Science Fiction 451

Sep 14

Oh the difference that changes make.

Frankenstein is a book that has captured the attention of thousands of readers since it’s publication in 1818. It was initially criticized as an “abomination” but soon gained the admiration of it’s readers. Frankenstein quickly gained popularity and was adapted into many plays, of at least one Shelly witnessed. With all of the success this book was quickly up for reprinting in 1823. According to the site http://www.english.upenn.edu/Projects/knarf/Articles/murray.html, this reprinting changed many grammatical choices of Shelly’s and also updated some of the words. This addition is seen to be fairly similar to the original print, however there some instances such as “1818 [towards my fellow-creatures] 1823 towards the beings of my own species” where the editor made some word choices which seem to direct the reader in a different direction than Shelly originally pointed them. Most of these additions and changes wern’t to glaringly different from the original.

This brings us to the 1831 publication. This edition was edited by M.K. Joseph, who presumably took the changes made to the 1823 edition and changed the book drastically. These changes included, “It was, perhaps, the amiable character of this man that inclined me more to that branch of natural philosophy which he professed, than an intrinsic love for the science itself. But this state of mind had place only in the first steps towards knowledge: the more fully I entered into the science, the more exclusively I pursued it for its own sake. That application, which at first had been a matter of duty and resolution, now to “In a thousand ways he smoothed for me the path of knowledge, and made the most abstruse enquiries clear and facile to my apprehension. My application was at first fluctuating and uncertain; it gained strength as I proceeded, and soon”. This is just one of 192 changes made from the 1818 edition and it is a huge one. In the original text we see a man who is fixated on a specific branch of  “natural philosophy” and in the seccond we see a man who gained resolve in his wan’t to study thanks to his teacher. This small change completely changes the passion we see building behind Frankenstein’s studies.

But why were these changes made? There has been much speculation about this, but I have to think that it is to cover up what literary people of the time considered Shelly’s feminine qualities. The original edition showed the passion that Frankenstein had, his ability to love and feel, but these are considered feminine traits and I think the editor covered up this, because he though Frankenstein was a strong male character and that these traits weakened his credibility as such. The 1800’s were not a good time for a progressive female, and I think that the 1831 editorial changes were a way to stifle such a creative women, as Shelly was.

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