beings to learn of and master our habitat, would we not still be counted among the
beasts? For all of the good that knowledge brings to us, however, knowledge can just
as easily bring pain. We discover new types of medicine to extend our lives, but that is
balanced by our awareness of our mortality. We find new advances in technology with
which to bring convenience into our lives, but those advances are countered by the
resulting pollutions that are poisoning our world. These conflicting aspects of
knowledge and its consequences were first discussed thousands of years ago by the
ancient Greeks. The Titan Prometheus bestowed upon mankind the gift of knowledge,
but that gift came with a price. In Frankenstein: or, A Modern Prometheus, Mary
Shelley brings the ideas of Prometheus into the early 19th century by co-opting three of
the central themes of the Prometheus myth—the themes of knowledge with
consequence, the underlying sexism within the story of Pandora, and the use of
lightning as a means of representing knowledge.
A brief discussion of the myth of Prometheus is warranted. There are two major
myths involving Prometheus—those of Prometheus pyrophorus, who brings fire from
the lightning bolt of Zeus to benefit mankind, and that of Prometheus plasticator, who
creates man out of clay. These two major themes involving Prometheus at first seem
disparate but upon close examination fit together quite well. Prometheus is both the
creator and benefactor of man. Eventually, “[b]y about the second or third century A.D.,
the two elements where fused together, so that the fire stolen by Prometheus was also
... middle of paper ...
Integrity. 8.3 (2006): 257-270. Academic Search Premire. Web. 17 Nov. 2008.
Shelley, Mary . Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein.
Ed. Johanna M. Smith. 2nd ed. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism.
Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s P, 2000. 19-189. Print.
Shattuck, Roger. Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography. New York:
St. Martin’s P, 1996. Print.
Smith, C.U.M. “A Strand of Vermicelli: Dr. Darwin’s Part in the Creation of
Frankenstein’s Monster.” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. 32.1 (2007): 45-53.
Academic Search Premire. Web. 17 Nov. 2008.
Smith, Johanna M. “’Cooped Up’ with ‘Sad Trash’: Domesticity and the Sciences in
Frankenstein.” Mary Shelley: Frankenstein. Ed. Johanna M. Smith. 2nd ed.
Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s P, 2000.
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