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    Is Victor Frankenstein a modern Prometheus? Essay

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    The full title of Mary Shelley’s gothic novel is: “Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus.” Which allows us to make the analogy between Victor Frankenstein and the myth of Prometheus whom within Ovid actually moulds the first human out of clay. He is subsequently punished by the Gods and tied to Mount Caucasus where an eagle feeds on his liver all day, whilst at night the liver is renewed. It is therefore clear that from just the title Shelley’s intentions were to relate these two tales together. The way Victor becomes “capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter” shows how both the character of Victor and the mythical Prometheus can be seen to be acting as God; only God is to create life.

    What drove Frankenstein to this was an unquenchable first for knowledge for how “any animal (is) endured with life” and a lack of understanding limitations. Similarly Prometheus is described to be an overreacher whom rebels against any restrictions set by the Gods in an attempt to achieve his utmost desire. Nevertheless, some would argue that Frankenstein isn’t ‘Playing God’ like Prometheus, but being in a time where science was the dominant idea and continuous inventions were happening, Victor was simply playing with science: “Became acquainted with the science of anatomy” His discovery just went further than that of the norm.

    This idea of the substitution of modern idea goes against Frankenstein being presented as Prometheus. The quote: “I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition, or to have feared the apparition of a spirit.” Shows the little emphases that are placed on religion in Victor’s life. Instead it has been replaced by science. Nonetheless, we have to consider the title as the Modern Prometheus; meaning in modern day times, science is the new religion. It’s also important to remember that Shelley suggests the spark of life is not fire which is in one version of the Prometheus, but the modern version of heat and light; electricity.

    This connection between the two characters can further be seen when Victor is continuously punished for his crime of bestowing life; similar to Prometheus in the way that they are not killed (although eventually Frankenstein is) but are kept alive for the purpose of feeling total misery and “agony in despair”. However we must also take into consideration whether Victor’s punishment is due to the sin of actually making the creation; as it was with Prometheus, or whether it was more due to failure to take responsibility for and nurture the creature, which he produced. In this view, therefore, Victor is not seen to be the modern Prometheus due to the fact that he was punished for what he failed to do, but rather than what he did do.

    Consequently this shows that although Shelley’s intentions were to have distinctive similarities between that of her character Victor Frankenstein and of the mythical Prometheus there are also many distinctive differences. One of them being the way that unlike Prometheus, who is admired by many, especially Romantic poets who saw him to be an isolated rebel hero; fearless in his quest to bring light to men and although punished still noble in his suffering, Victor is tended to be seen by the readers as a man driven be a desire for personal glory rather than to help mankind. Maybe however this modern change to Prometheus made by Shelley demonstrates her criticisms of the egocentric and antisocial ways of Romanticism; therefore suggesting there is little hope for humanity is such introvert behaviour.

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