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In the second letter Walton writes about his progress to Archangel. In the letter he describes his crew. Walton’s description of his ship’s master suggests that he is the embodiment of goodness. He frequently applauds the courage of his lieutenant. The lieutenant is ‘madly desirous for glory’. In this letter the theme of alienation arises. Like Victor, Walton’s ambitions isolate him from his family and friends: ‘But it is a still greater evil to me that I am self educated.’ Shelley’s choice of words are designed to anticipate Victor’s need of a friend. It does this by implying that Walton is annoyed that he had no one to teach him, and that he had no companions.
The third letter that Walton sends simply expresses confidence in his quest: ‘I write a few lines in haste to say that I am safe – and well advanced on my voyage.’ Shelley may have decided to add a short letter to show that Walton maybe playing down the dangers of his voyage. He finishes the letter by saying: ‘Heaven bless my beloved sister.’ This clearly shows that Walton is a caring person. The fourth letter is when Walton catches a glimpse of the creature. The crew take Victor on board. Walton believes that he has found a friend in Victor, and confides his ambition. This letter emphasises the admiration and affection that Victor inspires in Walton, who sees great nobility in this ‘divine wanderer’.
In some ways Walton can be seen as a double to Victor Frankenstein. Walton rebels against his father’s decision for him to not go to sea. This is very similar to Frankenstein’s father, who dismissed Victor’s interests in science. Walton decides against the life of ease, he explains that ‘My life might have been passed in ease and luxury,’ he explains, ‘but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my way.’ Shelley has added this to show a relationship between Victor and Walton. This shows that they have similar characteristics, and desire the same things from life. The fact that Walton is introduced before Frankenstein may show that Shelley was preparing the reader for Victor’s desire for knowledge.
Although the two characters can be related to each other, they also have significant differences. Walton is not quite so alienated as Victor. Rather then rejecting companionship, Walton longs for an intimate friend to share his hopes and dreams. To add to this point, Walton is also is not so isolated in his search for knowledge, whereas Victor, whose ‘midnight labours’ and ‘secret toil’ keep him completely secluded. The fact that Walton had a crew around him prevented him from falling into the trap of Victor’s individualism.
The first chapter begins in an embedded narrative, with Victor telling his story to Walton. Victor begins his story by describing his early life in Geneva, his tranquil domestic life and the young orphan Elizabeth, who becomes part of the household. Victor’s interest in science eventually takes him to university at Inglostadt. His experiments lead him to the discovery of a secret life force. He constructs a human form out of dead tissue and brings it to life. Horrified by his actions, Victor abandons the creature.
One of the main themes portrayed by Shelley in this novel is that of birth and creation. When Victor gave life to the creature, he usurps the role of God. Victor imagines how, ‘A new species would bless me as its creator and source… No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs.’ This shows that Victor’s main crime is not what he had done, but what he failed to do. He failed to ‘father’ his creation.
Victor is an isolated individual. However, unlike Walton, Frankenstein’s isolation is self imposed. It is also ironic in the sense that Victor rejects his family and friends, whilst this is simply what the creature longs for. Victor claims that the rejection of his family is necessary in order to continue the quest for the secret life. Alienation is a key factor in this novel. Victor chooses to isolate himself from others, whereas the creature’s isolation is imposed upon him, due to Victor abandoning him, and people being generally scared of his appearance. However the creature does desire companionship, and he says that he becomes violent when he realises that he will never have this, ‘I am malicious because I am miserable.’ This shows that the creature is humane in the sense that all he wants is a companion, much like any human. So the fact that the creature only becomes ‘malicious because I am miserable’ represents that people become monstrous when the are isolated, and rejected from society.
When Victor creates the creature, he is flooded with a huge feeling of anti-climax. Victor repulses the creature on first sight. He refers to the creature as ‘the wretch’ and is horrifies by the thing that he has given life to. This shows that Victor is only concerned with physical appearance. This shows intolerance of imperfection and a flaw in Victor’s character. Victor rejects the creation; this is like a father rejecting his child. When the creature came to life Victor may have realised the enormity of the monstrous deeds that he had committed. The passage in the novel shows Victor to be a monster, as he does not even try to understand the monster’s cries for help. He has forsaken any duties he is expected to perform as a father.
When the creature ‘awoke’ from his ‘sleep’ he convulsed. When Victor awakes from his sleep, his muscles also convulse. This could be one of the first signs that the creature is a double of Victor. Victor even describes the monster as ‘my own spirit let loose from the grave… forced to destroy all that was dear to me’ Victor has given a clear expression of the notion that he and the creature may be doubles, with the creature acting out Victor’s own aggressions.
Shelley’s description of the creature is full of pathos. The first things that the creature desires are love and affection, as all newborn things want. However, Victor denies him this. When Victor awakes from his dream, he finds the creature reaching out a hand towards him. Victor rejects this appeal for help from the creature. This passage from the novel may parody ‘The creation of man’ by Michelangelo, which shows God stretching out his hand to give life to Adam.
The analogy of this is that Victor is playing God and that the creature is Adam. Another parody is the story of Prometheus, who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to the people on earth. The analogy of this is that Victor has stolen the power of life from the God’s and given it to the people. This is the reason for the book has the subtitle ‘The modern Prometheus’. Victor may be seen as monstrous in this passage, as he is usurping the role of woman, which goes against the laws of nature.