Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus?FRANKENSTEIN, THE MODERN-DAY PROMETHEUS? In order to illustrate the main style of her novel”Frankenstein”, Mary Shelly draws strongly on the misconception of Prometheus, as the subtitle The Modern Prometheus suggests. Maurice Hindle, in his crucial study of the unique, recommends, “the primary theme of Frankenstein is what occurs to human sympathies and relationships when men look for fanatically to please their Promethean yearnings to” dominate the unidentified “– supposedly in the service of their fellow-humans”. This assertion is discussed by very first explaining the Promethean connection. Thereafter, the 2 forms of the myth, Prometheus the fire-stealer and Prometheus the life-giver are examined in the context of Shelly’s usage of the misconception in her novel and their relationship to the main theme. Finally, the character of Frankenstein as a modern Prometheus of the scientific age is talked about in the context of English Romantic literature. This” Promethean yearning “discussed by Hundle, is the connection in between Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton. They both look for to get understanding of the unknown. Victor Frankenstein’s fixation with occult clinical knowledge results in the damage of his friends and family, whilst Walton, the storyteller of the story, triggers many deaths by his obsessive journey to the North Pole. Shelly’s usage of the Prometheus myth combines the 2 variations of the legend, Prometheus the “fire-stealer”and Prometheus the “life-giver”. According to the Ancient Greeks, in the very first variation of the misconception, the Titan, Prometheus, in rebellion versus Zeus, took fire from the sun and offered it to humankind to warm them and enable them to make tools and weapons, thereby enabling them to rise above other animals. Zeus was incensed by Prometheus’ disobedience
, and as punishment, purchased Prometheus chained to a rock, where his liver was eaten by eagles every day and brought back each night so that his torture could be extended for eternity. The second, Roman version of the myth, comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which, according to Newey(1993), Mary Shelly check out in 1815. In this version Prometheus was the Developer who made man from clay and breathed life into him. This relates directly to the quotation on the title page of Shelly’s book. Did I demand thee Maker, from my clay to mould me man. Did I obtain thee from darkness to promote me? Although a quote from Milton’s “Paradise Lost “the plaintive cries of Frankenstein’s disregarded, in-human children can be heard in these words. In relation to the first variation of the Promethean myth, there are several fire-like analogies in Shelly’s novel. Frankenstein’s Beast discovered that fire can be both a necessity for survival, when he was alone in the mountains, and a method of revenge and damage, when he set fire to the De Laceys’hut. Shelley tips that her character Victor Frankenstein, utilizes “fire” in the type of electricity to animate his Beast, this can be seen in the passage where Victor connects to Walton part of his motivation for the production of life:”I witnessed a stream of fire problem from an old and gorgeous oak … therefore soon as the spectacular light disappeared the oak had actually vanished, and nothing remained but a blasted stump … I excitedly asked of my dad the nature and origin of thunder and lightning. He responded,”Electrical power.(page 23 ). Similarly, when he is all set to impart life into his development “I gathered the instruments of life around me, that I may instill a spark of being into the lifeless form”.(page 34 ). In the early 19th Century, when Mary Shelley was composing Frankenstein, electrical power was a new and wondrous science. Science and market were making massive strides and Shelly mistrusted these advances seeing in them something inhuman and that there were areas of understanding finest left alone(Hindle, 1994). The characters of Walter and Frankenstein show the two courses that the pursuit of the unknown can take? one causes destruction the other to resurrection. Frankenstein pursues his fascination to his end in the frozen wastes of the Arctic, whereas Walton extricates his ship from its icy trap and reverses to the recognized world. As Frankenstein advises Walter:” Gain from me?. how dangerous is the acquirement of understanding, and how much better that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become higher than his nature will permit” (page 31). In Frankenstein. it can be seen that Shelly uses the misconception of Prometheus the fire-stealer as an example for clinical understanding, which the” fire” of scientific understanding can be used both for useful and destructive means. Prometheus took the fire for altruistic factors, to help humans. Similarly, Mary Shelley’s conceited researcher, Victor Frankenstein pursued his research studies with the goal of banishing disease and a desire to “render guy invulnerable to any however a violent death “(page 22 )and claimed “A new species would bless me as its developer and source.( page 32 ). Nevertheless, it is really ambition that drives him “like a typhoon” (page 32)as he engineers the Monster. It is not until the Monster opens its eyes and Frankenstein understands that it is not the thing of beauty he hoped to produce that” out of breath horror and disgust “(page 34)fills his heart and sends him rushing out of the room with no idea for what he has actually released upon the world. Victor Frankenstein can undoubtedly be seen as the modern-day Prometheus, by defying the gods and developing life, Victor puts himself in God’s location and becomes Prometheus, the Creator. Like Prometheus, Victor is penalized for his deeds. Not by the gods but by his own animal and even that punishment may not have been so severe had he not ignored the poor malformed creature so entirely. The Prometheus misconception was a crucial misconception for the English Romantics.(Study Guide LCS16 1999, p. 36 )For them it represented the poet in the dual roles of creator and rebel. Their imaginative art both rebelled against the recognized order and brought enlightenment and liberation to the people. Katherine Newey in her review of the unique, suggests that Mary Shelley was challenging this Romantic belief in the unquestioned value of the human creativity, and that the novel was a direct obstacle to her spouse Percy Bysshe Shelley and their shared associates relating to
the uncontrolled egotism of the artist. whilst neither Walton, Frankenstein or the Monster are poets they are all possessed of the Romantic egotism. Each of them desires that the world be rebuilt according to their dreams and conceptions. Mary Shelly’s appointments about the unlimited pursuit of understanding and the risks inherent in that pursuit are a timely warning across the decades as researchers today explore genetic modification, cloning and other branches of bio-science. Perhaps, these are yet
more examples of the contemporary Prometheus. In conclusion, the apparent connection between the myth and the book is to that of Prometheus the life-giver. Frankenstein created the Beast in the shape of a male, consequently becoming a life-giver. Nevertheless, it might be argued that Frankenstein is better connected to Prometheus the fire-stealer. Frankenstein’s explores the 2 edged sword of forbidden knowledge had the possibility of bestowing fantastic good upon mankind or possibly the destruction of humankind. Shelley has utilised both versions of the myth to excellent effect in the advancement of the primary theme.
Her character, Frankenstein, efficiently ruined all he held dear as an effect of his obsession with the pursuit of forbidden understanding. Bibliography Griffith, G. V. 1997 Frankenstein in the Context of the Romantic Period. Recovered April 2004 from http://www. enotes. com Hindle, M. 1994, Mary Shelley Frankenstein Penguin Books, London Hunter, J. P. (ed.), 1996, Mary Shelley Frankenstein. The 1818 Text, Contexts, Nineteenth-Century Reactions, Modern Criticism, W. W. Norton; Business, New York City Newey, K. 1993, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Sydney University Press, Sydney Schmidt, A. 1999, The Myth of Prometheus, Obtained April 2004 from http://www. enotes. com Oates, J. C. 1984 Frankenstein’s Fallen Angel, in Important Questions, Vol 10 No. 3. Retrieved April 2004 from http://www. enotes. com Research study Guide LCS16 1999.