What is Robert Walton searching for in Frankenstein?

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The beginning of Frankenstein opens not with the story of Victor Frankenstein but with letters written by Walton to his sister. In these letters, he tells her of the current journey he is on.

Literally, he is looking for the North Pole:

I try in vain to be persuaded that...

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The beginning of Frankenstein opens not with the story of Victor Frankenstein but with letters written by Walton to his sister. In these letters, he tells her of the current journey he is on.

Literally, he is looking for the North Pole:

I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight. There, Margaret, the sun is for ever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon and diffusing a perpetual splendour.

Walton has a very Romantic ideal of this untamed wilderness, which begs readers to consider what else he is looking for.

He also seeks adventure—to travel to and experience unknown lands with the thrill of danger ever present:

I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death.

Walton is also in search of a higher purpose for his life than the one he has so far been afforded:

And now, dear Margaret, do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose? My life might have been passed in ease and luxury, but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path. Oh, that some encouraging voice would answer in the affirmative!

He needs to feel that there is more to life than simply passing one day after the next in luxury and wants to be able to encourage others as their hope fades during difficulties.

This journey to the North Pole is a quest by Walton to step outside his comfortable life and determine if he can rise to a challenge.

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As he explains in the letter which serves as the opening to the novel, Robert Walton is in search of the North Pole. He describes this pole as "the region of beauty and delight" in his mind, even though he knows that it is a desolate and freezing place which none have previously managed to reach. Walton describes to his sister the beauty the Pole has in his imagination: his desire to see a part of the world which nobody has ever visited is enough to banish from his mind any fear that he will not succeed, or even that he might die in the attempt. Thrilled by the idea of being the first to do this, Walton puts aside his concern for his own life in pursuit of his ambition. In this, he serves as a foil for Victor Frankenstein, whom he later meets, as Frankenstein has also been guided by his extreme ambition and desire to do what has never been done before—except that Frankenstein, rather than setting aside his fear of death, is actually so driven by that fear that he is determined to conquer death entirely.

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Robert Walton is searching for the North Pole.  He is a very ambitious sea captain who wants to be the first to sail there, no matter what the risks are to him or to his crew.  He rescues Victor Frankenstein while on this dangerous voyage, and from him learns the cautionary tale Victor knows all too well:  beware of blinding ambitions (Victor, of course, has learned this lesson too late through his creation of a "monster" in his desire to play God).  Captain Walton luckily takes the lesson to heart, abandoning his quest for the sake of safety.

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