Frankenstein: Letters II - III

Josh Belcher


In Letters II and III, the only characters involved include Walton and Mrs. Saville, his sister, both of which were mentioned and introduced in the first letter. That being said, these letters, written solely by Walton, give an indirect glimpse into his character. It is also important to note that he does not develop significantly as a character, seeing that the reader was just introduced to him. Firstly, the letters exemplify to a great degree the loneliness and utter isolation Walton feels, despite the fact he's surrounded by loyal crew members. In the 2nd letter, he states that,

"I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate in my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavor to sustain me in dejection." (pg. 4).

Reflecting upon his own education and upbringing, as well as his own personality, Walton recognizes that the men around him are loyal and strong, but not enough for him to find an emotional companion. He also views himself as a romantic, someone who marvels at the ideal, the heroic, and beautiful, and he wants someone to share those beliefs with, not someone who will scorn them. By giving the reader this information via a letter, Shelley is describing Walton indirectly through his actions. Finally, although not as significant, Walton's 3rd letter reveals his innate need for adventure, excitement, and danger, while maintaining his unwavering love for his dear sister.

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Among the many thematic concepts that are present in the novel, within these two letters Shelley brings up the ideas of dreams/imagination, romanticism, and human misery. As mentioned previously, Walton feels isolated and alone on his voyage to the deep unknowns of the ocean. Not only would the weather conditions make someone miserable (although Walton says he's unaffected), the emotional disparity between him and his crew makes him utterly dejected. He says, "I desire the company of a man who could sympathise with me; whose eyes would reply to mine" (pg. 4). This aligns with how the monster feels later in the novel, exemplifying that the effects of human misery are not necessarily limited to just humans, but any being which has the capacity to feel.

Walton also brings up the fact that he daydreams and often confines himself to his imagination and romantic vision. Despite the novel being a gothic piece of literature, it also includes a significant amount of Romanticism. In letter 2, Walton states that,

"It is true that I have thought more, and that my day dreams are more extended and magnificent, but they want keeping..." (pg. 4).

Despite his loneliness and the circumstances of his current situation, Walton's narrative introduces the idea of Romanticism and how romantics view the world. Were it not for his imagination and his inherent feelings that characterize Romanticism, he would regard his situation as much worse than he is in these letters. This quote signifies how he occupies himself with dreams of beauty, glory, and discovery, but nevertheless has nobody to share them with.

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Literary Techniques

1. Similes:

"He is so; but then he is wholly uneducated: he is as silent as a Turk..." (pg. 5)

This quote is referring to the master of Walton's ship, whom he respects, yet cannot connect with. Walton mentions this to demonstrate how, despite the master's romantic qualities, there are yet other qualities of him, making Walton not able to sympathize with him.

"Yet do not suppose...that I am wavering in my resolutions. Those are as fixed as fate..." (pg. 6)

This simile is significant because it reveals Walton's determination in his tireless journey for adventure, discovery, and glory. Despite his gloomy situation and his lack of companionship, his motivations are as concrete as destiny itself.

2. Allusion

"...if I should come back to you as worn and woeful as the "Ancient Mariner"" (pg. 6)

The term "Ancient Mariner" is an allusion to the poem called "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It details the life of a mariner after a very long and trying voyage at sea. Walton makes this allusion to demonstrate 1) one of the motivators for his interest in the vast ocean and 2) how his journey may try his character and return him to his sister as a new man.

3. Anecdote

In letter 2, Walton includes a short story about the master of his ship. The story involves the master's love for a woman and how he gives up most of his money and possessions to her true lover in order for her to be happy, not himself (pg. 5). Although perhaps not particularly humorous, the story establishes the character of the type of men Walton is with, some of whom, such as the master, demonstrate romantic qualities. This is then directly contrasted with their other qualities which make them incompatible with Walton's companionship that he seeks.

Plot Developments

In Letter 2, Walton describes how he is finally getting together his final crew and vessel to go on his journey. One of the most important developments in this letter is Walton expressing his need for a friend. While this doesn't necessarily develop the plot, it develops what the reader knows about the characters and the situation. After expressing his loneliness, Walton also describes his romantic personality; he is someone who daydreams and values beauty, constantly looking into himself and pondering the things around him. One of the most memorable quotes from Walton is when he says, "...but besides this, there is a love for the marvelous, a belief in the marvelous..." (pg. 6), and this signifies the Romanticism that Walton represents. Additionally, "the marvelous" can be considered the monster, since the book deals with romantic tragedy, which the monster no doubt resembles, so this quote is also referring to what Walton later discovers on his journey. He was looking for a great discovery, and indeed he found it. Finally, in Letter 3, the plot develops in that Walton confirms they have set sail now that the weather has subsided. This letter is rather short, but to summarize he says, "I write a few lines in haste to say that I am safe — and well advanced on my voyage." (pg. 7). Simply put, he just wants to express his love for his sister and quickly detail that he's finally on his way into the unknown.

Resources Used

"Franklin In The Public Eye”. Rhode Island College., N.p., 2016. Web. 8 Sept. 2016.

Probst, Diana. ”A Look At: Romanticism". Wordpress, 2010., 2016. Web. 8 Sept. 2016.

”Robert Walton - Movie Database Wiki”. Fandom Movies Community., 2016. Web. 8 Sept. 2016.

"1800-1850: Enterprise On The Water”. Smithsonian National Museum of American History N.p., 2016. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.