiance fell in love. One could not call him noble, however, for he is thoroughly uneducated and silent.

Walton assures his sister that his resolution to embark on his voyage has not faltered, and that as soon as the harsh winter weather eases they shall set sail. His reluctance is only in consideration for the safety of his shipmates. His feelings overall about the trip are conflicted, as he is partially excited and partially afraid. Walton alludes to a poem about a mariner's dangerous mission to kill an albatross, and then confides in her that his passion for the ocean, and for unexplored territories has been fostered by the words of poets. It is this love for the marvelous, a belief in the marvelous that urges him to seek adventure.

Walton closes the letter with another warning that his sister may never see him again, and that he cannot promise success with his travels. He requests that she continue to write him letters, as they sometimes arrive at just the right time to lift his spirits.

The third letter from Walton to his sister is dated July 7, and is written from aboard Walton's ship. He writes that he will sadly not be able to see his homeland of England for perhaps many years, though he then claims to be in good spirits. He commends the men on his ship for being brave and unafraid of the icy waters through which they are traveling. Walton writes of his gratitude that no bad accidents or major problems have occurred thus far in the voyage.

At the end of the letter, Walton assures Margaret that he will continue to behave and think in a calm and prudent manner. He writes with complete confidence and self-satisfaction that his efforts will prove successful. He can see no rational reason why or how nature could stop a man with such determination and resolve. He lovingly bestows blessings on his sister before signing his initials.

Analysis

In Walton's second letter to his sister, he expresses his great sense of loneliness, and his desire for a friend who is his equal. He wishes to share his thoughts and emotions with another human being. This search for companionship mirrors that of the monster in later chapters, when the monster demands that he be provided with a companion who is equally grotesque--his equal in physical appearance and his equal in his placement within society. The parallel between the monster and Walton--a man--implies that the two creatures are not so vastly different from one another.

As was hinted at in the first letter, the danger of obtaining too much knowledge is again a theme in the second and third letters. Walton refers to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner , which tells the story of a man who kills an albatross at sea and then is banished for having done so. The poem presents the inevitable downfall of men who seek out intellectual knowledge and disrespect nature in their quest. Walton assures his sister that he is not like the mariner in the poem, and yet in his third letter, Walton describes how determined he is to discover nature's secrets and to dominate the untamed and yet obedient terrain.

This feverish passion for knowledge about and therefore authority over nature also parallels Victor's passionate desire to create life, to figure out nature's most inner workings. In truth, both Walton and Victor are great admirers of nature. They are both fascinated by the marvelous beauty of nature, and the fact that nature continues itself without the help of man is perplexing to them. They are both awestruck and simultaneously desperate to be in on the secrets of how nature accomplishes such magnificence. At the point when Walton is becoming very earnest about delving into nature's darkest crevices, he will hear a tale from someone who learned firsthand the dangers of obtaining such knowledge.

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