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Why has Shelley invented the character of Walton for her novel Frankenstein?

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Why has Shelley invented the character of Walton for her novel Frankenstein?

We have been studying ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley. ‘Frankenstein’
was written in 1816 for just Mary Shelley’s friends and close family
but was then later published on January 1st 1818. Mary Shelley was 18
years of age when she first wrote ‘Frankenstein.’ It took her almost
2 years to get the first edition of ‘Frankenstein’ published. Shelley
first published the book anonymously this was because in the
nineteenth century readers didn’t believe that young women were
intelligent enough to have come up with a good plot such as
‘Frankenstein’s.’ I am going to be using the last edition, which was
published in 1831. This was one of the first science fiction books
ever written and it also introduced the genre of gothic-science
fiction as the novel had gothic elements to it. Mary Shelley read and
relied on most of Benjamin Franklin’s work. Franklin’s name was
suggested for ‘Frank’ in ‘Frankenstein’ as Franklin was a man who she
was very inspired by.

This novel is a three-part story. In the beginning there is Walton's
journey to the North Pole. He at that time meets Victor Frankenstein
who tells him about the creature he created. In the middle of
Frankenstein's story there is the creatures story. The reader is able
to acknowledge that there are three first person narratives this is
because there are three different people presenting the reader with
their own point of view. For example when Walton writes to his sister
telling her ‘I believe myself destined for some great enterprise.’

‘Epistolary’ means a novel, which is written in letters. These
letters are written from Walton to his sister Margaret Saville ‘My
beloved sister…from your affectionate brother, Walton.’ In the 18th
century epistolary novels were popular, Shelley wrote ‘Frankenstein’
as an epistolary novel, seeing that she wanted her novel to seem like
a real, first hand experience. Mary Shelley tries to convince both
the reader and Walton that Frankenstein's story is true. I know this
in view of the fact that when writing to his sister Walton tells her
he ‘cannot doubt it yet I am lost in surprise and admiration.’

Frankenstein is a parallel to Walton in the case of they both have a
sister to whom they write letters to such as when Walton writes to his
sister ‘To my beloved sister’, the only difference is that when
Frankenstein goes away to Ingolstadt University and starts his
experiments he stops writing to Elizabeth, which is his sister in
Geneva whereas Walton carries on writing to Margaret who is in London,
telling her about how far he has got into his journey to the North
Pole.

Frankenstein is interested in science this is because of the creature
he creates as well as Walton who, whilst making his journey to the
North Pole wants to find out about magnetism he wants to do this by
‘ascertaining the secret of the magnet.’

They both are very ambitious, as they want to search for new knowledge
and want to do something no other man has ever done before as Walton
says he wants to ‘tread a land never imprinted by the foot of man.’
To do this Walton requires a vivid imagination and determination to
succeed and both of these men notably seem to have these qualities.
Walton is able to recognise he has a lot of determination I know this
when he tells his sister he ‘felt a little proud when my captain
offered me the second dignity.’

Walton devoted his nights ‘to the study of mathematics and the theory
of medicine’ this tells me his thirst for knowledge wants to benefit
all of humanity. Both of these men have the same aim in life, which
is not to make money but to contribute to civilization.

Frankenstein also spent most of his time creating his creature.
Frankenstein wants to be able to create a living being whilst Walton
wants to be able to travel to the North Pole by ship. This tells the
reader they are both very adventurous.

Walton and Frankenstein are very lonely as they keep themselves to
themselves. Frankenstein and Walton both need someone they can talk
to about their success Walton recognises this whilst writing to his
sister when he tells her ‘when I am glowing with enthusiasm of success
there will be no one to participate my joy.’

Frankenstein is able to discourage Walton from continuing on his
journey to the North Pole he does this by telling him about his past
experiences about creating the creature. This was when Frankenstein
was determined to do almost anything to complete his scientific
pursuits but when they were completed Frankenstein wasn’t as happy as
he thought he would be. Walton quotes what Frankenstein tells him
when writing to his sister ‘seek happiness in tranquillity and avoid
ambition even if it is the apparently innocent one of distinguishing
yourself in science discoveries.’

I think Shelley created Walton to further our understanding of
Frankenstein because Walton is in search of the unknown much like
Frankenstein is. Shelley also liked the ‘Rime of the Ancient
Mariner.’ She made Walton similar to the Ancient Mariner. The
Ancient Mariner wanted to travel to the South Pole whereas Walton was
travelling to the North Pole. Walton tells his sister he ‘shall kill
no albatross’ therefore she should not be alarmed for his safety but
if he does he will ’come back to you as worn and woeful as the
‘Ancient Mariner’.’

In the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ the Ancient Mariner kills the
albatross, which is the bird of good luck, although all the members of
his crew tell him not to. I know this because in the poem the Ancient
Mariner realises he has done a bad deed in killing the albatross and
writes ‘…and I done an hellish thing…for all averr’d, I had killed the
bird that made the breeze blow.’ After killing the albatross, bad
luck is brought to the ship and eventually every member of the crew
dies. Walton also knows if he travels any further he and his crew
will eventually die this is because they are surrounded by mountains
of ice and many of them have already died of cold and have
frostbites. Frankenstein tells Walton to ‘avoid ambition’ and to
think about what has happened to him. After Frankenstein dies Walton
realises there are more important things than pursuing ambition and
turns back to head for home.

Walton's journey represents the search for knowledge. Victor
Frankenstein’s scientific pursuits make his family suffer in the way
his brother is murdered and Frankenstein avoids most of his family
whilst taking part in experiments, the creature suffers because he is
looked up on by other humans as a bad spirit or something evil and his
friends also suffer. The moral of the story is humans have to admit
when they have reached their limits and have to know when to turn back
or give up.

To me Walton is a very sensible and successful character. I have come
to this conclusion by taking into account that he listened and
understood both Frankenstein’s and the creatures story and was able to
realise he has already achieved his potential by going as far as he
can to the North Pole by ship. By listening to his crew and taking
into account that there are more important things in life than pursing
an ambition he turns and heads home.

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