Frankenstein's Origin: Assessing Thompson's Argument for the Creature's Literary Ancestors

Frankenstein's Origin: Assessing Thompson's Argument for the Creature's Literary Ancestors

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The greatest modern stories often hail from ancient myths, and Mary Shelley's novel,
Frankenstein, proves no exception to this claim. Replete with references to John Milton's
Paradise Lost and the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus, the story of Frankenstein seems, in
many ways, very much like the Creature himself—which is to say, cobbled together from various
scraps of previously existing parts. Terry W. Thompson, however, argues convincingly that
scholars continue to ignore one of Frankenstein's most influential literary antecedents: the Greek
hero known as Hercules (Thompson 36). In his article, "'A Majestic Figure of August Dignity':
Herculean Echoes in Frankenstein," Thompson even goes so far as to list, point-for-point, the
story and character points that align the Creature with the Greek hero. All in all, Thompson
makes a compelling argument demonstrating the interconnectivity of literature. After offering a
brief summary of Thompson's article, I will next analyze the merits and flaws of his arguments
before finally demonstrating how his article serves as a useful template for examining the
influence of older art works on more modern art works.

Thompson begins his article by listing literary works mentioned by Mary Shelley in her
journals from 1815 and 1816 (36). Thompson seizes upon the story of Hercules as contained in
Ovid's The Metamorphoses—which Shelley, in her journals, claims to have read—as being one
among many interpretations of this myth that may have served as part of Shelley's inspiration for
the tale of Frankenstein (36). For the bulk of the article, then, Thompson builds on this initial
comparison, noting, for example, that just as Zeus marks the birth of Hercules with a m...

... middle of paper ...

Creature parallel one another, Thompson convinces the reader that Shelley may indeed have
drawn on such myths while writing Frankenstein. Although Thompson fails to discuss the
differences between Hercules and the Creature—not to mention the overall significance of his
argument—his article nevertheless proves a useful tool for considering the ways in which
different works of art influence one another. The article helps us see how all art is connected,
and this understanding of influences empowers us to understand culture more fully.

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.

Thompson, Terry W. "'A Majestic Figure of August Dignity': Herculean Echoes in

Frankenstein." ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews 17.3

(2004): 36-41. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 12 October 2010.

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