Robert Walton is the lead narrator in Frankenstein. He is also the commentator of how events took place through his letters to his sister. Robert Walton signifies the healthy person who also represents the balance between Frankenstein and the monster. Robert has the good side and the negative just like Victor who has the good side and the monster has a bad side just like healthy human beings. Walton does not have any scientific knowledge since his beliefs concerning science are naive and romantic. He believes that the Arctic Circle is a new world. He does not use scientific tools such as hypotheses; rather he is a curious individual whose intention is to discover new space and land.
On the other hand, Victor Frankenstein is a young, intelligent scientist whose desire is scientific discovery. He intends to discover the secret of life. He spends most of his time creating a human being out of organs of a dead man. However, he does not know what the consequences of his actions are. He recreates life in the form of a monster but in the end, tries to destroy the monster he once worked hard to create. When he worked to complete this project, victor separated himself from society so that he could focus on this knowledge. Robert Walton is a strong foil character to Victor Frankenstein. A foil character is regarded as a minor character whose actions or situations match with those of the main character. A foil character helps to explain the specific elements of the main character.
Walton is similar to Frankenstein in many ways. Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton are young men who are adventurous. First, at the beginning of the novel, Robert writes letters to his sister, his feelings and motivation match those of Frankenstein who also experienced the same feelings when he discovered the "cause of generation and life." Robert has a greedy thirst to have knowledge that the common man does not have. Walton felt excited with the thought of discovering new land, passages and powers and glory. He also desires to be the first man who lands in a location that no one has ever been before. His enthusiasm matches with that of Frankenstein. According to Victor, his discovery of how he would bring the dead to life brought joy and happiness to him
The two characters have similar stories. Both of them are failures where each of them suffers from matching fatal mistake. Both feel the need to gain self-knowledge as well as know what goes on in the external environment. Both men desire to achieve something that no one else has tried before so that they can gain glory from it. Robert desires to explore the Arctic Circle whole Victor Frankenstein desire is to raise the dead and bring them back to life. Robert has the same ideas as those of Frankenstein. He desires to engage in activities that no one has ever tried before such as exploring the Arctic Circle in his quest for knowledge. Initially, the trip goes well, but things turn out to be hectic when he hits the ice. He describes his situation as "being surrounded by mountains of ice which threaten to crush his vessel and feels there is no escape from the situation" (pg. 211).
Victor and Walton desire for glory and therefore want to make a valuable contribution to humankind. They also want to remember forever for their contribution. They wanted to do something different so that they could be remembered for their accomplishment and therefore regarded as heroes. They desire to make a real contribution but at the same time want that they are acknowledged for their contributions. Robert Walton thought that no other thing was great such as discovering a path that would ensure an easier way to the pole. He also thought that he could ascertain the secret of the magnet by engaging in such an expedition. He preferred glory to any wealth that he could get. When Walton learns of the intention of Walton he pleads with him not to engage in it. Victor believes that he shares a temperament with Walton since both men are ready to risk their lives so that they can accomplish their goals. Victor believes that his behavior of seeking knowledge to gratify his wishes brought about pain to his life at the end. He compares his seeking knowledge and wisdom to a snake bit and hopes that his experience in this area can help his new friend not to fall under the same trap that Victor did.
The two characters faced loneliness in their ambitions. Robert Walton considers himself to be carrying the weight of the whole world in his body. At the start of the novel, he describes to his sister his longing for a friend. He desires someone who would understand and empathize with him. Victor also understands the difficulty of his ambition. He also understands that his actions can endanger the lives of other people. He experiences isolation since he believes that he is misunderstood, blamed, judged for his desire to do great things. He, therefore, feels that he needs a friend. However, Walton has his sister as well as his crew members who are alive. On the other hand, Victor loses his entire family member whom he loved since the monster wiped them all away. Therefore relationships are important more than any science, innovation, technology or science since Walton preferred to keep his crew members safe first above his isolating ambition.
The two men regret engaging in adventurous activities since they turn out to be not as they had expected. Victor becomes depressed when he creates a monster that does not look as attractive as he thought. His mistakes come back to him when the monster ends up wiping out his entire family even his darling Elizabeth. This situation makes him depressed and scared and also prefers that he could have died with the rest of his family. He laments "why did I not die? I am more miserable now than I was before" (pg. 174). Victor warns Robert not to engage in adventurous activities for the wrong reasons because it can have very negative consequences. Victor learned his lesson and therefore tried to warn Robert so that he does not repeat the same mistakes that he did. However, Robert goes on a mission to the Arctic circle where he is trapped in his vessel due to huge ice mountains that make his journey impossible. He listens to the advice from his men and Victor's such that he returns after the ice clears. He decides to return since he has the intelligence of when to do so as he realizes that they can perish there.
Robert and victor choose to engage in their expedition in isolation. However, Victor also desires for companionship. He isolates himself during exploration but also desires to be part of society. Walton turns back when he realizes that his actions could cause harm to others. Walton's childhood was a life of loneliness where he also educated himself which is a background similar to that of Victor. Victor also chooses to isolate himself from during his time of seeking knowledge.
Robert Walton is considered as the most crucial person in the novel since he has a well-integrated personality compared to the personality of Victor and his monster. Victor Frankenstein is a romantic who relies on his uncommon ability for thoughtfulness and creativity to assist him in his ambition. He desires to create a better race which will be a gift to humanity. On the other hand, Robert Walton goes on an expedition in the North Pole to find beauty and delight in a place that is completely in desolation. Even though the two characters engage in different activities, they both seek for spiritual exaltation in their minds and souls above and beyond that of other people.
Richard Walton moves slowly to the North Pole with a desire to reach his destination. However, Victor Frankenstein hurries to areas that he desires to go such as France, Ireland, Russia, Asia and other territories in space. The Frankenstein novel tries to show that people can be addicted to science, technology or even the desire for power. Further, the two characters did not choose to live in isolation; rather it is people in they are the victims of other people who may have left them in isolation because they did not believe in their quest. What connects Victor Frankenstein to Robert Walton is their desire to seek forbidden knowledge (pg. 44).
Robert is different from victor in the sense that when he finds that his mission would lead to self-destruction and death, he decides to turn back and avoid the catastrophe. However, Victor preferred to fulfill his dream first and did not consider its impacts on humanity. Victor is described as a selfish and arrogant person who also suffered from a god-complex character. These features arise in the initial part of the novel. His behavior of totally neglecting his family and friends so that he could seek for knowledge is profoundly selfish.
In conclusion, Robert Walton is the best foil character to Victor. He faces situations that are similar to those of Victor. Richard also has a temperament and characteristics that are similar to those of Victor. Both desire to pursue goals that are uncommon so that they can gain glory in the eyes of people. However, they both encounter loneliness due to isolation so that they can pursue their goals. However, the two characters are also different in that Victor is selfish compared to Richard because he goes on to pursue his goal without consideration of the consequences of his actions.
Further, victor engages in scientific research which is an area that he has the knowledge. On the other hand, Robert goes to an area he has no scientific knowledge on. In spite of these differences, Robert Watson is the best foil to victor since he explains him through his experiences and situations.
Shelley, Mary W, David L. Macdonald, and Kathleen D. Scherf. Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus ; the 1818 Version. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 2004. Print.
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