The Modern Prometheus

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  • Topic: Frankenstein, Prometheus, Mary Shelley
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  • Published : January 25, 2013
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“The Modern Prometheus”
Analysis of Prometheus Allusions in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Such is the subtitle that accompanies Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein. We’ve all heard of the famous monster created by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. But, not many know why the story is subtitled, “Or, The Modern Prometheus”. In fact, many may not even make the connection to the story of the ancient Greek god who brought fire to humans, his own creation, and was eternally punished for it. However, rhetorical analysis reveals quite a few similarities between the characters, and proves Shelley’s subtitle to be accurate. Both stories deal with topics of overstepping limits, harsh consequences, and lessons learned, which contribute to the overall theme of “don’t go against the rules of nature”; thereby validating the Prometheus allusion.

The topic of overstepping limits stands out as one of the most obvious similarities in both stories. Victor Frankenstein was obsessed with unlocking the “mysteries of creation”. He expresses this by saying, “I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.”For Frankenstein, this is an immoral act that goes against all the laws of nature, as he is in no position to be performing this practice. He is overstepping his limits as a mortal by performing the action of an immortal; essentially, he’s “playing God”. Shelley uses this as an allusion to the Legend of Prometheus. Prometheus was affectionate of his creation, man. For them, he stole fire from the heavens and gifted it to them, much to Zeus’s dismay. Here as well, Prometheus overstepped his limits by taking from a higher deity, just as Frankenstein did in a different way. Shelley uses this allusion to show that both characters have gone farther than their morals dictate, both through the underlying theme of creation. Blinded by their ambition towards creation, they both went against the laws of nature;...
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