Is Victor Frankenstein the modern Prometheus? Mary Shelley’s purpose in the subtitle of her book, Frankenstein; or, the modern Prometheus is to compare Victor Frankenstein and Prometheus, son of Zeus. By showing many similarities between the two, she has solid reasoning that Dr. Frankenstein is, in many ways, the “modern Prometheus. ” Although both main characters create a problem they have no control over, they learn their lesson of tampering with the law of nature. It takes time, punishment, and tests for the both of them to understand their wrongdoings. Shelley’s book shows many similarities between Victor and Prometheus.
In the beginning we are led to believe that Victor is a scientist who, through experiment and analysis, has the ability to re-create life. By using metamorphosis he uses old cadaver body parts to create an oversized and grotesque creature (Shelley, par. 91). Like Prometheus, Frankenstein created something he had no power or control over. Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans, not only once but twice. In doing so, they both went against all laws of nature. While Victor Frankenstein created a nonhuman creature and Prometheus stole fire from the gods they were both punished very severely.
After Dr. Frankenstein brought his creature to life, out of disgust, he ran away. “How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavored to form? ” (Shelley, par. 121). Frankenstein could not stand the sight of his creation. Looking at it made him queasy and ill. The monster’s oversized body and unsightly proportions brought Victor much agony. The creature, feeling abandoned, turned to rage and attacked Victor’s loved ones. His first victim was William Frankenstein, Victor’s beloved brother.
Giving Victor little time to repair from his tragic loss, the creature attacked again. This time he lost his best friend, Henry Clerval. During these catastrophic events, Victor knew this was his fault. He created a monster who would continue hurting him by taking the life of the people he cared most about. The final death of Victor’s family was his darling wife, Elizabeth. The creature killed her out of revenge because Frankenstein would not finish the female companion he asked to be made. Frankenstein lost the people closest to him while Prometheus was punished in a very different yet, equal way.
Prometheus felt that humans should be superior to the gods. Having more power and the ability to make tools and weapons, he gave them fire. Zeus was furious about this, seeing that he had taken fire away from them before. When Prometheus gave fire to man the first time, Zeus was enraged with anger and explained to Prometheus that fire was not a power man should hold. Defying Zeus, Prometheus gave it back to man anyways. This was not a gift Prometheus could bestow upon humans after it was taken away once. Later punished for his actions, he was sentenced to be chained to a rock with the company of an eagle, hungry for his liver.
The eager bird picked at Prometheus’ liver each day as the sun would dissipate. Overnight his liver would grow back but he would endure this agonizing and excruciating pain all over again. Both men experienced brutal punishment. Prometheus was tortured physically, while Victor was hurt on an emotional level. After their punishment, both Dr. Frankenstein and Prometheus were given opportunities to prove themselves. The creature went to Victor and asked him to make a female companion. After seeing how compassionate the people he observed were, the creature wanted someone to share those feelings with. I demand a creature of another sex, but as hideous as myself…” (“National library of,” 1998). Dr. Frankenstein began assembling the body parts to build a female creature. It took him months, but before he finished he decided against it. He thought about how he could not control the creature he already built. The thought of there being two of them out there in the world sickened him. Victor was tested by having the opportunity to craft a second monster. By refusing to do so, he finally learned that trying to play God is not a role to be taken lightly.
After Dr. Frankenstein denied the creature a mate, he soon realized this was a good thing. Prometheus was tested in a similar manner. His father, Zeus, presented Prometheus with two options. As there was a prophecy that a child of Zeus would one day dethrone him, Prometheus, who had the gift of foresight, could tell Zeus the mother of the child who would do this to him. His second option was put into two parts, there had to be an immortal that was willing to die for him, as well as a human who could kill the eagle and break Prometheus’ chains.
Chiron, the centaur who trained Hercules, was immortal and offered to give up his life for the sake of Prometheus. Hercules executed the eagle and broke the chains (“The creation of,”). Shelley used the resemblance between Victor Frankenstein and Prometheus in her book. By showing how these characters are alike in different aspects, she demonstrated how Dr. Frankenstein is indeed, the modern Prometheus. Both men took on the role of playing God by creating problems they could not manage. Even more so, they both attempted something only God could determine or have power over.
While Victor Frankenstein created a monster out of cadaver parts, Prometheus disobeyed the Gods by giving man the power of fire. Each of them, being punished for doing so, learned their lesson. Shelley’s character of Victor shares similar traits as Prometheus. They were both very daring and audacious. Both men had the ambition to create; though it did not work in their favor it illustrated their likeness. Mary Shelley portrays Victor as a man who went against God and the law of nature. Similar to Prometheus, Frankenstein was very head strong and unfortunately for both men it was too late to repair the damage they had committed.
Dr. Victor Frankenstein is indefinitely, the modern Prometheus. Reference Page Shelley, M. (1818). Frankenstein; or, the modern Prometheus. London, England: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones Publishing House. Retrieved from http://www. gutenberg. org/files/41445/41445-h/41445-h. htm The creation of man by prometheus. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. greekmythology. com/Myths/The_Myths/Creation_of_Man_by_Prometheus/creation_of_man_by_prometheus. html National library of medicine. (1998, February 13). Retrieved from http://www. nlm. nih. gov/frankenstein/preface. html
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