The Gothic Mood In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

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With all the extraordinary characters and controversial details in Mary Shelley’s original 1818 edition of Frankenstein, sometimes Robert Walton and his letters are overlooked. Despite being one of the most easily ignored characters in the story, a little explication of his letters can uncover extreme and bizarre behavior. Interestingly enough, his behavior is befitting of the entire story’s gothic mood (or at least befitting of Mary Shelley’s parodic tone, an exaggeration of the gothic mood employed by her male counterparts in the Romantic movement). By using some oddly coded language as well as some more overt interactions, Mary Shelley paints Robert Walton as a man of extreme psychological complexes comparable to Victor Frankenstein himself…show more content…
Much of the way she characterizes Victor and other men makes fun of the overinflated egocentrism of male poets and other artists in her life and the Romantic era. At the same time, several facets of the story seem to reflect the loneliness, loss, and guilt Mary Shelley felt in her own life. For Shelley, these emotions may have been brought on by the loss of her mother or the way in which Percy seemed more infatuated with Byron and their other housemates than he was interested in her among other tragic reasons including the suicide of her half-sister or the deaths of several of her own young children. Thus, readers might easily conclude that Walton exemplifies a caricature of the melodramatic Romantic poet who is full of himself but could have a history of tragedy in his life. Everything about the way he pens his letters and the words that Shelley uses points to this. In his essay, University of Augsburg professor Rudolf Beck argues, “Walton's case ... seems to bear out Mary Shelley's criticism in Frankenstein, not only of the ironically irrational and hubristic aspects of modern (male) science, but perhaps also of the utopian dreams of the Romantic age” (28); he writes this in reference to the skewed way in which Walton perceives his journey to the Arctic, but this analysis can also apply to other facets of Walton’s characterization. There is more to Walton than is initially
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