Contents Index

My father loved Beaufort

The reader cannot help noticing how insistently this theme returns to the surface of the text. In the abstract it is almost an epitome of the way in which Mary Shelley creates the structure of her novel as a nest of Chinese boxes (or Russian dolls). Here, Victor Frankenstein begins a narrative about his life by emphasizing his father's profound affection for another man, an account he gives to a young explorer whose deepest emotional need is for such a friendship. Walton, in turn, feels he has found the fulfillment of this need in Victor, and Victor himself tells this narrative out of a sense of duty to that friendship. Duty likewise drove his father in his attempt to discover and rescue Beaufort. At the periphery of this replicated order is the central location in which the narrative unfolds, a ship isolated in treacherous northern waters where the all-male crew stands on its duty on behalf of one another. In the end harsh circumstances will force Walton to respond against his will to his own duty to those men.