Response to this question:
So do you think Walton’s goal and character is as horrific as Frankenstein’s? Then again, do you think Frankenstein deserves his ill-repute? What separates the two men’s quests? Anything? Is Shelley trying to say something about quests and obsessive hard work–or is she just itching for an excuse to tell a tall tale?
I think you’re absolutely right to link the three characters. I’m joining you in pondering what to make of those similarities!
I don’t believe Walton’s quest for the getting to the North Pole was anything near the evils Frankenstein was creating with his monster. However, I don’t believe Frankenstein realized that he was creating something evil until after he had already created it. He knew there was something “off” about what he was doing because he did feel the need to keep his creation secret, but I don’t think he ever expected the monster to cause so much pain and suffering among him and his family. When the monster asked Frankenstein to create another creature so that he wouldn’t be lonely, Frankenstein initially was going to do it. Though he only was going to do it to protect himself and his family from harm. After thinking about the possible harm another monster might do and the problems that could arise, “I was now about to form another being, of whose dispositions I was alike ignorant; she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate, and delight…in murder and wretchedness”, (170). After contemplating this, Frankenstein gave up his work and decided to face whatever wrath the monster would impose upon him. Frankenstein had to learn the hard way with his first creation, but he did realize that creating another monster would most likely cause more problems; for these reasons, I don’t think Frankenstein is an evil man, just an ignorant one.
Ultimately, I feel like Walton and Frankenstein initially had the same goal: to achieve something that had never been done before and be remembered forever in history for it. Walton never achieved his goal; he had to turn around because of the ice but his journey could also have ended in tragedy. If Walton had pushed on, his entire crew could have frozen to death up North. That is what the difference between Frankenstein and Walton is: Frankenstein pushed on in his obsessive journey to create a monster and the result was, not necessarily an evil creature, but something that caused a lot of torment for a lot of people. Walton on the other hand, had the sensibility to listen to his crew members and turn around, and in doing so, most likely prevented the death of his crew members. Walton did have an advantage that Frankenstein didn’t and that was that there were other people around to influence Walton’s actions, “They insisted, therefore, that I should engage with a solemn promise, that if the vessel should be freed I would instantly direct my course southwards”, (217). If Walton had not had a crew and he was alone on his quest, I think he would have pushed himself to his death while trying to reach the North Pole.