Structure and narrative

The structure of Frankenstein is very largely determined by the way in which the narrative is organised: this is fully discussed in the section Narrative. Readers are likely to be struck by the way in which each narrative is framed by another, so that different parts of the story are recounted by different narrators.

Basic narrative

Largely, the novel consists of a single story which takes Frankenstein from childhood in Geneva to his death in the Arctic aboard Captain Walton's ship. All the action of the novel arises from:

  • Frankenstein's childhood and education
  • his creation of the monster and its consequences.

When other stories are told – such as that of the de Laceys, Justine or Elizabeth – they are subordinate to this central action.

Comparison with Walton

The closest the novel comes to what might be an alternative, or sub, plot is the story of Captain Walton. But this plot, with its emphasis on aspiration, exploration and the obsessive search for new discoveries is in reality a kind of echo of Frankenstein's story, and the main reason why Walton welcomes Victor so warmly is that he finds him a kindred spirit. However, the stories do diverge, in that:

  • Walton, unlike Victor, is forced to acknowledge and accede to the wishes of other people
  • whereas Frankenstein can pursue his studies in isolation, Walton is dependent on his crew
  • when his crew demand to return to England, upon their ship becoming ice-bound, Walton has to submit to their demands.
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