Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein opens with a series of letters addressed to “Mrs Saville, England” from her brother, Captain Robert Walton. In Letter 1, which is written from St Petersburgh, Russia, Walton explains his motivation for taking a voyage into the Arctic: his obsessive curiosity about an unknown part of the world and his aim to find a passage through the ice to countries on the other side of the world. He claims that, although he is wealthy and could have passed his life in ease, he would prefer to win glory.
The second letter is written from Archangel, a town in northern Russia. Walton has hired a ship and crew, but he regrets that he doesn’t have a friend or companion with him. Nevertheless, he looks forward to his voyage with both fear and excitement.
The third letter is written from aboard Walton’s ship. The voyage is going smoothly, and he bids his sister goodbye, perhaps for years.
About a month later, Walton writes again, even though he doesn’t know when he will be able to send his letter, to describe a surprising event. He explains that while his ship was stuck in the sea ice, he was shocked ...