Who is Robert Walton and what is revealed about his background?

Robert Walton from Frankenstein

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In many ways, Walton’s story parallels that of Victor’s. He is an exploratory man by nature, on an expedition to the North Pole to make some kind of discovery. Unfortunately, his ship gets stuck in some ice and his men fear they will die. He is torn between discovery and caring for people, much in the same way Victor is. He also writes letters to his sister.

Walton is also lonely in the way Victor and the monster are lonely. He desires a companion above all else, a friend with whom he can talk. He feels that he does not fit into society; he does not have a place, just as the monster does not. His thrill at having Victor arrive on his boat exemplifies his desire for friendship, as does his tragic disappointment when Victor dies.

When his crew asks if they can return to England, he at first says no, but later says yes, after hearing Victor’s tale about the overwhelming consequences of pushing the bounds of exploration. He learns from Victor’s story, in other words. After Victor dies, he turns the ship back, trying not to make the same mistakes that Victor made in the obsession that ruined his life.

Walton’s the only guy that’s not a total jerk to the monster. This could just be because he is similarly lonely, or, in the hopeful-Pollyanna sense, it could be that he learned from listening to Victor’s tale. Maybe he has some sophisticated and compassionate understanding of the monster, having heard the story? Then again, maybe not.


Walton's background is only seen in glimpses through the letters her writes to his sister. He's on this expedition because he wants to do new things and discover different places. He is far from friendly, complains of loneliness, wishes for a 'male' friend (it's said he was homosexual, maybe that's one of the reasons he wants to be away from England), regardless, the men on the ship are beneath him and aren't fir to be his companions. That he feels he's too good for them gives us a hint to the society he moves in.

After Victor is brought aboard the ship, rescued if you will, Walton decides that this man is the perfect 'friend.'

As you can se in the excerpt below, Walton was a lost soul without any goals. He'd been a poet, albeit a, educated and unsuccessful poet. His failure in school saddened him. Then he inherited money......... and could do as he liked. Financial freedom gave him the opportunity to wander; he embraced physical labor, went on several whaling expeditions, and he "voluntarily endured cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep." At night, he studied math, medicine, and science............ and later he hired himself out. Walton admits to his sister that he could have lived a life of ease, but instead wishes to find glory in the life he's chosen.

"These visions faded when I perused, for the first time, those poets whose effusions entranced my soul, and lifted it to heaven. I also became a poet, and for one year lived in a Paradise of my own creation; I imagined that I also might obtain a niche in the temple where the names of Homer and Shakspeare are consecrated. You are well acquainted with my failure, and how heavily I bore the disappointment. But just at that time I inherited the fortune of my cousin, and my thoughts were turned into the channel of their earlier bent.

Six years have passed since I resolved on my present undertaking. I can, even now, remember the hour from which I dedicated myself to this great enterprise. I commenced by inuring my body to hardship. I accompanied the whale-fishers on several expeditions to the North Sea; I voluntarily endured cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep; I often worked harder than the common sailors during the day, and devoted my nights to the study of mathematics, the theory of medicine, and those branches of physical science from which a naval adventurer might derive the greatest practical advantage. Twice I actually hired myself as an under-mate in a Greenland whaler, and acquitted myself to admiration. I must own I felt a little proud when my captain offered me the second dignity in the vessel, and entreated me to remain with the greatest earnestness; so valuable did he consider my services.

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! My courage and my resolution is firm; but my hopes fluctuate and my spirits are often depressed. I am about to proceed on a long and difficult voyage, the emergencies of which will demand all my fortitude: I am required not only to raise the spirits of others, but sometimes to sustain my own, when theirs are failing."