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Promethean Overreaching

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James Jeffery

on 18 June 2013

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Transcript of Promethean Overreaching

Promethean Overreaching
The parallels between the myth of the Titan, Prometheus, and Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein are obvious. Previously in this class, Sam has explained some of the similarities between the texts: the creation of new beings, their likeness to their creators, and the life-giving ‘spark’ central to both creations. Shelley even acknowledged the similarity in the subtitle of the fiction piece The Modern Prometheus. Here, we will juxtapose the stories in greater detail to explore some of the themes of Shelley’s text.
Intention

Victor’s intentions prior to creating the monster where for no other than pure glory. He was overwhelmed with pride in himself and thought that he could become the ‘greatest scientist ever’. Victor did not think through the consequences of what would happen after he created life.
Page 55 chapter 4, Victor states “a new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me”. This proves that there were no real reasons for Victor’s creation of the monster. Victor only wanted to create it for the power and for people to acknowledge that he was the one to create life.

The Actual Act
Consequences
The Promethean myth depicts the creator doing all in his power to aid in his creations. Prometheus assists by granting them fire, securing the best parts of the animal during feasts and then stealing fire back for them. Prometheus even symbolically sacrifices his future and his contentedness as he is condemned to eternal torture for his actions.
Conclusion
Introduction
The story of Prometheus
The Titan Prometheus and his brother were tasked with the creation of all living creatures. By the time that they had reached humanity, all of the distinguishing features were already taken. Prometheus decided to give humans fire, and make them in the image of the gods, that is, made them walk upright.
When Zeus was deciding how human should make sacrifices, Prometheus cunningly tricked him. Prometheus offered him a bones covered in glistening fat and a stomach, in which were good meats. Zeus greedily chose the fat covered bones, and thus when feasting, humans only had to sacrifice the useless bones. Zeus was outraged and in spite, he stole fire from humanity. Prometheus outsmarted Zeus again as he lit a torch, and gave fire back to the humans. For his efforts, Zeus sentenced Prometheus to eternal torture as an eagle pecked out his liver daily.

The story of Frankenstein
Victor Frankenstein similarly created his monster from old body parts. Inspired by his admiration for ancient philosophers, and combined with his modern teaching in natural sciences, Frankenstein used science to create the ‘spark’ of life. Thus, Frankenstein’s monster was created. Upon viewing his creation, Frankenstein was horrified and fled.
The monster’s education continued in spite of his creator’s absence, but it too revealed mankind’s abhorrence towards the ‘daemon’. Frankenstein himself struggled to recover. Upon two deaths, he blamed himself and his creation. The monster eventually killed his best friend Henry Clerval and his wife, Elizabeth. Victor’s father dies of grief. With nothing to lose, Frankenstein chases the monster to the polar caps, where he meets the narrator of the story and dies. More happens, but I think that’s enough for this presentation.

The consequences Frankenstein’s actions have on him are an ironic repetition of the myth. Initially, the Promethean myth is subverted by the immediate reaction to the creation. Instead of the loving devotion the Titan displays, Frankenstein is utterly horrified by the monster. Shelley communicates the extent of Victor’s horror through the metaphor of his dream in which Elizabeth appears, ‘in the bloom of health’, but later ‘her features change’ and Victor sees ‘the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of flannel’ (pg 59). The corruption of the previous ‘health’ of Elizabeth and the beauty she represents is allegorically comparable to Victor’s state of mind as he is distraught by the sight of the monster.
The consequences Frankenstein’s actions have on him are an ironic repetition of the myth. Initially, the Promethean myth is subverted by the immediate reaction to the creation. Instead of the loving devotion the Titan displays, Frankenstein is utterly horrified by the monster. Shelley communicates the extent of Victor’s horror through the metaphor of his dream in which Elizabeth appears, ‘in the bloom of health’, but later ‘her features change’ and Victor sees ‘the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of flannel’ (pg 59). The corruption of the previous ‘health’ of Elizabeth and the beauty she represents is allegorically comparable to Victor’s state of mind as he is distraught by the sight of the monster.
But Frankenstein’s narrative eventually emulates its forefather in the eventual realisation of eternal torture. The monster orchestrates his creator’s demise so that the mere physical hell of Prometheus is not replicated. Instead, all that Victor finds enriching - his friend Henry, wife Elizabeth and father - is killed by the monster. Shelley’s depiction of ‘sleep’ is juxtaposed with ‘life’ to reveal the extent of Frankenstein’s damnation, ‘My life, as it passed thus, was indeed hateful to me, and it was during sleep alone that I could taste joy. O blessed sleep! …my dreams lulled me even to rapture’ (pgs 207-208) The contrast of the emotive language used to portray the bipolar states ‘hateful’ for his existence yet ‘blessed’ and ‘rapture’ for sleep emulate Prometheus’ plight.

The depth of the exploration of Victor's journey is heightened through the comparison to Prometheus. Whereas the Titan's hell is made as a sacrifice for his creation, and he suffers out of love for them, Victor rejects that notion. Victor's hell is the result of a refusal to care for his creation, who, in vengeance, wreaks havoc upon Victor. The ironic reversal of the myth can be interpreted in a number ways. It can be read as an indication of the immorality of man for other beings, or in a more Promethean context, it serves as a warning to other attempts to replicate life.
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