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Verisimilitude of Proximate Cause
A d v e r t i s e m e n t
In one of his first footnotes to the text of The Essential
Frankenstein, Leonard Wolf writes that Shelley’s use of letters in
the novel “gives an aura of verisimilitude to the action; and it
permits her to manipulate the reader’s point of view”. Inconsistencies.
If this were true, we could expect readers to take an interest in Walton,
with a view as to how various developments have or will affect him.
A sequel to Shelley’s famous novel might well begin with a
letter to Margaret Saville from the insurance company, requesting
the surrender of all her brother’s letters for use in the investigation
of a substantial claim. If the ship were lost, the insurance
underwriters would have a great financial interest in evidence that
the ship was used in contravention of the conditions stipulated in
the insurance contract. A public examination of the manipulation of
a family member by a madman could be painful to the Saville
family. A foretaste of such is offered by Shelley in the scene in
which Victor tries to involve the magistrate in his crusade. As will
later be shown, there are some discrepancies in Victor’s story. The
reader, who notices these discrepancies, will see how the magistrate
could have determined that the story was a fabrication, if the
version Victor told Walton is the same as the one the magistrate
heard. That is, assuming that Victor did not make up the account of
his telling his story to the magistrate.
Pat Dunlap observes that it is not uncommon for readers to be left
with the impression that Shelley’s Walton promises Victor that he
will destroy the Creature, should the opportunity to do so arise.
Walton records no such promise. Shelley provides information that
explains why Walton would be reluctant to make such a promise,
or, if he did, why he would choose not to record it. Insurance is
mentioned as a necessity in Walton’s first letter. Shelley enhances
the verisimilitude the insurance requirement provides with the
change mentioned on page 32 to Walton’s fourth letter in the 1831
edition. As if revising his letter, in order to remove a loose thread
that, if pulled, could unravel the veil that conceals his having
strayed from the confines of his contract, Walton’s letters provide
more than the aura of verisimilitude to the action Wolf suggests.
The action that is hidden from view becomes more in evidence,
even while the mystery surrounding it remains impenetrable.
In the Vitebsk story, when Walton approves the guest’s
suggestions, and when the debacle occurs, the man’s name and his
motivations are unknowns.
38 [To a Candid World Menu]
To a Candid World, Copyright 1998, Thomas Wolfsehr