Frankenstein And The Epistolary Novel Form

1591 words - 6 pages

Q: “Examine the effect of the epistolary form of writing throughout the novel Frankenstein. Do you think the epistolary novel form of writing are an effective form of telling the story? How does the epistolary form affect plot development and character development?”
Mary Shelly, the author of the novel Frankenstein, writes Frankenstein in epistolary form which is an effective way of integrating the reader into the story, introducing writer bias [character development], and furthering the theme of communication.
The epistolary form of writing allows the reader to feel as if they are receiving an actual account of the story. This type of writing makes the reader feel as if the character is writing to them. The plot seems more realistic and more suspenseful due to the narrator not being outside of the story and so the reader is are not given an outside perspective. Through the use of letter’s to tell the story, Mary Shelly is forced to add the character Robert Walton into the mix. The addition of Walton allows the reader to contrast Walton’s outlook on life and Victor Frankenstein’s outlook. The reader is reminded that Victor Frankenstein, before creating the monster, was idealistic and hopeful just as Walton is, until Frankenstein lost all the people who were important to him. It's as if Victor's final relationship (with Walton) was sort of that last, final thread of interpersonal connection, as Victor retold his story to him.
Shelley beginning and ending the story with letters provides that outer shell of the novel, and provides an element of immersion into Victor's story.

With another narrator in the epistles that frame the main narrative, there is a voice of more normalcy to which readers can relate. In addition, Walton's sympathy toward Victor Frankenstein at the end of the novel re-humanizes Victor. Moreover, with the inclusion of the character of Walton, readers more readily identify with the themes of isolation and alienation. Walton's final decision to turn back after listening to his crew also mitigates the harshness of Victor Frankenstein's story.
The epistolary structure of the novel and the subsequent use of multiple narrators forces the reader to judge for themselves what is true and what is dramatized from the letters. Due to the story being retold from the point of view of Victor the reader is more likely to understand why Victor and Walton deem the monster a malevolent and insensitive brute.
(Favert 1) We must begin to read Frankenstein more as a well-wrought "baggy monster" of correspondences, and less as a singular, alien phenomenon. If we read it as an interactive combination of tales, rather than one linear narrative, we can refrain from casting the novelist into the narrow role of a "young girl" with "so very hideous an idea." Frankenstein is Mary Shelley's novel; it is no more her story than Walton's, Victor's or the monster's. Within the text, the various narrators slide from their own stories into the histories of...

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