Mary Shelley’s original version of Frankenstein was popular among her peers. But she wanted to respond to criticism, elevate the main character’s thinking, and clarify the plot details. The versions differ by the introduction, expanded Victor’s monologue, and the character’s portrait.
Frankenstein was published in 1818 and became one of the iconic books of this literary period. It was well-received by readers. But it attracted much attention from literary critics. Frankenstein was criticized for its immorality and questioned in terms of religion. It raised debate among the audience. Thirteen years later, the author changed the original text to update the contents. She interpreted the novel for a more natural reading experience.
Shelley changed the structure of her work and expanded its initial meaning. This decision added depth to the previous edition and responded to its criticism. The 1818 and 1831 versions of Frankenstein differ in three main aspects.
- The flow of Victor’s thoughts was changed.
- The introduction was expanded.
- The characters’ portraits were modified.
First, the author added a comment on the main character’s thoughts and ideas. In the 1831 version, his actions are more coherent. It allowed readers to track his reflections and motives. This change answered the criticism for the first edition. It made the tone of the novel easier to understand. She developed the traits of her protagonist. In addition, Shelley shifted the attention from the scientific details that used to be in focus.
Second, the 1831 edition expanded the introduction and changed the structure. In the updated version, Shelley explained why she wrote the book and split the first part. It has more chapters than the original one. In such a way, the readers could understand the author’s intent better. The three volumes explained Walton’s, Frankenstein’s, and the monster’s points of view.
Shelley decided to delete the opening quote from Paradise Lost. Thus, she reduced the degree of symbolism. She also removed the explanation of Frankenstein’s creation.
Third, both versions differ in the way they portray some characters. In the original, Victor’s love, Elizabeth, was his cousin. The love between relatives was not uncommon for Shelley’s time. But it disturbed some readers. The author made Elizabeth an adopted orphan.
Shelley made many changes to the monster’s portrait. The first version illustrates him as a creature with free will. In the second version, he is a lost animal absorbed in the unhappy chain of events.