Frankenstein: a Modern Prometheus


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often referred to as a modern Prometheus, a name given to the Greek titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity. This comparison is apt as Shelley’s novel raises many of the same questions as the myth of Prometheus – questions about the relationship between man and technology, the role of science in society, and the dangers of unchecked ambition.

Shelley presents Dr. Frankenstein as a modern Prometheus figure, consumed by an insatiable desire to unlock the secrets of life. The creation of the monster represents the ultimate manifestation of Victor’s thirst for knowledge and leads to disastrous consequences. The novel warns against the perils of unchecked scientific exploration and the dangers of hubris and arrogance. Shelley’s Frankenstein still holds a cautionary tale to date, insisting on the need for critically thinking through our pursuits.

At its core, the myth of Prometheus is about humanity’s use of technology and the consequences of that use. In the story, Prometheus steals fire from the gods and gives it to man, allowing humanity to make tools, cook food, and create civilization. However, this gift also comes with a price, as the gods punish Prometheus by chaining him to a rock and sending an eagle to eat his liver every day.

Like Classical titan, Victor a scientist becomes obsessed with the idea of creating life, ultimately succeeding in creating a monster that he cannot control. In many ways, Victor’s creation of the monster can be read as an attempt to steal fire from the gods, to create life where there was none before. However, as with Prometheus, this gift ultimately comes with a heavy price, as the monster wreaks havoc on Victor’s life, causing him to lose everything he holds dear.

Another way in which Frankenstein explores the theme of disillusionment is through the point of view of the monster. Like Frankenstein, the monster is also a victim of man’s hubris, created by Victor as an experiment in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. However, unlike Frankenstein, the monster is not at fault for his own creation, and is instead forced to grapple with his own existence and sense of identity. Shelley suggests that technology and experimentation can often have unintended consequences that affect not only the creators of that technology but also those who are affected by it. By telling the story from the monster’s perspective, Shelley emphasizes the dangers of scientific exploration and the ethical considerations that must be taken into account.

Another way in which Frankenstein can be read as a modern Prometheus is through its exploration of the role of science in society. Shelley suggests that man’s pursuit of scientific knowledge can often be a double-edged sword, capable of both great good and great harm. In the novel, Shelley emphasizes the responsibility scientists have to consider the larger implications of their research, and the potential consequences that their innovations might have on society. Victor’s hubris and carelessness leads to destruction and tragedy, driving home the need for scientists to be more mindful of the impact their work can have on the larger world.

Finally, Shelley warns against the dangers of unchecked ambition and hubris in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. Like Prometheus before him, Victor Frankenstein is driven by an insatiable sense of curiosity and the desire to achieve greatness. However, this ambition ultimately blinds him to the potential consequences of his actions, causing him to create a monster that he cannot control. Shelley suggests that this kind of unchecked ambition is dangerous and ultimately self-defeating, as it can lead to unintended consequences and tragedy. The monster is a symbol of the unpredictability and chaos that can occur when man tries to manipulate nature.

In conclusion, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein can be read as a modern Prometheus, exploring many of the same themes and questions raised in the original myth. Through its exploration of technology and science, Shelley offers a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked ambition and hubris, warning against the potential harms of man’s experimentation with technology. Ultimately, Shelley’s novel highlights the importance of humility, responsibility, and ethical considerations when pursuing knowledge and creation.