The Myth of Prometheus in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Essay

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The Myth of Prometheus in Frankenstein

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein as a modern day version of the legend of Prometheus. Prometheus created men out of clay and taught them the "arts of civilisation" (Webster's World Encyclopedia CD-ROM 1999). Zeus, the chief god of the Titans, wanted to destroy Prometheus' creation but Prometheus stole fire from heaven to help mankind. Zeus punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock where an eagle would feed on his liver during the day and each night the liver would grow back. Prometheus was able to bargain for his release because he knew a secret which concerned Zeus' future. Heracles shot the eagle and so Prometheus gained release. Victor Frankenstein is Shelley's modern Prometheus in that
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35 - 39) only lend credence that his ambitions are in no way self motivated. By the next chapter he is completely consumed by his ambition. He no longer sees the beauties of nature and turns his back on the goodness and purity of life, which is symbolised by nature (and is, like the theme of the individual, an important theme in Romanticism), "My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement" (p. 44) and " The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit... my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature" (p. 45).

Frankenstein is characterised as the modern Prometheus in the subtitle of his novel but Prometheus brought fire and light (civilisation) to his creation and in doing so, turned his back against the gods. He suffered for his sacrifice by being chained to a rock and had his liver eaten by an eagle. For Prometheus and his creation fire was a blessing and enabled humanity to develop and break free of the gods. Like Prometheus, Frankenstein "steals from heaven in attempting to Œpour a torrent of light into our dark world'" (Shelley in Boyd 1984, p. 24) and is punished because of his actions. Shelley also contrasts Frankenstein with the Promethean myth. Her Prometheus brings only suffering into the world, his creation suffers, his family suffers and ultimately, he suffers. Frankenstein's
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