From Myth to Fable: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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By giving “Frankenstein” the subtitle “The Modern Prometheus”, Mary Shelley made a connection between a central character of her 19th century novel and a titan from Greek mythology. Prometheus was employed by the Olympian gods in the process of creating men, and is known for stealing the element of fire from them for the benefit of mankind (Hunt). The myth about him appeared in many legends and fables prior to its reincarnation in the story about Victor Frankenstein, a science student who created a being by reviving dead matter using electricity (Atsma). “Frankenstein” is a modern image of the ancient myth. At the same time, it is a “Gothic”, Romantic novel, with an affinity to traditional fables visible in its content and structure. The chief contrast between the novel and the myth is the absence of gods. Victor does “not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition” (Shelley 51) since in his story human abilities replaced supernatural powers. Prometheus was punished by the gods; Frankenstein – by the product of his scientific endeavors. Electricity was his modern version of the stolen fire. In addition to science, other utterly human powers played significant roles in the novel, emphasizing its modern character. In the spirit of Romanticism, Shelley depicted the evils of her contemporary society. Due to his “miserable deformity” (114), the creature met with human prejudice and aggression, of both individuals and crowds. From his experiences with people, even with the De Lacey family that he admired, he learned that man was “at once so powerful, so virtuous…yet so vicious and base” (119). However, unlike other characters, he had managed to escape another man-made evil: the law. Justine, Safie, her father,... ... middle of paper ... ...n an ancient myth, the novel focused on a modern concern; the fear of scientific progress. Even though times are constantly changing, mankind’s fears of change and the unknown stay the same. Works Cited Atsma, Aaron J. “Prometheus.” Theoi Project, 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2014 Hunt, J.M. “The Creation of Man by Prometheus.” Prometheas. The Hellenic Society Prometheas, 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2014 Jacobs, Joseph. “Aesop’s Fables.” Ed. Eliot, Charles W. Bartleby, 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2014 Kirsch, Adam. “What’s Romantic about Science?” Slate. Slate, 20 July 2009. Web. 21 Jan. 2014 Leveen, Lois. “The Narrator.” Reed College Department of English, 2002. Web. 29 Jan. 2014 The Purdue OWL. The Writing Lab and OWL at Purdue and Purdue U, 2008. Web. 29 Jan. 2014 Shelley, Mary. “Frankenstein.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

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