What are the opening and closing scenes of Frankenstein, and why are they important?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The novel begins and closes with letters from explorer Robert Walton to his sister Mrs. Saville.  Normally, when readers begin Frankenstein, they are rather confused because they don't see what the letters have to do with the creation of a monster.  However, Shelley chooses to use the letters from an outside character at the beginning and end of the book for several reasons.  First, Walton has to be there to testify of Victor Frankenstein's fate.  He is the only narrator left at the end of the book who can tell the world about Victor's downfall and the lessons he learned from his experiences.

Secondly, the letters allow readers to see a character like Walton who has not yet taken his obsession (making a name for himself through science) too far.  He is willing to risk his men's lives and his own if need be, but he meets Victor before it is too late.  By listening to Victor's macabre tale of glory-seeking gone awry, Walton is eventually convinced (as he writes in his last letters) to return to England's safety and to carry on his dangerous pursuit no longer.

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