How do Victor and Walton compare and contrast in Frankenstein?

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Victor and Walton both embark on quests for knowledge that they hope will earn them fame and benefit humankind. Victor says that he considers wealth to be an inferior object, and he wants most to "banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent...

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Victor and Walton both embark on quests for knowledge that they hope will earn them fame and benefit humankind. Victor says that he considers wealth to be an inferior object, and he wants most to "banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!" Walton hopes to see a land that no man has ever seen before, a country of eternal light, and he writes to his sister, Mrs. Saville,

you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind, to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries, to reach which at present so many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which, if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.

Both men long to make names for themselves by increasing the knowledge possessed by humankind. However, Victor, ultimately, seems not to have truly learned from his experiences; at the very least, he does not practice what he preaches to Walton. He says, for example,

Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.

He also describes knowledge as something dangerous, a "serpent" that can "sting" if one is not incredibly careful. However, when Walton's crew eventually comes to the captain to request that the ship return home, Victor calls them all cowards and tells them that they are making a big mistake. Walton, on the other hand, feels that he cannot endanger the lives of others when they are not willing to risk their lives themselves. For him, the cost of human life is not worth knowledge. For Victor, evidently, knowledge is still more important.

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Robert Walton and Victor Frankenstein have several similarities at the start of the novel, when Walton and his crew find Victor near death in the Arctic. By the end of the novel, however, it appears that Walton has learned from Victor's cautionary tale and will take a different path in his life than Victor unfortunately did.

Walton and Frankenstein are both sensitive and ambitious. These qualities are what probably draw Walton to Victor in the first place. When the crew brings Victor aboard, Walton feels pity for Victor, who is in a dire state. We learn later that he has become totally obsessed with finding the creature and they have been chasing each other in the Arctic. The creation of the monster and its aftermath have damaged Victor physically and psychologically, and the effects are obvious to Walton. Once Victor begins to tell his story, we learn that his downfall was his excessive ambition: he wanted to solve the mystery of life and death and took the creation of life (from dead parts) literally into his own hands. He does not, however, consider the consequences of his actions, and he ends up disgusted with his creature. He abandons it to fend for itself and eventually, the creature takes revenge on Victor after he learns that Victor has destroyed the female companion Victor reluctantly agreed to make for him. Walton is similar to Victor in the sense that he is also ambitious. He is with his men in the Arctic trying to discover and achieve things that no one has before. However, the mission is dangerous, and once he hears Victor's tragic story, Walton decides to protect the lives of his men and turn back. He learns that his ambition is not more important that the potential consequences.

Walton is very sympathetic to Victor and feels a kinship with him. He admires Victor and takes care of him in his last days. However, Walton also takes an important lesson from Victor's story, and the key difference in their characters is that Walton will not ultimately place his ambition over the lives of others or the potentially harmful consequences.

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Both Walton and Victor represent Romantic ideals, and are guided by notions of science and exploration. Both men desire to explore the unknown and are inspired by grand ideas. Victor immediately understands Walton’s need for a close, spiritual friend. Walton is very aware of the terrible sadness that envelops his guest; he feels a kinship towards him, believing him to be a person of great intuition and judgment.

Walton and his new passenger are alike in other ways. They are both sensitive, compassionate men who began their respective adventures with lofty visions, excited at the thought of the great discoveries they intend to make. They were both willing to endure great hardship in order to achieve their goals, and they were single-minded in the pursuit of their objectives. As an Arctic explorer, Walton, much like Victor, wishes to conquer the unknown.

Walton is different from Victor is some crucial ways though. However, when he discovers Victor near death on the icy water, he listens to Victor's bitter and tormented tale of the creature. This makes him reconsider continuing his own mission, if it will put his own crew in danger. When the creature appears as Victor's is dying, Walton fails to destroy the creature, as Victor requested. Instead, he does what Victor continually failed to do: he listens to the creature's anguished tale with compassion and empathy. So, he succeeds where Victor fails.

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