What’s the value of a letter?

By opening the novel with letters, Shelley creates an added element of intrigue for the reader. These notes drop us into the action and present the incomplete perspective of Walton, causing a greater appreciation and interest in the detail of the story told by Frankenstein when the first chapter begins. The letters also build interest through foreshadowing details, some of which may not have meaning to unfamiliar readers until several chapters into the novel. For instance, the monster Frankenstein created was very large, and we read in the fourth letter that a sledge pulled by dogs, which Victor seems to have been chasing, was driven by someone of “gigantic stature” (Pg. 58). Though connections like these help complete the big picture, they also lead us to wonder what turns the story could take to arrive at this opening situation in the middle of the arctic.

The epistolary opening also provides perspective on the novel’s characters. There appears to be a parallel between Walton and Frankenstein. Both were wholly consumed by a passionate goal, pursuing the glory of their endeavors at the sacrifice of nearly everything else in their lives. This not only tells us something about the two men, but also makes us wonder what else they may share and how their relationship may develop. The similarity in character may have created a biased approval of Frankenstein by Walton, but his descriptions and praise of his new companion provide us with an outside perspective on the man to compare with the way Frankenstein describes himself. This may prove to contradict the feelings of the monster, who we see apparently fleeing from his creator. The additional point of view provided in the opening letters adds another angle to the story, and the value of this perspective may prove to grow as the story progresses.

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