Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I remain in awe how several readings of the same text can yield different thoughts.  In my most recent reading of Frankenstein, my musings ran more to the author and how she may have felt during the creation, editing, and publication of this piece.  I thought of how I, who admits to being hardware challenged, sometimes tackle household tasks I’m tired of asking my husband to perform.  After I’m done, he inevitably goes and does the whole thing over again–though he didn’t have the time or inclination to do it in the first place–without even seeing if it was okay or not.  I’ve stopped questioning him about why he does it because all I ever get is a pat on the head and a patronizing stare.  Because you couldn’t have done it correctly on your own.

Although Mary Shelley is by far a better writer than I am handy-woman, I wonder if she got that same stare and pat as Mr. Shelley “greatly improved” her story.  I’ve never read the Norton critical edition of the text, and after discovering (through an essay by Anne Mellor at the back of the book) that Mr. Shelley mostly made style edits to his wife’s original manuscript, the burning question surfaced: What was wrong with the way she wrote it in the first place?

It seems that Shelley’s “colloquial” phrases, as Mellor terms them, would have been easier to read and definitely less cumbersome to get through than Mr. Shelley’s additions of mouthfuls.  Perhaps Shelley was just a writer who was born too early, as her sparse wording is in the style we are usually taught to emulate in modern times.  Purple prose is out–getting to the point is in.  Shelley’s original cliffhanger ending would definitely have lent itself to a sequel, which productive modern writers might want to have a shot at these days.

Was Shelley tired of having to explain how she came up with such a gruesome idea that was much unlike anything in print up to that point?  Maybe she felt she’d already revealed too much of her inner self  and innate talent (even more than her husband was privy to) in the expansion of that idea into an entire novel, and in order to get back into the position of “student” rather than skate forward to “teacher”, she acquiesced to Mr. Shelley’s experience and position as her husband.

So I completely understand why she went along with the Mr., because it’s probably the same reason I go along with mine:  when the picture he rehangs behind me falls and breaks, we both know I really did it right the first time.


About rjjoseph

I am a Texas based writer who must produce words to exorcise the voices that will never quiet until I give them their due.
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1 Response to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

  1. Mike Arnzen says:

    An awesome response (ironically, my wife sometimes does this same thing to me, when it comes to some mechanical repairs and with housework! I’m useless, though, naturally.) I love how you integrate Mellor’s essay into this and in the board posts you made recently… well done. The different versions of this book are an excellent study; Mr. Shelley was a fairly well-known poet, so it should come as know surprise that he arrogantly rewrote his wife’s work — he probably did an okay job, meant well, and surely loved her, but this is ultimately a paternalistic kind of censorship of her voice (as you nicely argue above). Publishing was a lot different then.

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