More on some differences between the texts of 1818 and 1831


More on some differences between the texts of 1818 and 1831:
  • the 1831 text is differently structured: after Letters 1-4, the chapters are through-numbered, from 1 to 24; this to a large extent obscures the original division into three volumes and also affects the reader's awareness of how Walton, Frankenstein and the monster's narratives are bracketed one within another;
  • the epigraph from Milton's Paradise Lost that appeared on the title page of the first edition has been removed:
    Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
    To mould me man? Did I solicit thee
    From darkness to promote me?—
  • the absence of these lines (which some modern editors of the 1831 edition restore) removes the announcement of a key theme of the novel, as seen from the point of view of Frankenstein's creation;
  • Mary Shelley removed many of the references to new scientific ideas, thus detaching the novel from its original intellectual context and the issues that were being debated both publicly and in the Byron-Shelley circle;
  • Frankenstein's character is very differently conceived: whereas in the 1818 version there are many points at which he could exercise free will and choose not to carry on with his experiments, in the 1831 text he is seen as being, like all human beings, entirely at the mercy of fate, helpless to counteract the forces of chance that appear to control the universe.


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