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The Myth of Prometheus in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Essay

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The Myth of  Prometheus in Frankenstein

 
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein as a modern day version of the legend of Prometheus. Prometheus created men out of clay and taught them the "arts of civilisation" (Webster's World Encyclopedia CD-ROM 1999). Zeus, the chief god of the Titans, wanted to destroy Prometheus' creation but Prometheus stole fire from heaven to help mankind. Zeus punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock where an eagle would feed on his liver during the day and each night the liver would grow back. Prometheus was able to bargain for his release because he knew a secret which concerned Zeus' future. Heracles shot the eagle and so Prometheus gained release. Victor Frankenstein is Shelley's modern Prometheus in that he, too, created man. The themes that relate to the myth of Prometheus in the novel are Frankenstein's torment, the monster's education, and the absolute determination of the individual spirit and how this determination can rival that of God. Shelley uses these themes to show that the human spirit is capable of many things - of noble pursuits that rival God himself, but also of the darkest of actions that draw comparisons with the acts of Satan.

Victor Frankenstein is in the first part of the book described as a very noble person, with human curiosities while not common to most people are nevertheless normal. Our sympathy is entirely with him. His desire for knowledge and his eagerness to achieve high goals and to bring the human race further in its effort to erase the pains and sufferings of mortality only make him seem more admirable. He seems to devote his whole life to the benefit of humanity. The sea captain, Walton, sums up this impression when he says " How can I see so noble a creat...


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... could find form his torture was death. It is ironic that the monster is initially kindly and good natured until the corruption of humanity seeps into his heart and he finally comes to be the monster that he is perceived as.

 

List of References

Webster's World Encyclopedia 1999 CD-ROM, Webster Publishing, Frenchs Forest

Shelley, M., Frankenstein, Aerie, USA

Boyd, S., 1984 York notes on Frankenstein, Longman Group, Essex


Bibliography

Webster's World Encyclopedia 1999 CD-ROM, Webster Publishing, Frenchs Forest

Shelley, M., Frankenstein, Aerie, USA

Boyd, S., 1984 York notes on Frankenstein, Longman Group, Essex

Griffith University Faculty 1999, Romanticism And Modern Culture Study Guide, Griffith University

Griffith University Faculty 1999, Romanticism And Modern Culture Readings Booklet, Griffith University

 


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