Mary Shelley was highly influenced and talented due to her parentage, as mentioned in the introduction, Percy Shelley, her husband, was very supportive and always urged her to explore her literary talents. Frankenstein was an ideal example of her talents and how she is able to speak in different voices within a singular work. This novel is narrated in first person and by three different people during different parts of the overall story, each demonstrating different qualities and personalities which Shelley did a good job of exhibiting. However, because they are all recalling their perspective on the same story, it will be very biased and therefore, unreliable, as first person narratives tend to be. Both Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton control the vast majority of the narrative that the reader perceives. However, there are a variety of contradictions within their own narratives, specifically Frankenstein’s. Frankenstein even goes as far as to discount his creation’s narrative. This demonstrates Frankenstein’s egocentric nature and exhibits how it clouds Frankenstein’s view on morality.
Walton is very similar to Frankenstein and is often regarded as his foil (juvenile, innocent form of Victor, but just as pretentious). Walton is only heard in the novel through the means of letters sent to his sister. Walton is pompous and glory seeking and unlike Frankenstein, also has a more cheerful tone and is not isolated by nature but rather by choice. He chooses to frequently write to his sister, unlike Frankenstein who rarely wrote to his family. So the vast majority of diction used in Walton’s letters is light hearted and optimistic, never perceiving the possible dangers ahead. Through Walton’s eyes, everything seems to be going well except that he has no companion and he longs for one. He exalts Frankenstein greatly, but as the reader progresses and uncovers the truth, it’s noticed that Frankenstein is actually also a pompous person who does not deserve praise. The reader’s initial view of Frankenstein was biased due to Walton’s account.
Frankenstein himself is also very pretentious, and is more isolated than Walton. He is more in tune with nature than with people; he regards this as the fault of his elevated intelligence. He also provides a input on how he feels throughout the novel, providing the reader with a grand extension on his perspective regarding the world around him. And even with the amount of details he provides, it is still unreliable. The most significant instances of perspective in his narrative is his opinions regarding the creature. Victor dehumanizes the monster immensely, depriving him of emotions and the reader’s sympathy. Shelley allows the reader to also take the creature’s perspective and make the choice his or herself of whether the creature is an antagonist or simply a misunderstood hero.
Shelley emphasizes that the creature is innately good but was corrupted under man’s prejudice. The only way the reader is aware of this is through the creature’s perspective. Frankenstein never elaborates on the initial good nature of the creature and this created a negative opinion regarding his creation. This is one of the main reasons the reader cannot trust Frankenstein’s opinions about others he interacts with either. Even if Frankenstein believes the monster is terrible and crazy for killing the people Frankenstein has loved, it is also known through the creature’s perspective that he felt guilt and remorse while murdering.
You can’t trust anyone in this novel, but Shelley is not just trying to say that. Romanticism focuses on innate feelings and Shelley explores how diverse feelings and background stories influence accounts of stories. Walton describes the creature as hideous on the outside, but not once does he exhibit the cruel remarks Frankenstein has made regarding the creature’s inner person. The only way to understand a full story is to explore the different perspectives and significances.