In her Introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, Mary Shelly characterized her revisions as “principally those of style” and added that she had not “introduced any new ideas and circumstances” or altered the storys “core and substance. ” After reading the original (1818) and the revised (1831) version of Frankenstein, I believe the changes that Shelly has made to the 1831 edition are far more than Just a variation in style or cosmetic. She does make a few changes to the characters’ profiles and their relationship in the 1831 edition.
In this essay, I am going to use the most ignificant woman character in this novel, Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor Frankenstein’s fianc?©e, to present my finding. In the original and the revised versions, the story begins with the letters of Captain Robert Walton to his sister and the narration of Victor Frankenstein to Walton. Victor starts with his family background and early childhood, telling Walton about his father, Alphonse, and his mother, Caroline, and how they get married.
He then goes on describing how his childhood companion, Elizabeth Lavenza, entered his family.
It is at this point in the narrative that the 1818 and revised versions of Frankenstein diverge. I must record an incident which took place when I was four years of age. My father had a sister, whom he tenderly loved, About the time I mentioned she died; and a few months afterwards he received a letter from her husband, acquainting him with his intention of marrying an Italian lady, and requesting my father to take charge of the infant Elizabeth, the only child of his deceased sister… My father did not hesitate, and immediately went to Italy, that he might accompany the little Elizabeth to her future home…
From this time Elizabeth Lavenza became my playfellow, and, as we grew older, my friend.
(1818 original version) In the original version, Elizabeth is Victor’s cousin, the daughter of Alphonse’s sister. When Victor is four years old, Elizabeth’s mother dies and she is adopted into the Frankenstein family. Caroline plays no role at all in making the decision to bring Elizabeth into Victor’s life. When I was about five years old… my father had gone by himself to Milan, my mother, accompanied by me, visited this abode.
She found a peasant and his wife, hard working, bent down by care and labour, distributing a scanty meal to five hungry babes. Among these there was one which attracted my mother far above all the rest… The peasant woman, perceiving that my mother fixed eyes of wonder and admiration on this lovely girl, eagerly communicated her history… the result was that Elizabeth Lavenza became the inmate of my parents’ house–my more than sister the beautiful and adored companion of all my occupations and my pleasures. 1831 edition) In the 1831 edition, it is Victor’s mother, Caroline, who finds Elizabeth and sets about Elizabeth’s arrival, Victor’s mother says, “l have a pretty present for my Victor- tomorrow he shall have it. ” (1831 edition) Caroline decides at the moment of the doption that Elizabeth and Victor should marry someday. I think the change of Elizabeth’s past brings to the 1831 edition presents a better marriage equality picture between Victor’s father and mother.
When Victor’s father returns from his trip to Milan, Elizabeth is playing with Victor at home. Caroline explains what has happened and her own desire to make Elizabeth a member of the family is shared by her husband. Her interest in helping the less fortunate has made her fulfilled her role as a mother of a daughter as well as a son. This change adds a view that is missing from the 1818 version in which Elizabeth comes to the Frankenstein home as the result of a decision made by two men, Victor’s uncle and his father.
In addition, the love relationship between Victor and Elizabeth in the 1818 original version is clearly incestuous because they share the same bloodline. In the 1831 edition, Elizabeth is an adopted child that eventually receives “the name of cousin”. As a result, the later version has removed any suggestion of an incestuous relationship because Elizabeth is converted into an unrelated person of Victor. With the above evidence in mind, I cannot agree with Shelly that her changes in he 1831 edition are merely related to lexical concerns.
However, I must say the main plot is not much of a difference between the 1818 and the 1831 editions. Be it a three volumes in the 1818 original version or a single full volume in the 1831 edition, the story is still about a crazy scientist who is fascinated with the secret of life, discovers it, and brings a hideous monster to life. While I agree that the influence of Elizabeth is an important element of the novel to notice, I don’t think this character is given significant importance in a direct role and therefore, altering my experience of the novel as a whole.