- Jun 2021
To Mrs. SAVILLE, England. St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17--. YOU will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings
"Frankenstein" does not begin in the way we expect. This seems pedestrian and boring. What you might not realize is just how clever this ruse is and how much information is packed into the very beginning.
The epistolary aspect introduces a frame narrative. The letters belonging to Margaret Walton Saville give us the story of her brother Robert Walton. Walton conveys to her (and us) the story of Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein's narrative yields the story of the Creature. The Creature's story includes the story of Safie and the De Lacey family.
The outer "frame" belongs to Margaret Walton Saville -- notice that these are the same letters, or "initials," (M. W. S.) as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.
Notice as well the place and the date. You may not know it but St. Petersburgh is like Las Vegas, Brasilia, or Dubai. It is an out of the way place, not particularly hospitable to humans, where a major city was artificially created. It was originally a swamp but the leaders decided to create a major, new city as an exemplary modern metropolis (and center of culture).
This is a leading theme of the Enlightenment and the book: the dream of the artificial and planned, which is entirely new.
Notice also that the book is squarely set in the eighteenth century, in the Enlightenment.
Note, as well, that December 11 should strike one as a time of winter darkness and not at all propitious for an arctic expedition.
Lastly, we have the first intimation of the lively controversy (in this book and elsewhere) between men and women: female domesticity (and due caution) versus male ambition and the drive for adventure.
To me this shows just how artfully constructed this text actually is, right from the start. Which reveals it to be not boring.