Letter writing is an art, don’t you think so?

To whom it may concern,

Seeing that I am writing you concerning letters, I decided to put my writing in the form of a letter. As I read the beginning of Shelley’s Frankenstein, I enjoyed the way she opened the story with several letters. Shelley’s character Robert Walton writes to his sister Mrs. Saville. Walton’s letters cover the early stages of “this expedition” to the North Pole (Letter 1, 3). Through these letters Shelley creates a foundation of curiosity which is the overall effect these four introductory letters have on the reader, the story, and the presentation of characters.

The effect the four letters have on the reader works similarly to when a tale begins with a scene from the middle of the book. The technique novels use to start a book with an important or dramatic scene from later in the book as well as Shelley’s letters both effect the reader. First they draw the reader in. Reading a letter that is between siblings, let alone two people is thrilling. Walton writes, “you know me sufficiently to confide in my prudence and considerateness” (Letter 2, 5). It is clear that his words are personal and clearly intended solely for his sister, and therefore we feel as though we are getting more information than he would give a stranger or even a friend. Second, these letters foreshadow for the rest of the book. Victor comes into the story and gives us a glimpse of the end of the novel. And after this glimpse the letters thirdly prompt the reader question several areas of the story. These letters are brilliant page-turners. With just enough information, and just enough of a story line, curiosity is peaked as to where Shelley is going with her story, so we must read on.

Walton’s letters immediately create a story within a story. There is the relationship between Walton and his sister displayed in letters. Then there is the adventure of Walton on his journey being expressed through the relationship between He and Mrs. Saville. And then there is the unexpected relationship between Victor and Walton, which is caused by the journey, which is expressed by the letters in the relationship between Walton and his sister. This is exactly how the letters effect the story and presentation of the characters – complexly. Right off the bat the introduction of multiple relationships communicates that this is going to be an intricate novel not just a simple story. We are left hanging more curious than ever, knowing that Victor is about to enlighten us on his story.

Well, they say curiosity killed the cat.. But thankfully I’m not one so I can keep on reading!


Marshall Rustand

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