Understanding the structure

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein has a complex structure. The main narrative about Victor Frankenstein and the creature is really a flashback set within a frame story narrated by Captain Robert Walton. So imagine a box placed within a bigger box!

The novel is divided into three volumes because it was originally published in three individual books. In the novel, Shelley frequently uses foreshadowing to create suspense and a feeling of supernatural horror in readers. We explain all of this here.

The frame story - Walton

The outer layer of Frankenstein is a frame story told by Robert Walton, which begins and concludes the novel. The frame story is mainly about Walton and his desire for discovery. 

The novel opens with a series of four “Letters”, written by Walton and addressed to his sister: “To Mrs Saville, England” (p. 15). Each letter is headed with a date and sometimes with the writer’s location, for example: “Archangel, March 28th, 17—” (p. 19). 

Letter 4 introduces the character of Victor Frankenstein. Walton’s wish to find a friend and Frankenstein’s claim that he has lost all his friends both foreshadow Frankenstein’s misguided attempts to keep away from society. Thereby, it introduces the theme of isolation versus companionship.

Walton explains th...

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