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Frankenstein: Who’s Prometheus?

04.06.2014

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley has the subtitle of ‘The Modern Prometheus’, so who is Prometheus?

Prometheus is a guy who steals life-giving fire from the Gods and creates man from clay. For this transgression, he is majorly punished: Zeus has him bound to a rock where, every day, an eagle would come and feed on his liver, which would grow back, so as to be repeated ad infinitum. Pretty gory.

In Western tradition, Prometheus represents human striving, especially in the acquisition of scientific knowledge, and the unknown consequences of man’s actions.

In the Romantic era, he is seen as a solitary genius whose ambitions – whilst borne out of good intentions – can lead to tragic outcomes. Et voilà! The link to Frankenstein.

The question now is how does the subtitle link to some of the central themes in Frankenstein?:

  • Creation and divine aspirations
  • Isolation
  • The double
  • The monstrous and the human

Also check out the context in which the book appears; we have the emergence of ‘Galvanism’, scientific developments were on the up, and it was written at a time of deep social unrest.

If you’re studying Frankenstein at A-Level or GCSE get the York Notes Frankenstein study guide from the York Notes shop now.