As seen in Frankenstein, is Robert Walton's ambition similar to Frankenstein's, as Frankenstein believes? 

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ambition is most certainly an issue for some of the characters depicted in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein. In the opening of the novel, in Letters I-IV, readers are introduced to Robert Walton--a man bent on finding the "seat of magnetism." Walton readily admits to his sister, in the letters, that he fears his expedition may not end well (with his return). Through this, readers can assume that Walton recognizes that his journey may be his last.

Like Walton, Victor's obsession is linked to his ambition. He is willing to cross the ice fields in order to see that the life of his "son" is extinguished. Nothing but the creature's end (at this point) is important. Given that Victor has lost everything in order to bring his "son" to life, Victor's ambition has a far more negative outcome than the positive one Victor had hoped for: "A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me."

This said, Victor, after spending some time with Walton aboard Walton's ship, has come to recognize the deadly ambition he recognizes in Walton's eyes. Upon Victor's deathbed, he warns Walton about the problems associated with ambition, and Victor tells Walton to give up his ambitious nature before it is too late for him (like it is for Victor).

"Farewell, Walton! Seek happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries. Yet why do I say this? I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed.”

Essentially, Walton and Victor's ambitious nature is the same. Both men are willing to do whatever it tales to insure their own personal success (without thought of the consequences or those around them). Their ambition has forced both men to be alone in a world surrounded by others--best noted by Walton in Letter III. Although he has hired a crew, Walton is alone. All he desires is a friend.

I have no friend...I desire the company of a man who could sympathise with me; whose eyes would reply to mine.


jweaver12 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the first four letters of Frankenstein, Walton's ambitions are revealed. Walton's journey takes him and his crew through treacherous conditions, and yet, Walton presses forward. Walton disregards the possibility of death and makes the commitment to reach his goals. Similarly, this ambition is also manifested in Frankenstein. Frankenstein's quest for knowledge becomes all-consuming. He locks himself in his laboratory, disregarding his family, friends, and his health. His one purpose becomes reanimating life; he only thinks about his accomplishment and nothing more. He ignores the potential consequences of his actions just as Walton ignores the consequences of continuing on his journey to the North.

As Frankenstein is resting on Walton's ship in letter four, he realizes that Walton shares his ambitious nature. He claims, "Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you drunk also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!" Even on Frankenstein's deathbed does he see the similarities between himself and Walton and the potential devastation.


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