The modern Prometheus Essay
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When he finally meets up with Victor the monster has become incredibly lonely and yearns for a mate; another creature like himself to love and to love him in return instead of turning away from him in fear as mankind had done. He pleads with Frankenstein to create him a female so that he may have a companion to share his life with; promising that, in return no further harm should befall anyone else in Victor’s family. Victor Frankenstein is horrified of the thought of creating another wretched creature such as this and refuses the monsters pleas.
Enraged at this response Frankenstein’s creation vows to bring the worst kind of pain and misery imaginable to the life of Victor and his family. He murders Victor’s closest and dearest friend Henry Clerval and on the eve of Victor’s wedding day to the beautiful Elizabeth, the monster enters her bedroom and murders her also. The news of this destruction weakens his poor father who to passes away soon after; thus bringing about the death of all those closest to Victor, with the exception of his brother Ernest who curiously slips away from the story after his fathers death never to be mentioned again.
As Prometheus stole and gave the knowledge of fire to man and was then severely punished for it; Victor is also punished for his deeds. However, he is punished by his creation whereas Prometheus was punished by the god with whom he had defied. Victor spends weeks alone searching the seas in the hope of finding and finally destroying his creation only to be thwarted by ill health and eventually dying onboard Robert Walton’s ship after telling his tale of misery and woe.
There was however, an interesting reference to Victor being a God at this point in the book and it came from Robert Walton this time and not from Victor Frankenstein himself. “What a glorious creature he must have been in the days of his prosperity, when he is thus noble and godlike in ruin! He seems to feel his own worth and the greatness of his fall. ” (Shelly 1994:203) Looking back at these comparisons it is easy to see how Victor Frankenstein could well have been thought of as a modern Prometheus in Mary Shelly’s book.
He defies the gods by creating life himself. Victor Frankenstein, in attempting to become a modern Prometheus, is indeed also punished, but Victor is punished by his own creation rather than his creator. Unlike Prometheus’ gift of fire to mankind to aid survival, Victor’s gift to mankind, the elixir of life, would remain a terrible secret that should have never been revealed at all. So, how is the subtitle of the ‘Modern Prometheus’ important to the novel? Why did Mary Shelly use the ‘Modern Prometheus’ as a subtitle at all?
In conclusion, it appears that by introducing the ancient Greek story of Prometheus into her novel, Mary Shelly seems to be elevating her story to a much higher level than that of just another gothic horror story of the period; by enriching her text with the addition of another more ancient one she has created something far more outreaching. The same could also be said of her inclusion of the references in her story to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and of John Miltons Paradise Lost.
She has made her story more intricate than it would have been had she made no reference to Prometheus at all. So, while certain parts of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, could indeed be compared to the ancient Greek story of Prometheus. She has, more importantly , used the subtitle of the ‘Modern Prometheus’ as a clever tool to give a much more dramatic effect to her novel; extending it out much further than just the pages that it was originally printed on.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Shelly, M. , Frankenstein or, the Modern Prometheus (Penguin Popular Classics 1994)
REFERENCE New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (Book Club Associates) 1986 Green, R. L. , Tales of the Greek Heroes (Puffin Books) 1985 Pinsent, J. , Greek Mythology (Hamlyn) 1969 Rose, H. J. , A Handbook of Greek Mythology: Including it’s Extension to Rome (Methuen) 1958 /myths/prometheus. html accessed on 28th October 2003 1 Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Mary Shelley section.