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Frankenstein: The 1818 Text
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(Spoiler) Robert Walton

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Mark Ueber | 255 comments Mod
The patriarchal society of Frankenstein is one in which men pursue their goals against hopeless odds. In light of this work ethic, is Robert Walton a failure when he turns his ship around at the end of the novel? How would Victor Frankenstein answer this question? What would Mary Shelley say? What do you think?
(Questions from A Teachers Guide issued by Signet Classics.)


Mark Ueber | 255 comments Mod
First, Walton had reason to fear a mutiny if he pressed on to the north after barely surviving being stuck in the ice. Second, Frankenstein encouraged Walton to continue north and would have ridiculed him if he did not, but he died, so there. Besides, Frankenstein could not be trusted to advise Walton well because he was so obsessed with destroying the creature. Even if Frankenstein was healthy and sane, he would encourage Walton to conform to societal norms and press on northward.

Given the number of times Shelley has people die or become ill and die, leaving their loved ones destitute in the novel, it seems obvious she prefers people to live long and provide for their families. Her father’s influence might have made her distrustful of status quo social roles because her father was distrustful of almost all established institutions and norms. Her mother was a pioneering feminist. Certainly, Shelley would have been influenced by her to reject stereotypical gender roles.

Me? You aren’t much help if you are dead. I think it is my job to die in my bed of old age.


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