Walton's final letters

Synopsis of Walton's final letters

Walton resumes the narrative and tells his sister that he is convinced by Frankenstein's story. Although Walton hopes not to lose his new-found friend, Frankenstein is determined to continue his search.

The ship again becomes trapped in the ice and is in danger of being crushed by ice-bergs. Frankenstein's health declines and Walton's crew threaten to mutiny if, when they are freed from the ice, they do not return to England. Frankenstein speaks on Walton's behalf, but when the ship is freed, Walton agrees to the crew's demands and sets sail for England.

Frankenstein dies and soon afterwards Walton finds the monster at his bedside, mourning for his creator and remorseful for the suffering he has caused. The monster leaps from the ship onto the ice and disappears.

Commentary on Walton's final letters

notes concerning his history: Walton's reference to this document, together with Safie's and Felix's letters and his own sighting of the monster, are his means of assuring his sister that Victor's story is true.

the herd of common projectors: a projector is someone who plans or designs an enterprise or undertaking. Victor sees himself as an uncommon kind of projector, but now understands that his special gifts have caused great pain and misery.

like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell: Frankenstein again compares his daring and defiance to that of Satan. The specific reference is to Paradise Lost, book 1, lines 40-49.

More on reference to Paradise Lost:

He trusted to have equall'd the most High,
If he oppos'd; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais'd impious War in Heav'n and Battle proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from th'Ethereal Sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defy th'Omnipotent to Arms.

Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1, lines 40-49

must I then lose this admirable being?: Walton, who is also a lonely wanderer, has his own motives for wishing to keep Frankenstein as a friend and companion.

I will repeat the lessons of my Seneca and die with a good heart: Seneca (born 43 BCE) was a Roman playwright and philosopher of the Stoic school , who acted as tutor to the Emperor Nero, at whose orders he committed suicide in 65 CE.

‘What do you mean … who know not what it is to turn their backs on the foe!': Frankenstein's words echo the speech that Ulysses makes to his crew in Dante, Inferno, Canto 26, lines 112-20. Ulysses, having reached his home on the island of Ithaca safely after wandering for ten years after the fall of Troy, is bored and dissatisfied and wants his men to take to sea again and continue with their adventures. (See also the reference to Dante in Volume 2, Chapter 9).

the die is cast: ‘die' here is a dice, and the phrase means that there is no turning back now that a step has been taken. It is an allusion to the words Julius Caesar is said to have spoken (jacta est alea) as he crossed the Rubicon.

More on ‘the die is cast' and the Rubicon:

The Rubicon was the river that lay between Italy and Gaul, where Caesar was Pro-Consul. Once he had crossed this river, in 49 BCE, he stepped out of the limit of his powers and was an invader in Italy. This action precipitated the Civil War that installed Caesar as emperor. The expression ‘to cross the Rubicon' means to take an irrevocable step.

‘Evil thenceforth became my good': compare Satan's words in Paradise Lost : ‘Evil be thou my Good' (Book 4, line 110).

‘Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me?': compare Shakespeare's King Lear, Act 3, Scene 2, lines 59-60: ‘I am a man more sinned against than sinning'.

Investigating Walton's final letters
  • Walton refers to Frankenstein's death as ‘the untimely extinction of this glorious spirit'.
    • What does this suggest about Walton's feelings for his guest?
    • What effect might it have on how we read his sections of the narrative?

More on Walton's feelings for his guest:

  • On the most basic level, he will miss Frankenstein's company. Walton is lonely and alienated from his crew, and desires Victor's friendship.
  • Walton makes a hero of Frankenstein, whom he admires for his daring.
  • In some respects, he actually identifies with Frankenstein in his quest for new knowledge – remember that Walton has set out on his own voyage in search of a new route.
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