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Shelly uses 'the Modern Prometheus' as a subtitle to the novel. Explore the ways in which the idea of the 'Modern Prometheus' is important in the novel as a whole.

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Introduction

Shelly uses 'the Modern Prometheus' as a subtitle to the novel. Explore the ways in which the idea of the 'Modern Prometheus' is important in the novel as a whole. Since its first publication in 1818, Mary Shelly's gothic horror story, Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus; originally begun as a mere ghost story told round the fire to some close friends, has fast become part of our modern day contemporary mythology. The use of the 'Modern Prometheus' as the subtitle of this book however, indicates that it has could have also been based on a much more ancient form of mythology. In a way perhaps highlighting that there are really only a few stories in the world and that they just keep being repeated each time being slightly altered to fit the time for each generation. This essay shall explore the Greek myth of the Titan Prometheus and his creation of mankind, the ways in which Prometheus defies the Great God Zeus in an attempt to aid mankind and the subsequent punishment Prometheus receives for such deeds. The essay will then explore in more depth, the parts of Shelly's masterpiece, Frankenstein or, the Modern Prometheus, that could be compared to the idea of the 'Modern Prometheus' and also discuss the ways in which it cannot be compared exactly. ...read more.

Middle

'treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation' (Shelly 1994:46) Here Victor realises that he wants to achieve something much greater than that at which other scientists and philosophers had so far been afraid of and failed to achieve. Thus, in a way, Victor feels that he can become more powerful than man, becoming more like a God, which was Prometheus' wish also. Early references start to appear in Victor's comparison of himself to God: "I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter" (Shelly 1994:50) This sentence is a classic example of Victor's delusion made manifest. Once this knowledge is realised Victor begins to form his own human frame from the parts stolen from dead bodies, believing that with this new found knowledge he will be able to 'breathe' life into his creation through the use of electricity. This is not too dissimilar to the part of the Greek myth where Prometheus creates mankind from clay. Also here the passage could be compared to the fire that Prometheus gave to mankind to aid his survival as being the spark of electricity that Victor gave to his creation to give it animation. ...read more.

Conclusion

"What a glorious creature he must have been in the days of his prosperity, when he is thus noble and godlike in ruin! He seems to feel his own worth and the greatness of his fall." (Shelly 1994:203) Looking back at these comparisons it is easy to see how Victor Frankenstein could well have been thought of as a modern Prometheus in Mary Shelly's book. He defies the gods by creating life himself. Victor Frankenstein, in attempting to become a modern Prometheus, is indeed also punished, but Victor is punished by his own creation rather than his creator. Unlike Prometheus' gift of fire to mankind to aid survival, Victor's gift to mankind, the elixir of life, would remain a terrible secret that should have never been revealed at all. So, how is the subtitle of the 'Modern Prometheus' important to the novel? Why did Mary Shelly use the 'Modern Prometheus' as a subtitle at all? In conclusion, it appears that by introducing the ancient Greek story of Prometheus into her novel, Mary Shelly seems to be elevating her story to a much higher level than that of just another gothic horror story of the period; by enriching her text with the addition of another more ancient one she has created something far more outreaching. ...read more.

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