How do Victor and Walton compare and contrast in Frankenstein?

Expert Answers
karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.