Contents Index

acquainted with more languages

Walton's inability to speak other languages would presumably magnify his sense of isolation after almost four months in Russia. Generally speaking, in this pan-European novel Mary Shelley conveniently allows her characters, wherever they come from or are educated, to communicate freely across national borders. The exception is the Arab Safie, who must be taught by the De Laceys to speak their language. Since the book chosen for that end is Volney's Les Ruines, ou meditations sur les revolutions des empires (2.5.4), she and the Creature who secretly participates in her lessons are educated in French. French is likewise the language of the Frankenstein household, but Victor, in 1.1.10, recounts his education in Latin, Greek, English and German: he receives his scientific education in German, in the heart of Bavaria at Ingolstadt, and is adept enough in English to negotiate his way around Scotland and the Orkney Islands. While in prison there his delirious ravings revert to French, which only Mr. Kirwin the magistrate is able to understand (3.4.4). When he hails Walton, the mariner will tell his sister in Letter 4.2, Victor does so in English "although with a foreign accent." By the time the Creature and Walton meet one another, however, Mary Shelley finesses her otherwise careful observation of linguistic difference in favor of an unimpeded confrontation; yet Victor's concern that his narration be faithfully recorded (Walton in continuation) and his warning that the Creature's eloquence should be distrusted (3.7.9) emphasize radical instability and the problematic of translation as inherent in language.