The Modern Prometheus That Plays God
Frankenstein, a novel
by Marry Shelley, follows the story of a committed science student Victor
Frankenstein, obsessed with finding the cause of life and giving life to
lifeless objects. He makes a human being from body parts although it turns out
terrible, evil, and murderous. These outcomes evoke regrets and guilt that
psychologically torture Frankenstein, punishing him for opposing nature. The
mythological Prometheus was punished for stealing fire and giving it to humans,
which reflects the nature of Victor Frankenstein, who not only plays God but
also uses his knowledge to create something new that did not exist before.
The “Modern Prometheus”
illustrates Frankenstein’s actions, using the knowledge of science as a mythological
Prometheus who utilized spiritual gifts to give life to the inanimate. According
to the Greek and Roman mythology, Prometheus is associated with the creation of
man, stealing fire, a symbolic representation of knowledge, from the heavens to
ensure that a human is provided with warmth and enabled to live comfortably
(Richard 295-297; Sasani and Pilevar 214). Although
Prometheus ensures that the life of men he created is improved, he executes his
intention against the will of Zeus, the God. As such, Prometheus is severely
punished by being chained on a rock, and crying, “…crag at the edge of the
world…” (Shelly 1) and “…behold me, an ill-fated god, chained, the
foe of Zeus…because of my very great love of mankind…” (Shelly 33). Thus,
in this context, the same situation faces Frankenstein hence regarded as the
“Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelly.
Frankenstein is referred to as
the “Modern Prometheus” because he opposes nature to reinvent ideas into modern
technology and science. His persistence in adventure ignites suffering for
Similarly, Prometheus infuriated Zeus to create a Pandora’s Box, which was
given to him with instructions not to open it (Shelly 36). Out of curiosity and
defiance against Zeus’ commands, Prometheus opened it, thereby releasing all
illness, disasters, and evil to the human generation to suffer (Richard 295;
Crook et al. 94). Frankenstein lived with guilt, regretting having made a
“monster” and releasing it into society, causing the death of many of
his family and friends. However, Frankenstein’s was subjected to psychological
alienation (Shelly 43), unlike
Prometheus, whom the Gods punished not only psychologically but also physically.
Probably, Shelly wanted to indicate that the gods controlled everything in
ancient times, including being responsible for all that happened to humanity.
Therefore, the “Modern Prometheus” is in control of his life,
including his damnation.
Equally, Frankenstein sought to
play God by being responsible for giving life to inanimate objects. It was the
greatest ambition of his life. He was motivated by the urge to be worshipped
and blessed by his creatures: “a new species will bless me as its creator and
source” (Sasani and Pilevar 214). Ironically, however, he
ignored the actual relationship with the people that loved him dearly. Along
the way, he grew immersed in sorrow than love: “I seemed to have lost all
soul or sensation but for this pursuit” (Shelly 45). The regret grows when
he is with friends who have no desire to alter humanity to something unnatural
(45). After realizing his creation, Frankenstein immediately begins expressing
contempt for the creatures he made, “I saw the dull yellow eye of the
creature open…” (Shelly 42). “How can I describe my emotions at this
catastrophe…” (Shelly 42), and he starts describing the emotion; “His
yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair
was of lustrous black…” (Shelly 4). The same situation occurred to
Prometheus, who expressed pride in his creation and thus, felt satisfied with
However, their decisions to go
against the natural laws eventually resulted in regret and devastation.
Frankenstein became a broken man, which symbolizes concerns of Shelly’s on the
effects of defying scientific methods (Richard 297). Although Prometheus and
Frankenstein’s actions were out of goodwill, they implemented partisan
blessings. Like in Frankenstein’s case, fire is used as symbolism for both evil
and good deeds. Correspondingly, the ability of Frankenstein to give life
yields to evil, as witnessed in the daemon’s destructive deeds
Thus, the same destruction is shown in his selfish and cold treatment given to
Frankenstein as the “Modern
Prometheus” highlights the role of women in modern society. Notably,
Prometheus is considered the creator of humanity amongst Greeks and Roman
mythologies (Crook et al. 96-101). However, he is not directly associated with
creating women. Instead, it was an act advanced by god Zeus to punish
Prometheus for exhibiting strong love for creating man (Crook et al. 98-101).
Interestingly, the story’s unfolding emphasizes that women were created to
punish but not for companionship or joy according to ancient mythologies.
Hence, Prometheus is depicting women negatively.
Frankenstein’s love and
relationship life with friends and family are characterized by unfortunate
encounters. In the mythological Prometheus, the story lacks any mortal female
except the beautiful but highly troublesome Pandora, who is created later.
Thus, the Prometheus myth directly alludes to Frankenstein’s story where all
women encounter untimely death (92). For instance, Frankenstein’s mother dies
before his daemon is animated, while Elizabeth becomes an orphan when her
mother dies at childbirth. Likewise, a young nurse, Justine, is wrongfully
convicted and sentenced to death (97). Therefore, the misfortunes that befell
women in the story sustain the suffering women undergo because of perception
from modern society.
Frankenstein immediately feels
guilty and remorseful of his adventures, which have eventually become
destructive. The daemon is destined to remain motherless and entirely without a
partner. All women around him are ill-fated. Thus, Shelly could have
intentionally created this situation to illustrate women’s critical roles in
society (Crook et al. 103). Equally, it served as a demonstration of the
absence of a strong female personality in her life and a clear sense of
abandonment (Berger 146). These suggestions are
highlighted in Frankenstein’s dream after creating a monster. Frankenstein
explains this through his encounter with Elizabeth, who turns into a corpse
while kissing her (Sasaniand Pilevar, 214).
Therefore, the lack of male-female solid relationship encounters in the story
is the real-life encounters in the modern social setting.
Through the Frankenstein story,
Shelly passes a precautionary message to modern humanity about the consequences
of usurping divine power. She alludes to the classical Prometheus myth that
demonstrates the activities of Frankenstein with the basic human aspirations
and desires. Whenever humankind attempts to transcend beyond the natural
limits, there is the potential of overdoing that ultimately causes irreversible
harm against humanity. Thus, Frankenstein’s story should be understood from the
mythological perspective as it will enhance understanding besides explaining
the reality that goes beyond generations.
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Prometheus: Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein
and Rejection of Romanticism.” International Journal of Applied
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