An Analysis of the Subtitle ‘the Modern Prometheus’ with Reference to the Character of Viktor Frankenstein in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein

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An analysis of the subtitle ‘The Modern Prometheus’ with reference to the character of Viktor Frankenstein in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.

The idea of man’s attaining God like power, challenging the authority of the divine and having a homocentric world was the interest of the nineteenth century scientists, physician and other natural philosophers. They dissected and experimented on many living things including humans in order to gain the knowledge of the insides of the human body and explored every possible way to create life. The idea of a ‘mad scientist’ in Viktor and the concept of creating life in a laboratory originated with Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus (1818). Authors such as Poe, R. L. Stevenson, H. G. Wells and many more followed Shelley’s lead and incorporated science fiction as a genre in their works.

Shelly’s Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus is Man’s challenge to the authority of creation which is limited only to God and constantly seeking to define his place in the universe. Viktor, born into a wealthy family in Geneva, is encouraged to seek a greater understanding around him through science and he becomes so obsessed that he plans to reanimate life and hence works very hard in his mission. Frankenstein reflects the interest of early nineteenth-century world in biology and experiments on animals to revive the drowned and the newly dead, and reanimating dead tissue using electricity. These researchers sought to benefit humankind and to end death and disease through their investigations into “the secrets of nature.” Both parts of the title of Shelley's book refer to the main character of the story; they refer to the scientist Victor Frankenstein whom she termed as the ‘Modern Prometheus’. While the first part of the title mentions that the book could be taken as a biography of Viktor Frankenstein, the second part of the title brings up a question of interpretation.

To understand the Promethean theme in...
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