The Significance of the Letters in “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
The Significance of the Letters in “Frankenstein” : In the novel, the character Victor Frankenstein is known to want glory and recognition for making the single greatest contribution to science, and the letters provided in the novel are part of Frankenstein’s legacy because they share the personal point of view of Robert Walton as he comes into contact with the scientist.
The Significance of the Letters in “Frankenstein”
In ancient times, written communication was a technological way to share a story, and since the same person is not always there to tell their story, other people who know the story share it in their own interpretation while maintaining the important information to pass on from generation to generation. These letters can even be compared to today’s technological forms of communication such as text messaging and instant messaging. As Frankenstein tells his story of how he uses technology to create this scientific being, Robert Walton uses this form of technology to share Frankenstein’s legacy with the world for years to come.
The beginning letters give us Walton’s point of view as he first meets Frankenstein and this change in perspective has a different effect than if it were in Frankenstein’s own perspective. Once Walton comes into contact with Frankenstein, we can see why he wants to help carry on the legacy as he describes this new stranger as gentle, wise, intelligent, and “happy to have possessed as the brother of [his] heart.” He also states that the story will provide pleasure to readers, but “with what interest and sympathy [he shall read] in some future day!” By placing these letters in the beginning, there is a suggestion of excitement and sadness in the story and its main character. A similar, more modern, technical version of the letters would be a commercial trailer, where there are sometimes reviews to give the audience a description of what to expect from the movie and its characters.
The letters at the end of the story have a major impact on Frankenstein’s legacy. Similar to the letters in the beginning, we get Robert Walton’s personal experiences with Frankenstein. This time, however, Frankenstein reveals his less heroic self as he tells Walton that “he would not recognize [Frankenstein] in this state of degradation.” If the entire novel was in narration by Frankenstein, the reader would only know him as a glorified scientist but through the letters we discover that he is a “miserable wretch.” The readers have these letters to see the scientist in a different way than he would have portrayed himself to be. A modern, version of this concept would be a “gif.”
Besides seeing this different side of Frankenstein, these letters extend his story beyond his death. Since the creature is Frankenstein’s creation, it is part of his legacy. Robert Walton tells of his encounter with the creature in the cabin that holds Frankenstein’s body. At the end, the readers discover that the creature “sprung from the cabin window” and was “borne away by the waves, lost in darkness and distance.” Because Robert wrote these letters, the readers learn what happens to the creature in the end, something Frankenstein could not have revealed after his death.
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