Margaret Saville and the Russian fiancée

Margaret Saville

Margaret Saville, Captain Walton's sister, is another passive female character, whose principal role is to receive Walton's letters containing the manuscripts that make up the narrative. It may be that the reader is to assume that Mrs Saville is active in editing these manuscripts and having them published, but the narrative is silent on this matter: as far as we can tell, she is the sole intended reader of the story.

The Russian fiancée

Russian fiancéeA woman is also at the centre of a story recounted to his sister by Captain Walton in Letter 2 at the beginning of the novel. He tells of how his Russian master-at-arms has renounced the woman he loves because she is in love with someone else. Furthermore, he is instrumental in reconciling the woman's father to the marriage and in ensuring that the couple are provided for financially.

Narrator's attitude

The odd thing is that Walton does not express great admiration for this act of selfless nobility:

  • as a poet, he is quite attracted by this heroic generosity
  • but as a mariner-explorer who wishes to discover and open up a new sea passage he seems to find the Russian:
    • lacking in vision
    • too concerned with the communal life of the ship
    • insufficiently single-minded to understand fully Walton's own quest.

‘He has passed all his life on board a vessel,' Walton remarks, dismissively, ‘and has scarcely an idea beyond the rope and the shroud.'

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