Frankenstein By Mary Shelley Summary and Analysis Letter 4 - To Mrs. Saville, England

Summary

This letter, written on three separate days (August 5, August 13, and August 19), begins quietly enough when Walton describes how his ship is stuck in an ice field far from land. On July 31, the crew sees a man "of gigantic stature" trailing a dog sled team going north and passing to within one-half a mile of their ice bound ship. The next morning on August 1, the crew finds another man floating free on an ice flow near their ship. The survivor is Victor Frankenstein. After a few days rest, Victor begins telling his story to Walton.

Analysis

This chapter mixes Gothic and Romantic elements. The eerie feeling of the Arctic, a Gothic notion, contrasts with the warmth Walton feels from meeting Victor and his desire for friendship, both Romantic elements.

The "being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature" seen by the crew is the monster. Since the crew has no way to follow the man due to the ice, they are bound to remain with their ship until the ice releases them. A few hours later, the late summer thaw frees the ship to sail free again. Here we have a sense of the eerie and sublime with a scene being played out in a fantastic place, the northern reaches of the world. The weather conditions suggest a sense of doom and mystery. The Gothic novel usually has a setting that is mysterious and foreboding.

In pursuit of his "demon," Victor is brought aboard the ship immediately and given comfort. Walton describes Victor as a "stranger [who] addressed me in English, although with a foreign accent." Two days pass before Victor begins to tell his story of how he came so far from land. He remarks to an officer that he "seek[s] one who fled from me."

Walton rejoices at the thought of having found a friend and confidant in Victor. Walton senses a deep passion and regret in his newfound friend. He says, "He must have been a noble creature in his better days, being even now in wreck so attractive and amiable." Victor remains on deck to look for the other sled as much as possible.

The August 13 letter shows how Walton esteems his new friend, Victor Frankenstein, by stating "my affection grows for my guest every day." It is now that Victor reveals his past circumstances:"'Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you drunk also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips.'" Victor finds he cannot "begin life anew" because he has seen and experienced too much in his life. He hopes that by purging his guilt, through a confession, he will be able to meet the destiny that he knows he must meet.

Continued on next page...

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