What is the significance of the opening/ closing scene in the novel Frankenstein?

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The beginning and end of this novel are in the form of letters from a young explorer, Robert Walton, to his sister Margaret. Walton has secured a ship and hired a crew for a voyage to the North Pole in order to accomplish what he continually refers to as “a great purpose” – i.e., to find an alternate route to the Pacific from the north and to perhaps discover the source of the earth’s magnetism. Most of all, though, he wants to be the first to set foot on undiscovered territory. On this voyage, he encounters Frankenstein and he sets out to tell Frankenstein’s tale to his sister, in his letters. The letters frame the novel because in the beginning, Frankenstein decides to tell Walton his tale because he recognizes himself in Walton and wants to warn him that sometimes venturing into the unknown for prideful purposes can result in the creation of a “monster.” Each time Walton tells Frankenstein of the goals of his voyage, Frankenstein tries to warn him that he is delving into “territory” that can destroy him. In the ending letters, Walton tells his sister that the voyage has become perilous and that he fears he has endangered the lives of all the crew members. This parallels Frankenstein’s tale because the “monster” he created (which symbolizes man’s pride) has endangered the lives of his own loved ones. So, the novel begins and ends with the warning to mankind not to try to act like God.

Walton finally agrees to give up his voyage, but Frankenstein cannot. He tells Walton that his purpose was given to him by heaven but this is incorrect and ultimately leads to his downfall. His purpose sprang from his own pride in wanting to create life, something reserved to God. So, his pride winds up causing his death because the monster is the incarnation of his pride and “pride goes before the fall.” Pride was Satan’s tragic flaw and resulted in his getting expelled from heaven. So, this novel has some very Biblical themes.

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