Promethian and Faustian Presences in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Topics: Frankenstein, James Whale, Frankenstein's monster Pages: 4 (1263 words) Published: October 22, 2006
Promethian and Faustian Presences in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
A myth may be defined, however loosely, as an answer to an otherwise unanswerable question, in some cases due to the incomprehensibility of such an answer. It cannot be denied that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) poses a number of such unfathomable questions, largely concerning that which separates men from gods, and the point at which supposedly beneficial ambition becomes mindless and destructive obsession. The best alternative for an answer to these unanswerable questions comes in the form of resolutions in the myth of Faustus and the myth of Prometheus. Allusions to these myths are blatantly obvious in the actions, reactions, and reflections of the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein. More specifically, Shelley's fluid incorporation of the myths of Faustus and Prometheus can be seen in Victor's reckless pursuit of powers not meant for mortal hands, and the violent retribution he received from such ambition, which eventually led to his inevitable downfall.

The myth of Faustus, written by Christopher Marlowe (1590); tells the story of Dr. Johann Faustus, who makes a pact with the devil Mephistophilis in order to gain ultimate knowledge under the condition that he surrender his being to the devil after twenty-five years. Faustus, of course, ignores the responsibility gained with such power, and abuses his gift for the entire twenty-five years until he loses his soul to Mephistophilis. The irony within this myth is that despite his vast knowledge, Faustus never realized the error of his ways, nor did he repent for what he had done. Almost instantly, similarities between Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Faustus are clear: both of them became blinded and guided by their own ambitions. At one point, Frankenstein even admits both his recklessness and his stupidity concerning his plight, which is intentionally similar to that of Faustus': "...I ardently desired the acquisition of knowledge... now my...
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