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Free Study Guide-Frankenstein by Mary Shelley-Free Chapter Summary Notes
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LETTER 2

Summary

While the first letter is written in the month of December, the second letter is written in March after Robert has hired a vessel and is busy organizing sailors for his expedition. But Robert is still looking for something else: a friend. He feels lonely and acknowledges a strong need to have a friend to share the joys and sorrows of his success or disappointment. He believes he cannot find a friend at all, but he does mention a lieutenant whom he has employed. Robert evidently admires him for his good qualities and describes how this lieutenant had once fallen in love with a rich Russian lady. He was willing to marry her, but on learning that she was in love with someone else, he abandoned the idea. Furthermore, he was generous enough to leave his entire fortune to his rival, who was much poorer than himself. Having overcome their financial worries, the couple was able to be married.

He also reveals to his sister that 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' had always been a major source of his enthusiasm and his passion for the sailor's life.

This letter also ends with a farewell note that addresses the possibility that Robert may never see his sister again.

Notes

Robert is seen rather depressed here, in contrast to the enthusiastic and excited sailor of Letter 1. His need for a friend is quite genuine. He does not think that expressing his thoughts on paper is a substitute for human contact. He blames his past for the fact that he is "self-educated," but "more illiterate" in reality. He feels he has missed out on a great deal in terms of companionship, having kept only books as companions for the twenty-eight years of his life. He says his dreams need "keeping" (he needs someone to confide his wishes in), and he needs a friend who will not reproach him for being a romantic, but will "regulate his mind" instead.


It is worth noting that this sense of loneliness that Robert faces is similar to that of the protagonist of the story. As will be seen subsequently, Victor was quite lonely at his time at the university when nobody around him echoed his romantic aspirations. The reader will come across a number of similar parallels between Robert and Victor.

Robert is resigned to the idea that he cannot find a friend anywhere on the wide ocean. He then talks about his lieutenant who appears to be a kind, gentle and mild-mannered person. Robert is evidently quite contented to have employed him. He feels an affinity with the lieutenant; both of them are kind-hearted and not likely to resort to violence, even in the often brutal atmosphere of sea life. Robert claims to have developed this gentle attitude under the guidance of his kind sister. Critics such as Margaret Waller have noticed how male characters often exhibit typically "feminine" traits in Romantic literature.

The story of the lieutenant is rather intriguing. It is rather unusual that someone as benevolent as he should have few friends. He is a silent man, "who detracts from the sympathy and interest which otherwise he would command." This disposition of cold reserve may be a result of his experience with unrequited love. One can perhaps see his situation running parallel to Robert's. Apparently, Robert dreads turning into a similarly reserved and isolated person.

In his letter, he hastily dismisses the topic of the lieutenant and returns to his plans for the voyage. His determination becomes evident as he does not let loneliness hinder his sole purpose (his voyage), which he claims to be "as fixed as fate." He is obviously a responsible leader since the safety of his employees is a priority for him.

He promises he "shall kill no albatross," a reference Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," in which the killing of an albatross has dire consequences. It is highly appropriate that this famous poem is one of the sources of Robert's passion for the sea. One can even identify Robert with the ancient mariner, who started out like any other inexperienced sailor, but ended up a wiser man, due to his curiosity about mysterious things.

It is worth noting that Robert always concludes his letters on a depressing note. He is never completely optimistic about returning from his voyages successfully. At the same time, however, he is practical enough to understand that his death is a distinct possibility. He is probably preparing his sister for it.

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