WHOO STORY TIME!
Okay first, true personal story: I tried to read this book for the first time when I was eight, and as much as I liked all the descriptive passages (I really did, I love a good descriptive passage and always have) I just couldn’t see the POINT, or understand how it had anything to do with Victor and his monster. I was still a little confused by it when I read it in high school. So this is a formal apology to Captain Walton and Mary Shelley: I’M SO SORRY, CAPTAIN WALTON IS AWESOME AND THE ARCTIC EXPEDITION LETTERS ARE INCREDIBLE, this whole section is the Waterloo digression of Frankenstein, I WAS A VERY DENSE READER AND I AM SORRY.
Because it is seriously ALL HERE-but I am predictable and so I’m most interested in the early emphasis on the vital importance of friendship to a person’s character.
I’m really happy you talked about the friendship thing, because I’m looking forward to hearing all your thoughts on this. And as if I couldn’t get any happier with this post, you also provided a brilliant link!
THAT SITE IS INCREDIBLE.
And ahaha, there is basically zero chance of me hitting an Actual Romantic Friendship theme and NOT talking about it, come on now, it’s the common thread of basically my fandom Everythings.
So thank you for egging me on, because this:
Good point about Margaret, though! I suppose I am somewhat inclined to argue that it isn’t quite so simple as Walton wanting friendship but turning down that offered by his sister in favour of going exploring. He only considers his lack of friendship a ‘severe evil’ precisely because he sees its value to him in what he is trying to achieve. I suppose that hint of mercenary attitude towards friendship might be considered another Bad Thing…
is something I did want to talk about and totally forgot! I think there IS an— I won’t say mercenary, but…exploitative, self-centered flaw at the center of both Walton and Victor’s natures; I don’t think it’s ALL they are, by any means, but I think it’s something that is very present in them, and something they both need to be aware of and working against to not become villains; and of course Victor has KINDA BLOWN IT at this point, and he STILL hasn’t apparently got a handle on his tendency to be a user.
And I say this because, look, when we see Victor the first time? He only has one dog left alive. Not a damning thing IRL, of course, things go wrong and people lose sled dogs and it’s sad. But we’ve already seen that the Creature kept its dogs alive, implying that such a feat was possible for someone taking proper care. More damning, maybe, is that Victor is never mentioned to ask after his dog; Walton himself never mentions it again after noting it almost as a point of cargo. What happened to it? Neither man seems to care. And yes, one might say it’s only an animal…but “they’re only a ___ ” is, I suspect, a bit of a running problem for these men. It’s interesting that to some extent this very callousness is one of the things that unites Walton and Frankenstein, even in this endearing friendship between them-they recognize each other as important, but at the cost of dismissing others AGAIN (like, the whole crew, for Walton. Geez, man.).
And here’s me wondering again how much of this is Mary Shelley commenting, purposely or not, on the roles men like Victor have- that they are to a certain extent encouraged to take the service of others for granted, to put their abstract goals over the lives and needs of others, and move ahead whatever the cost…to others. I KNOW the issue of whose life counts as a life, the degree to which society decides who is and isn’t a Real Person, is of course VERY present throughout the story.
Yes, perhaps ‘mercenary’ was coming on a bit too strong, but once again you have said what I was trying to say, only better. I didn’t even notice about the dogs, though, oh no. (I may not be posting much in this read-through, but I can tell already that I’m really going to enjoy reading the posts you and everyone else are writing - you spot so much stuff!)
Hey I was going to just reblog this with tags but my talkativeness got the better of me so, hey, I read part of this book once before and I may not even have completed it (I was in my twelve-year-old Read All The Classic Books stage, I didn’t take much in if I did) so I’m just going to be popping mu head in from time to time, let me type my tags out again in the proper reblogging part of the post for now and expand on them.
#The Romantic Circles notes look interesting now
#Walton is a sweetheart idealist autodictat with a fairly good pen for letters and sweeping scientific interest #’I’m just going to go to the Pole and study…stuff…whatever stuff I can find out about…Sciency stuff’ #’ like what’s the deal with magnetic forces? What does my compass needle know is so special about the North anyway? I will Find Out and I will be greatly acclaimed’ #I really like Swutol’s point about the clues from the gaps in his knowledge that his quest is misguided #he envisions eternal light and is bound for eternal darkness, wow.
OK I’m imagining that my tagging format is irritating so I’ll type up the rest with more fluency and sentences. Probably. So all of the above plus, like Pilf says, a strong which for friendship, speaks strongly to my idealist, emotive, person-focused sentiments (also he’s an aspiring but not exceptional poet who also cares deeply about science, hello, helpless generalist) so it’s easy to overlook Walton’s flaws and think of him as a…worthier successor of sorts to scientific interest and the V Frankenstein situation but nope, still some flaws and doom, right here. I would have missed a lot of the Paradise Lost stuff if I hadn’t glanced at RC (aaw Romantics and their Milton obsession, I actually laughed aloud When P Byssche Shelley made reference to him in his Preface like he couldn’t write one without tying in Paradise Lost which, full disclosure, I have not read) but the fact that he’s accidentally echoing Satan in Paradise Lost with his constant emphasis on courage and resolution is interesting.
The points about his having written off the Crew as ardent-confidant-and-instigator-of-personal-growth material are also wonderful to have pointed out- there’s definitely a possibility he doesn’t share a language with most of them, since we know he doesn’t speak foreign languages at all but also there’s almost certainly snobbery at play- even the sickeningly good crewmate whom he deeply admires isn’t fulfilling his friendship needs cooould be a Problem, yeah. I’m not sure the extent to which considering what a friend can do for you and for your aims is necessarily out of the ordinary, though, at east not to the extent that Walton’s displaying it? #aaw but I’m with Pilf in revelling in the emphasis on the importance of friendships
#Honourable mention to the word ‘perfectionate’ for existing in this text
I’m really interested in the extent to which the main narrative being reported through Walton’s retelling of Victor’s retelling is going to influence its tone and content- will any of the later writing be influenced by what Walton chooses to emphasise as well as what Frankenstein does?
Hi, welcome! Yeah, no need to stay to tags, please do respond at length!:D
Aren’t those Romantic Circle notes fantastic? I never would have noticed not just the stuff like the night-endless Paradise Lost mentions, but the repetition of ardent/ardour, which is a pretty important keyword in this text.
And yeah, definitely want to keep an eye on that unreliable narrator in this book! TWO unreliable narrators, since Walton’s not set up to be omniscient. Heh, this story is getting complicated!