Blog Post 2: Tales and Tellers

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re having a good first weekend of the semester. On Monday, we’ll start Shelley’s Frankenstein, our first full novel of the course, and one of many texts we’ll read this semester that has an unconventional narrative structure: the first volume of the novel presents us with two narrators, Walton and Victor, whose lives and narratives intertwine in various ways.

Since we started talking Friday about how authors use different narrative forms to raise larger issues and questions, for this blog post you should do some focused thinking on the larger significance of what Shelley is doing with narrative: find two passages, one from each character’s narrative, that seem to speak to one another, either directly or more conceptually. In your post, do some specific analysis of these passages, quoting and citing them in order to explore how they speak to one another — beyond just noting that they do, try to think about what larger issues and concerns Shelley is raising across the pieces you choose: what is she suggesting about these two characters, or about the relations between them, or even about narrative and storytelling itself? How does the language of your chosen passages show us some of those ideas?

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by midnight on Sunday, September 11th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

 

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24 thoughts on “Blog Post 2: Tales and Tellers

  1. Jessica Pavia
    English 211 Blog Post 2

    Last year, in my IB English class, we read The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, a story built much like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Throughout the narrative, since so much of the novel was from the perspective of Marlow, the character who had gone through said heart of darkness, readers played the same role as the second narrator. By the end, both the second narrator and reader had learned through the trials and tribulations of another. For the second narrator, he was also on a ship headed towards unimaginable darkness, and learned his lesson before stepping foot on land; while stilling having space to travel on his own.
    In Frankenstein, this same form of narrative is used. With Walton, we see a man filled with hope and powerful imagination, ready to “tread a land never before imprinted on by the foot of man” (Shelley 52). Walton has these grand notions of a prestigious life, and has no doubts of his abilities to handle what may come his way. Through Victor, both the reader and Walton will learn the importance of having self-doubt. And how unabridged intelligence and need of recognition can torment one’s life.
    When Walton is writing to Margaret about his generous lieutenant, Walton says that the man, despite the time, “retains some of the noblest endowments of humanity” (Shelley 55). We learn this man had let the woman he loved marry someone else, because of his desire to see her happy. The lieutenant even convinced the woman’s father to let her marry this other man. Personally, I find this incredibly selfless and powerful. But to Walton, he tells his sister to not think of the lieutenant as a noble man; despite his undying generosity and kindness, the lieutenant “has passed all his life on board a vessel, and has scarcely an idea beyond the rope and the shroud” (56). Later in the narrative, Victor explains that even though he created life, “the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled [his] heart” (84). Victor had created everything he set out to do with his life, and had made scientific history in the process, but now he just viewed his creation as “the demoniacal corpse to which [he] had so miserably given life.” Victor learned he could not fix the world with all his knowledge, he could only bring about darkness.
    Perhaps a man knowledgeable only in matters of a ship will never be as scientifically fulfilled as Walton or Victor, but the standards of life are very dependent on each individual. To the lieutenant, the perfect life would have been to work on ships and marry a woman he loved. Despite not being able to marry her, the lieutenant can live the rest of his days knowing he is a hero to her, and that his kindness is truly powerful. Victor’s narrative is directed towards both the reader and Walton, to teach from his personal life story and mistakes. Sometimes it’s easier to learn through others, saves the trouble of making the mistakes ourselves. But in the form Shelley is using, both Walton and the readers will have to discover for themselves what a “noble” life is, or what is to be learned. And we will do so individually, but with the help of what we now know.

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  2. Natalie Stuart
    English 211
    Blog Post 2
    Volume I of Frankenstein presented a well contexted frame story through letters from a ship captain to his sister Margaret. The captain’s loneliness and want of a friend while voyaging in the icy seas to the North Pole are soon satisfied by the rescue of a man with questionable sanity at the brink of death. The captain seems to be a very normal character to contrast how odd Victor Frankenstein is. Upon rescue, he can’t believe that Frankenstein would hesitate to ask where the ship is headed, as if an unsatisfactory answer would incline him to deny being rescued, despite his limbs being “nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering” (59). Although as the story progresses it seems to be a common theme of Frankenstein to become gravely ill, making him seem like a desperate character who continually ignores his own well-being to finish his various ventures. Captain Walton’s description of Frankenstein is that he is overwhelmed by “the beauties of nature” (62), a fascination that seems to fluctuate based on his current activity. While Frankenstein is creating the monster, he acknowledges the summer season outside, but is too distracted by his work. Then, once the monster is complete, Clerval taught him to “love the aspect of nature” (94) once again.
    Frankenstein’s relationship with nature is complicated. He is in awe of the beauties of it, but in his creation of life he is defying it. He is not blatantly defiant of it and does not see himself as godly in his ability to create life because he still appreciates the beauty and bounty of it. His interest in natural sciences also conveys his wonder at nature, but it contrasts with his use of natural sciences or “philosophy” to take dead things and restore life to them, which is utterly unnatural. This complicated relationship with nature, being in awe of it while defying it with science, could reflect the feelings of the early 1800s about industrialization and scientific advancements.

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    • I agree with your analysis of the complexity of Frankenstein’s relationship with nature. While Frankenstein does seek the glory and sort of immortality that comes with being a creator he also appreciates the natural world and is horrified when he crosses the boundaries of it. Frankenstein does not necessarily view himself as “godly” in his ability to create life because, as you said, he still appreciates the beauty and naturalness of it but Frankenstein’s role as a creator is more godlike than Walton’s role as a discoverer. However, their separate roles seem to be one of the few things different about them. These two characters actually have a lot in common– they are just at different points in their lives. I think Victor and Frankenstein hold most of the same values and ideals. They both are passionate about nature, glory, and the beauty in the world and both characters seem to struggle with questions about what it means to be human and to live a worthy life. Frankenstein is years into his attempts to make an impact on the world while Walton seems to just be beginning. Because of this, Frankenstein seems to represent experience and the “dangerous knowledge” (80) that comes with it, while Walton seems to represent innocence. I think this is why “the captain seems to be a very normal character” compared to “odd Victor Frankenstein” because he has not yet had the experiences, disappointments, and intense relations with the natural world that Victor has had. To me, both characters are normal characters but Victor is seen as “odd” because he is suffering– in ruins after having pushed the boundaries of the natural world. If Walton listens to Victor’s story carefully, he could potentially avoid entering into the same ruin. However, this state of ruin might be necessary to achieve glory or a sense of immortality– it is up to Walton to decide what he values most.

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  3. Rebekah Clapham

    When reading the first volume of Frankenstein I was particularly struck by the passage on page 62. In this passage Robert Walton describes Frankenstein’s character by writing
    “even broken in spirit as [Victor] is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions, seems still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery, and be overwhelmed by disappointments; yet when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit, that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.”
    This narrative intrigued me because it suggests Walton has a deeper understanding of Frankenstein’s soul—that Walton understands Victor’s drives, his motives and his values. This passage paralleled nicely with Frankenstein’s own thoughts later on in the volume. When reflecting on his lack of restriction and all of the possibilities he has for discovery and invention, Frankenstein says
    “my dreams were therefore undisturbed by reality; and I entered with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life. But the latter obtained my most undivided attention: wealth was an inferior object; but what glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!” (69)
    These passages speak to each other because they both target important existential and human issues Frankenstein seems to be struggling with. Both passages ponder what it means to make an impact on the world and to live meaningful life. Words like “double existence” from the first passage parallel with “invulnerable” in the second while “celestial spirit” coincides with “glory,” as all words have to do with a denial of human finiteness and a strong desire to remain somewhat immortal through a discovery (such as the philosopher’s stone) or a deed. Both passages highlight Victor’s passion for learning and the natural world as well as his desire to exist beyond/be greater than the natural world by leaving a lasting impact.
    These passages also speak well to each other because they provide an opportunity to understand Victor’s character through different lenses. While Walton’s narrative seems most focused on describing and trying to understand the complexity of Frankenstein’s spirit, Frankenstein’s narrative provides a personal, detailed look into his own struggle to do the same thing. By providing these two different narratives—an inside and an outside look of one character—Shelley gives Frankenstein’s character depth and nuance and allows the reader to examine him and his desires from different perspectives. This technique also worked well because while Walton’s passage describes Frankenstein years after he created the monster, apparently in ruins from guilt and grief, Frankenstein’s narrative in this passage focuses on his spirit before the creation of the monster. Although narrated at two very different points in his life, these narratives work well together to show that despite Frankenstein’s guilt, regret, and horror at creating the monster, Frankenstein still holds the same values and motives—suggesting his character’s true driving force is the desire for glory, discovery of the natural world, and an existence beyond it. Before reading this book, I assumed it would mostly be about the terror Frankenstein’s monster created in the world. However, after reading this volume and being able to compare these two narratives, I believe this novel is more focused on the human spirit and the general desire to live beyond death, told through Frankenstein’s character who, even after the suffering he has experienced, still believes in the importance and beauty of discovery and life.

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  4. The preface to the first volume of Frankenstein was carefully crafted by Mary Shelley to draw parallels between Walton and Victor. The two characters share a particular personality, as well as life ambitions, which makes readers question why there is such an emphasis on their similarities and the meaning behind it. Walton and Victor are both immensely involved with abnormal passions, for Walton wants to travel to the North Pole and Victor wants to bring dead things back to life, and both face tremendous isolation and depression because there is nobody who wants to work alongside them. Walton writes letters to his sister Margaret about how lonesome he is on the sea and says “I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated a swell as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my plans. How would such a friend repair the faults of your poor brother!” (54). There is nobody who wants to accompany Walton on his voyage because striving to travel to the coldest place on earth is too abnormal for the average person.

    Similar to Walton, Victor grows up with an obsession that drives him away from human interaction. Victor loves natural philosophy to the point where he is sent to university to be with professors who can feed him more knowledge than what he is acquiring from books at home. At the university, Victor is as isolated as Walton is for the same reason of being too engrossed in his work. Victor tells the readers “My father made no reproach in his letters; and only took notice of my silence by inquiring into my occupations more particularly than before. Winter, spring, ad summer, passed away during my labours; but I did not watch the blossom of the expanding leaves—sights which before always yielded me supreme delight, so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation” (82). Victor is losing contact with his family, as well as his connection to the love of seasons and life. Victor grows ill at the end of the volume because of his extreme isolation as well as the reason that he actually succeeded in bringing dead human to life; perhaps Victor is so lonely he filled this desire by constructing his own being.

    Shelley might be proposing the idea that humans only evolve if they are in communities that support them. If it were perfectly reasonable and a glorified dream to travel to the north pole, Walton would have had a community with him to make great discoveries and to push science ahead of its time. If it were normal for scientists to pursue their passion to make dead beings come back to life, Victor would have had a community to support and help his ambition. Victor actually succeeds in his desire to make a dead man come alive, but he was so afraid of his creation of a “monster,” which is simply a monster because society believes that it is an abnormality, that he ignores his fantastic success. Shelley is showing that lonesomeness stems from the lack of community and support for abnormal behavior, however in hindsight, supporting abnormal behavior would actually benefit society.

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  5. Interpersonal relationships are a key factor in what makes us human. We can never be truly satisfied, or fulfilled unless we are able to share our satisfaction with those around us. Shelley’s narration from the point of view of both characters delves into this idea. Walton and Victor, in two different stages of their lives, both sense the need for human interaction and recognize when they are lacking it. Walton describes this feeling in his second letter to Margaret as he states: “I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavor to sustain me in dejection” (54). Walton and Victor are empathizing with each other’s desire to seek connection. In what appears to act as a direct response to Walton, Victor says: “I had often, when at home, thought it hard to remain during my youth cooped up in one place, and had longed to enter the world, and take my station among other human beings” (74). Walton is trying to find his own place in his new surroundings. Both narrators appear to be introducing some of the larger themes of the novel— what exactly does it mean to be human? Each narrator uses specific language to contribute towards the definition of humanity. For example, Walton uses vivid description of desiring a friend whose “eyes would reply to [his eyes]” (54) and Victor describes the act of leaving his family as saying goodbye to “old familiar faces” (73). Both men are lost in a new environment, and Shelley is introducing the concept of human nature’s innate desire to seek conformity and similarity when faced with unfamiliar circumstances.

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    • Another aspect to consider is how Shelley purposely isolates both Victor and Walton through setting. Walton is in the middle of an icy nowhere with no one who he trusts; Victor gets way to wrapped up in his mind and unhealthily shuts himself away from all other people. Yes, both men are lost in new environment, but these new environments are also so easy to get lost in.

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    • It is an ongoing theme throughout the first two volumes of Frankenstein that human interaction and the fight against personal isolation brings happiness and warmth. Most readers can agree upon this theme evidenced by personal experience (usually), as well as comprehending that there is a recurring reaction of happiness when friendship emerges in the novel. Shelley helps the readers relate to the characters’ pains of isolation as well as their sheer bliss when a friend pulls them out of depression. I do not question that Shelley builds upon this theme continuously, but I question why she finds it so important to convey.
      Conjuring up my own interpretation, I believe that Shelley is showing that it is unfortunate that communities are not built around important passions that are seen as abnormal. Travelling to the North Pole or bringing dead humans back to life are peculiar passions, therefore there is not a supportive and developed community for those enticed by these passions. Victor and Walton experience depression and isolation because there is nobody there for them to relate to, befriend, love, and find happiness with. Not only do Victor and Walton have abnormal passions, but the monster Victor created also experiences isolation and depression because no human wants to interact with the physically abnormal either. Shelley is showing that society pushes people away who do not conform to tradition or look conventionally inviting, and those people, who end up making great discoveries as we can see from Victor and Walton, are punished for being this way. Shelley is showing that what is unusual or foreign to us can be beautiful.
      This is, of course, my own interpretation as to why Shelley continuously develops the theme of isolation and depression, but that is certainly not the only possible interpretation. I am curious as to what you believe Shelley’s theme is trying to say.

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  6. Volume I of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein presents the reader with two men who are similar to each other, Robert Walton and Victor Frankenstein. It is shown throughout volume I that both Walton and Frankenstein have aspirations to examine things that most humans would find to be very obscure. Walton who is on an expedition to the North Pacific Ocean while passing through the North Pole seems to be lonely during his travels, and writes a series of letters to his sister Margaret. Writing these letters ease his loneliness, but he yearns to find a friend who is somewhat like him. In one of his letters Walton writes “I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my plans. How would such a friend repair the faults of your poor brother!” (54). It is clear that Walton feels depressed and alone since most other people find it to be very abnormal to want to travel and explore one of the coldest and harshest climates on Earth. Then one day Walton then sees a man floating on ice near the ship. He is brought aboard and is saved. The man is Victor Frankenstein. Walton is happy and admires his new friend and states, “My affection for my guest increases every day. He excites at once my admiration and my pity to an astonishing degree” (61). Victor then begins to tell the story of his life and says “hear me; let me reveal my tale…But I have lost everything and cannot begin life anew” (61). When Victor is talking about the monster to his childhood friend Henry, he states “I imagined that the monster seized me; I struggled furiously, and fell down in a fit” (87). This causes Henry to believe that the stress is causing Victor to become incoherent. Later on Frankenstein becomes so imbedded with his creation of the monster that he doesn’t even have time to enjoy the summer. By telling this story to Walton, Victor is teaching him that he ended up achieving everything he planned on doing with his life, but is still left with very little. This is a very powerful message not only to Walton, but to the reader as well. All in all, there is more to life than just the plan that you set for yourself.

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  7. The beginning of the novel, “Frankenstein”, by Mary Shelley, is constructed in such a way that the narrative allows the reader to connect the two characters and their similar goals in what they are trying to accomplish. The two focus characters of the story, Frankenstein and Walton, have very similar goals in there exploration of pushing the boundaries of the world that surrounds them.

    Shelley makes this perfectly clear as we are introduced to both characters and learn of their ambitions into the unknown. Victor though warns Walton of traveling too far into the unknown when he says, “Learn from me, If not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirements of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.” (80). The weathered down Victor is warning Walton of the troubles that come with his similar goal in venturing too far into the unknown. A motif of the book is the relentless nature of Victor, and in these efforts, leading him to become sick in the quest to complete whatever he is after at that time. This and the story that Victor tells to Walton of his venture of creating a new life followed by immense sickness serves as a direct warning to Walton.

    Ironically, earlier Walton says in a letter to his sister, “If I succeed, many, many months, perhaps years will pass before you and I may meet you. If I fail, you will see me again soon, or never.”(54). Walton has the same attitude Victor had while trying to defy nature. He cares not for his well being, but only for the achievement of succeeding and being know as the first to do this thing. Both characters have a reckless mind when it comes to the discovery and changing of the human landscape, whether it be through nature or exploration. This can be seen through both narratives having aggressive under tones when discussing their push towards their discovery and their determination to stop at nothing to achieve what they want.

    Shelley is also suggesting here that if Walton is to continue on this path of trying to defeat nature, like Victor did, he will end up like Victor, battered by the end with nothing to show for it but the lose of family, which Walton already feels, being lonely and away from his family on the boat, and the never ending feeling of having to accomplish more and more to satisfy your cravings.

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  8. Two texts that speak to one another in Frankenstein by Mary Shelly are displayed when Frankenstein was talking about Beaufort and when his cousin was concerned about his health. This speaks to each other because its ironic how Beaufort wanted to be happy and prosperous while Frankenstein was living in despair and pain while Beaufort couldn’t bear. However, Beaufort, “had saved but a very small sum of money from the wreck of his fortunes” (64). This shows that he went the opposite of his desires causing his to going below the poverty line after being known, “for his rank and magnificence”(64). This speaks to Frankenstein health because when his cousin, Elizabeth, wrote a letter to him, she was asking him to, “relive us from this fear, and we shall be the happiest creatures in the world” (89). This displays the irony because Elizabeth wants to have the same happy ending as Beaufort wanted but they both didn’t get what they wanted. These two characters, although not the main characters, show resemblance to goals and dreams that people want to aspire trough 2 different ideas in 2 different parts of the book but has relevance to one another.This entails how the rest of the book is going to go because every small interaction or letter connects to another character or event that happens in the rest of the book. Therefore, the irony displays how this fiction novel actually connects past events in the book to explain and elaborate on the current events.

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    • Hey there. While you have a valid statement, the main issue regarding this post was to explain how Victor and Walton who happened to come in contact with each other when Walton was sailing in the North Pole are similar to each other. What you need to realize is that Walton is going through his life without very many friends since he is partaking in a life journey that most other people do not want to be involved in. When Walton finds Victor on a piece of ice in the ocean, Victor is brought aboard and tells Walton his life story. Victor does this to make Walton realize that there is more to life that just your personal goals, because once those have been accomplished, if you have no one by your side, you have nothing in your life.

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    • Hi Maurice!

      I agree with the points you are making in your response, and I would even go further to argue that this strategy is largely used by Shelley as means of character development. As I mentioned before, I think that she makes use of the literary strategy of juxtaposition and paradox as means to contrast her characters and in turn, highlight some of their most important features. I believe that this is the point that you are getting across when comparing your two passages. When one of the characters wants to be happy and prosperous, as you mentioned, the other was purposefully living in despair. The fact that the main characters are in contrast with each other makes the characteristics that are being juxtaposed stand out. This is a literary strategy that highlights important traits that I think Shelley wanted the reader to understand as significant. When you speak about “entailing how the rest of the book will go”, I very much agree with you. I think this approach is an effective way to highlight antagonizing charactersitics in the different characters.

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  9. One of the most important forces at play, in Frankenstein, is knowledge. There is philosophical battle being staged between a yearning for blissful ignorance, and man’s eternal lust for knowledge (and by extension accomplishments). The two characters (Walton and Frankenstein) have so much in common, yet their paths intersect at very different, but similarly pivotal points in each man’s story.
    Walton unintentionally reflects on this struggle of knowledge and purpose in his first letter, “nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose” (52) this sentiment mirroring the idea that a person with purpose is a more fulfilled person, and overall a happier one. This idea that happiness is in correlation with a busy mind is later completely refuted by Frankenstein’s obsessive works in his laboratory that eventually lead him to near death. Walton goes on to say, “My education was neglected yet I was passionately fond of reading” (52), at the moment this is read it seems like an innocuous comment of character development, but it goes on to exemplify a contrasting point between Walton and Frankenstein. Frankenstein mentions that his education was uncouth, but he does emphasize that he was extremely well educated, he even learned foreign languages just to read their texts.
    Clearly Walton has a desire for exploration and knowledge despite his humble background, but a converse point of view is reflected by (the well-educated) Elizabeth, “A farmer’s is a very healthy happy life… if they were not a more honorable, they were at least a happier species of occupation” (89) here reflecting on the blissful life of farm work versus being an educated lawyer. It seems that the events that befall Frankenstein are in support of the idea that more knowledge is likely to only bring more pain. The problem is that Walton also seems disturbed by his lack of knowledge (and accomplishment), and that it would be almost impossible to convince someone who has not experienced the pain of knowledge that they shouldn’t actually want for it.
    Perhaps hidden in this conflict is a commentary on the unattainability of happiness. For all characters in this book have been presented as intellectually, or physically trapped in their ways. Either not allowed to leave home, or set in a certain way of thinking. Many characters want for the life that they do not know, but each unexplored world is equally represented by a person who feels the unknown pain of such an existence. This sort of inherent conflict that is being built through the characters and their converse experiences seems to be a powerful force for re appropriating our perspectives by the time the novel is complete.

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    • Hi! What you’re saying about man’s desire for knowledge, and the downfall this knowledge can lead to, is something I also picked up while reading Frankenstein! I don’t know how far you’ve gone in the story yet, but with Frankenstein’s creation, we get to see the creature’s development based on his surroundings. Because he was on his own, and the creature’s only form of education was the kind de Lacey family, he learns to address the world as a place of kindness and ease. But even then, he sees the family is often troubled. The creature finds one of the reasons is poverty, and, later, that they’re exiles (that’s a lot for a monster to take in). For the creature, it’s hard for him to understand how this family that he loves and sees as the epitome of happiness can be upset. It just doesn’t make sense. So with these two narratives, Shelley shows the true illusiveness of happiness…or how uncertain happiness is. We have these two opposite concepts — wealth and fame versus ease of life and family. However, neither idea creates people/families that have true, unquestionable happiness. I’m guessing that somewhere between those two narratives, Shelley wants us, as readers, to see if there’s a place between, or nothing at all (if that makes sense).

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  10. Mary Shelley expresses the importance of companionship in her classic tale, Frankenstein. From the beginning the reader becomes aware of Walden’s isolation from the rest of his crew as he sails on a voyage to the North Pole. In a passage on page 54 Walden blatantly declares his desire for a friend to his sister, “But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy; and the absence of the object of which I now feel as the most severe evil. I have no friend, Margaret,” (54). Shelley begins the story out at sea, in an isolate location, where Walden is alone – aside from his fellow co-workers. Yet, still Walden further lists the attributes of his ideal friend, dismissing the option of making a friend already aboard, “I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well as a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my plans,” (54). Walden isolates himself by creating such a high checklist of requirements for a fellow companion, not even attempting to look past first impressions of the crew. Subsequently, when Victor appears, Walden feels as though his prayers have been answered. However, Victor’s experiences with others differ immensely in comparison to Walden. For example, Victor’s entire reason for being out alone in an icy nowhere is to, “Seek the one who fled from me,” (60) which established Victor as one familiar with companionship, which the reader then learns to be extremely true. The passage towards the bottom of page 67 that leads onto page 68 encompasses Victor’s feelings of his past, “I feel pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of childhood,” (67), because as Victor has earlier explained in Chapter 1, he had many friends and even a destined and pre-determined sweetheart. Victor appears to be used to socialization and friendship from an early age, meanwhile it is something that Walden yearns to obtain. However, Victor also admits, “But, in drawing of the picture of my early days, I must not omit to record those events which led, by insensible steps to my after tale of misery,” (68) revealing that he too has felt a similar sort of solitude-based sadness, like Walden, when creating his monster. Because, the pursuit of his monster delayed his return home, “I thought of returning to my friends and my native town, when an incident protracted my stay,” (78) and consequently further isolated him from others, in pursuit of knowledge.

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    • I completely agree on your observation of Shelly’s emphasis on companionship, and having read volume II, I feel that this theme has only grown. As we saw the isolation of Victor and Walden in Volume I, as the story progresses, we begin to see isolation through a third party, the creature itself. As you described before, the characters thus far have put themselves in isolation in the pursuit of a greater fame, or success, while this new character has been born in to it. Ironically, “the monster”, while not technically human, has seemed to display more aspects of human nature, than both Victor in Walden in their isolation. The creature only wishes to be accepted, and to communicate with the beings surrounded him, but only to receive immediate rejection for his appearance, where as Victor and Walton choose to seclude themselves. This value for companionship makes us intrinsically human, which leaves me to question, who exactly is more human? Our protagonists, or the monster. If anything, after reading Vol. II, I found myself feeling much more affection towards the creature, than both Walter and Victor combined.

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      • I definitely agree with your point; the need for belonging is one of the main themes we see frequently in this book. It looks like, as long as you breathe, have a steam of conscious or have ambitions to discover the unknown, you can’t escape the desire for belonging. One thing that stood out for me was in the second volume when the monster calls victor on his failure to provide a nourishing environment. He said to victor, “[r]emember, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou divest from joy for ne misdeed. Every where I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded” (87) the monster compares Victor to God, in doing so, he admonishes Victor for giving him life in harsh and neglectful environment. The creature didn’t choose to become excluded, his creator the environment he’s in tend to give off a negative reaction to his presence. I also learned that the need for belonging is a learned skill; in volume II the monster learns the idea of acceptance and companionship by watching the farmers. His desire for belonging grew as he watched how much the farmers loved each other through different circumstances.

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  11. Storytelling through the first person point of view can encapsulate a character’s emotions and perspective in detail, but can also limit the author to comment on certain bigger ideas from different angles. Through Shelly’s different narrative forms, one can see that while passion can drive a person to the brink of their abilities, it may not always be an uplifting and rewarding experience. In a letter to his sister, Walton describes his excitement towards his journey to the North Pole, writing, “I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven; for nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose,-a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye” (52). Walton uses “tranquilize” in the sense of relaxing, or easing the mind of other distractions. There’s an image of heaven in this passage, establishing a sense of personal peace as Walton indicates a sense of purpose. In contrast, Victor’s vision of purpose, hasn’t eased his mind in the slightest, but rather has numbed it entirely. He states,“My limbs now tremble, and my eyes swim with the remembrance; but then a resistless, and almost frantic impulse, urged me forward; I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit” (81). While Walton received tranquility, Frankenstein suffers tranquilized in a state where his environment remains negligible as he continues to develop his task. As the passage continues, he describes his “eyes were insensible to the charm of nature” (81), giving the sense that Victor is as lifeless as his creation is. Both passages, while both focused on the passionate pursuit of vision, have deeply contrasting tones. Perhaps Shelly is comparing Walton as having the same obsessive tendencies as Victor in an earlier stage, or perhaps, how a certain idea can represent opposite perspectives, such how the concept of tranquility can symbolize a sense of life in one character, but also death in another.

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    • I agree with what you were saying in the end of how the characters are similar in the pursuit of acquiring the unknown. There are two moments in the text that further your argument. When Walton says, “If I succeed, many, many months, perhaps years will pass before you and I may meet you. If I fail, you will see me again soon, or never.”(54). Walton shows here his passion of what he is trying to accomplish and his tone can be seen as radical, because he believes in nothing more than to achieve this dream of his. Walton can be viewed, as you said, the early stages of his adventure into the unknown while, when we meet Victor, we see what this adventure will entail and do to the human body and mind. Victor by the end of his journey is not of sound mind and we see through his appearance of his withered body. Victor even goes so far as to warn Walton when he says, “Learn from me, If not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirements of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.” (80). Victor sees what drive Walton has for a similar pursuit in being remembered and not just another traveler. Victor’s tone here is very sincere and calm unlike the rest of his narrative that Walton retells. He seems more human in these calm moments and again, the unreliable narrater plays a part in how we perceive Victor, but basing off just the text, Victor knows the hardships that come with this pursuit and the leaving of family that he did and Walton is currently doing.

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  12. Barbara Contin
    English 211
    Blog Post 2

    As I read through the first part of Frankenstein, as was expected, the narrative style was what most stood out for me. I recently read a book with a similar trait, in that it skipped between different narrative focuses, as means to tell a more rounded story. What specifically called my attention, however, as I read this first part, was the manner in which the two different characters were purposefully, and explicitly, juxtaposed. The manner in which the two characters speak of their family, especially at the beginning of each novel, shows very differing opinions about their upbringings- and how they feel about their family. During Robert Walton’s letter to his sister, he explains that his “education was neglected, yet [he] was passionately fond of reading” (52) and during other instances, highlights his lack of fondness for his father. He seems to have been deprived of some sort of education that he had been seeking and dreamed of. Victor, on the other had, begins his narrative by speaking fondly of his family, and explaining that “no youth could have passed more happily then mine” (67). Victor also explains in his narration that he was exposed to non-censored information, which is contrary to what we were exposed too in the first narrative. I believe that the juxtaposition between the two characters will be led on, as a way to develop the complex relationships that we see presented between the two characters. In addition to their contrasting features, however, we also see some undeniable similarities. For instance, we see that both narrators seem to have an unhealthy pursuit of grandness, and we see this clearly when Walton says in his letter that he “preferred glory to every enticement that wealth places in [his] path” (53). He shares this quality with Victor, who however, seems to have already failed.
    I am excited to keep reading the novel and see if this literary feature I have noticed will continue to play out. I believe this is a strong way to try and develop both characters, because their difference accentuate the others’ features.

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    • I completely agree with the way you noticed different juxtapositions and similarities between the two characters. I personally feel like this adds a new layer and perspective to the novel, which we wouldn’t be able to see otherwise, if it was only written from one point of view. A primary similar characteristic which you wrote about that greatly stands out to me, is Victor and Walton’s shared desire to find success. I think that this theme of fame and recognition is going to be something we see expand further along in the novel. Another aspect to notice is that although both characters aspire success, they each go about finding their way towards success in different ways. Victor lets his aspirations dictate his life and he hides himself in isolation– where as Walton is eager to find a companion to share his pride with.

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    • I really agree with the idea of the juxtaposition of Walton and Frankenstein, and I considered it more of a difference between “normal” and “abnormal”, where Walton is more normal, at least socially, than Frankenstein. Walton is isolated at sea but he has relatable human responses where he seeks companionship in his letters to his sister and repeatedly wishes for a friend. He is indeed seeking glory by trying to discover the North Pole, but it’s like he wasn’t really anticipating how terrible and lonely it would be. Frankenstein is more socially abnormal in that he loves his family members and has good social relationships, but as soon as he begins his journey to scientific creation, he ignores everyone and completely isolates himself. He becomes so obsessed with creating life that he loses his humanity in his ability to sustain relationships. The strain wasn’t so great that his family relationships were terminated, but it definitely shows how much he lost his mind creating the monster that his family hardly ever heard from him. Walton’s descriptions of Frankenstein definitely juxtapose the two characters and create an interesting frame for Frankenstein’s (and Frankenstein’s monster’s even) own background story.

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    • Hey Biba! I think you point about juxtaposition is strong, and I totally agree that the contrast of characters is important to the narrative. Throughout the book there continues to be even stronger examples of juxtaposing characters (such as the monster) and I think that continues to support the ideas presented early on by Walton and Frankenstein. I also agree about the role of education in the story, it seems that the intelligence of characters continues to play a very important (and fluctuating) roll in the story. If we continue to keep an eye out for these themes of comparison and knowledge I think there are many more important messages we will be able to derive from the book.

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