Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus?

1358 words 6 pages
In order to illustrate the main theme of her novel "Frankenstein", Mary Shelly draws strongly on the myth of Prometheus, as the subtitle The Modern Prometheus indicates. Maurice Hindle, in his critical study of the novel, suggests, "the primary theme of Frankenstein is what happens to human sympathies and relationships when men seek obsessively to satisfy their Promethean longings to "conquer the unknown" - supposedly in the service of their fellow-humans". This assertion is discussed by first describing the Promethean connection. Thereafter, the two forms of the myth, Prometheus the fire-stealer and Prometheus the life-giver are reviewed in the context of Shelly's use of the myth in her novel
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The Prometheus myth was an important myth 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 creative art both rebelled against the established order and brought enlightenment and liberation to the people. Katherine Newey in her critique of the novel, suggests that Mary Shelley was challenging this Romantic belief in the unquestioned value of the human imagination, and that the novel was a direct challenge to her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and their mutual colleagues regarding the unchecked 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 imaginings.

Mary Shelly's reservations about the unrestricted pursuit of knowledge and the dangers inherent in that pursuit are a timely warning across the decades as scientists today explore genetic engineering, cloning and other branches of bio-science. Perhaps, these are yet more examples of the modern Prometheus.

In conclusion, the obvious connection between the myth and the novel is to that of Prometheus the life-giver. Frankenstein created the Monster in the shape of a man, thereby becoming a life-giver. However, it could be argued that


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