Whilst scrolling through my blog post I was particularly uninspired and disappointed in past writings. Luckily, a comment from my professor sparked my imagination and got the wheels moving.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is not simply a story told by a narrator to an audience. Frankenstein encapsulates four different stories within one narrative framework and each new narrator influences the lens through which the story is interpreted. It is through this story-telling and narrative framework that sympathy is mediated between the characters. In Frankenstein sympathy requires two actors, one to share their story and one to listen. Edmund Burke argues that sympathy is a way in which we “enter into the concerns of others” (Burke 41) however, the listener can’t engage if there is no one willing to tell the story. Frankenstein has several characters that invite others into sympathetic connection through story telling, including Dr. Frankenstein and the creature.

The first two-way sympathetic story telling relationship occurs on board the ship of Robert Walton between Walton himself and Dr. Frankenstein. Robert Walton deeply desires a companion with which to engage in such sympathy on his lonely voyage. He finds that person who is not just willing to engage, but enthusiastic to do so, in the incredibly ill Dr. Frankenstein. Walton describes this desire as a “thirst for a more intimate sympathy with a fellow mind” (Shelley 38). Here is Walton fulfilling the role of “entering into concerns” of Dr. Frankenstein by listening to the Dr.’s story. It is important to remember that it is not just Walton creating a sympathetic bond. Frankenstein is inviting him into this bond by sharing his story.

The invitation to hear a character’s story and acceptance of that invitation occurs again in between Dr. Frankenstein and the creature, and allows them to have sympathetic connection for the first time. When the creature introduces his story to the narrative framework he opens himself up to participate a sympathetic relationship with his creator, Dr. Frankenstein. Frankenstein in turn accepts this invitation by listening, saying “I weighed the various arguments that he had used, and determined at least to listen to his tale” (Shelley 95). Just as Walton “enters into the concerns” of Dr. Frankenstein by listening to his story, so does Dr. Frankenstein “enter into the concerns” of the creature by listening to the creature’s story. The story telling within the narrative framework of Frankenstein makes it possible for the characters to enter into sympathetic relationships with one another. The story telling within the novel shows that sympathy requires two active participants, an idea illustrated by both Robert Walton and Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Frankenstein and the creature.

 

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