Robert Walton and the Creature both contribute much to Victor Frankenstein’s character. They are both strong foil characters in the novel. A foil character is a minor character whose situation or actions parallel those of a major character, and by contrast, clarifies certain elements of the major character. Walton plays a role that both parallels and contrasts to Victor are in many ways, yet it appears that Robert Walton is the more effective foil for Victor Frankenstein.
Walton’s letters to his sister at the beginning of the story foreshadow the feelings and motivations that Frankenstein experiences when he first discovers “the cause of generation and life.” Both Walton and Frankenstein are adventurous and obsessive with knowledge. The two work hard towards being the one who takes charge or to be the first at doing something/seeing something. Walton is going on a voyage and is feeling excited about being on the verge of discovering new land, passages, powers, and glory. His enthusiasm in discovering “the wondrous power which attracts the needle and regulates a thousand celestial observations” and his urging curiosity to tread a land that has never been before imprinted by the foot of man parallel the feelings of Frankenstein’s fascination with the mystery of the creation of life. This same enthusiasm is expressed in this quotation by Frankenstein: “the astonishment which I had at first experienced on this discovery soon gave place to delight and rapture.” (Shelly 53) The dangerous journey Walton embarks upon is also a metaphor for Frankenstein’s dangerous intellectual journey. Walton mentions that he is ever so excited to explore unvisited regions even though it may risk his life.
In the same sense, Frankenstein discovers the ability to create life. Toward the end of the story, Walton describes his dangerous voyage in a letter to his sister. The letter explains that he’s surrounded by mountains of ice, thus he has no escape, and they threaten every moment to crush his vessel. Frankenstein’s journey ended the same way.