Shelly uses ‘the Modern Prometheus’ as a subtitle to the novel. Explore the ways in which the idea of the ‘Modern Prometheus’ is important in the novel as a whole. Since its first publication in 1818, Mary Shelly’s gothic horror story, Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus; originally begun as a mere ghost story told round the fire to some close friends, has fast become part of our modern day contemporary mythology. The use of the ‘Modern Prometheus’ as the subtitle of this book however, indicates that it has could have also been based on a much more ancient form of mythology.
In a way perhaps highlighting that there are really only a few stories in the world and that they just keep being repeated each time being slightly altered to fit the time for each generation. This essay shall explore the Greek myth of the Titan Prometheus and his creation of mankind, the ways in which Prometheus defies the Great God Zeus in an attempt to aid mankind and the subsequent punishment Prometheus receives for such deeds.
The essay will then explore in more depth, the parts of Shelly’s masterpiece, Frankenstein or, the Modern Prometheus, that could be compared to the idea of the ‘Modern Prometheus’ and also discuss the ways in which it cannot be compared exactly. Concluding finally in what is perceived as the importance of the subtitle, the ‘Modern Prometheus’ to the novel as a whole. Lo, a god in the anguish, a god in the chain! The god, Zeus hateth sore And gods hate again, As many tread on his glorified floor, Because I loved mortals too much evermore.
Prometheus Bound – translated by E. B. Browning The story of Prometheus from Greek mythology can be found in varying guises depending on the writer, while similar in context they sometimes gave varying accounts of what occurred. The basics of this myth however appear to be that the creator of mankind was the Titan Prometheus. A titan a person of super human strength and ability but not as powerful as the great gods of Olympus. Prometheus was also said to have been a great friend and advisor to the great God Zeus.
Zeus gave Prometheus and his brother, Epimetheus, the task of creating new life on earth and to endow all creatures with the appropriate means to ensure their survival. Man was last in line and when it came to his turn, nothing was left to give. Prometheus took pity on mankind, for he now felt more love for man than of the gods, and he went to Zeus and asked him if he might give mankind the gift of fire. According to Zeus, fire belonged to the gods alone and so he refused Prometheus’s pleas. Prometheus, believing this to be unfair, decided to steal fire from Zeus’s sun, knowing that Zeus would punish him severely.
Mankind no longer felt so cold during the night, and the animals were afraid of the fire and no longer attacked man. Zeus was angry when he found out what Prometheus had done but when he smelt the burnt offerings from man he was appeased. Prometheus knew that men worked extremely hard to make their living and thought it a pity that they burnt up the best parts of their food as offerings to the gods so he told man to divide the meat in two equal heaps. Hidden under the bones in one pile were the tasty chops and roasting meats.
In the other were the scraps and entrails, covered with enticing white fat. The greedy Zeus chose the most appealing heap for himself, but when he discovered that he had been tricked he grew once again angry. Prometheus had not only stolen Zeus’s fire and given it to mankind, he had also taught man to cheat the gods. As a punishment, Prometheus was bound in chains to the top of the Caucasus Mountains. Every day Prometheus was visited by an eagle that pecked away at his immortal liver. During the night, however, his liver had grown back to its original state and thus began the vicious circle.
In the beginning of Mary Shelly’s story, Victor Frankenstein is portrayed as having a happy childhood. He comes from a very distinguished background and being also the first born son, Victor is always seeking respect and approval from his father. He is inquisitive and wants to feel worthy of his father’s attentions. “the search for the philosophers’ stone and the elixir of life; the latter soon obtained my undivided attention. Wealth was an inferior object, but what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!