In the story Frankenstein, written by the author Mary Shelley, Victor Frankenstein decided that wanted to create a being out of people that were already dead. He believed that he could bring people back from the grave. Playing with nature in such a way would make him play the role of God. With Victor Frankenstein feeling that he had no true friends, the only relief he had of expressing his feeling was through letters to Elizabeth. Elizabeth was not Victors true sister but he loved her very dearly, making sure to always write her when ever he had the chance. Yet, when Victor left something strange came over him.
Already being interested in subjects such as natural philosophy and chemistry, he fall upon the question of how to bring someone back to life. He became very involved in this project and worked on it for days on end. The project had to do with defying the laws of nature. Victor believe wholeheartedly that he could bring the dead back to life. He felt that the dead were not ready to die and they were just resting. Victor became so self absorbed into his project that he seem to forget all that was important to him. He even disengaged himself from all the people he loved in his life.
People like his father, Elizabeth, and other loved ones. Victor began to write less and less. Yet, it was not until Elizabeth got a discouraged letter from Victor, did his love ones start to wary about him. Though, the letter was full of words, it gave no relief to Elizabeth, because the words meant nothing to her. However, they meant a lot to Victor, because he felt the project in which he was working on was so important to him, in his own delirious world. He felt that with bring people back to life he would not only better man kind, but also establish a name for himself.
With this type of attitude, e did not even take into consideration that he might make the world a worse place. This part in the story shows the irony. The irony being that Victor Frankenstein feels he is doing something good for the world, but we later find out just how bad this creation could be. Though Elizabeth wanted to pull Victor away from his project, he was unwilling to leave until it is complete. After Victor found how to bring his creation to life, he also found out just how evil his invention could be. His creation was strong and evil.
With the escape of the monster, Victor Frankenstein had o come to realization of what his creation might do and the consequences that Frankenstein, himself would have to deal with. With the murder of his brother weighing the guilt on his shoulders, Frankenstein know he had to do something. So he went looking for the monster. Upon their meeting each other, the monster confessed that when he found out that William as Victors brother he killed him. He then proceeded to tell him that he killed his brother due to the fact that he was trying to get back at his creator for bringing him to life and allowing him to be an out cast in society.
This killing prove to Victor that the monster did not know right from wrong or how to cope with his anger. This aggression made Frankenstein’s creation violent. While talking with the monster, the monster demanded from Frankenstein to create a partner that he could be able to live with away for society. At first, agreeing to the demand, but later realized that if his first creation came out to be a killer so could the second one. With this in mind Frankenstein revoked his agreement and decided against creating another monster. Though, knowing that this decision could be angerous to him and his loved ones.
Yet, he had to think of what was truly best for man kind. Bringing the dead to life or saving the lives of the living. Another peace of irony in this story is, just like Victor Frankenstein who had no friends and was different from the rest of society so was the monster. Also, when Frankenstein decided to play God and bring the dead to life, his creation took on the same role when he decided to take away some ones life. All in all, both Frankenstein and his creation had some of the same behaviors and both were going to die themselves and be lonely meanwhile.
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According to the Greek poet Hesiod, the Titan demi-god Prometheus was responsible for the creation of men. He manufactured them from clay, from the natural earth. When Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, she left little doubt that the creator of the monster, Victor Frankenstein, by making a living creature from inaminate parts was a new Prometheus. But her metaphor extends beyond the immediately obvious. In Hesiods myth, Prometheus had an inflated sense of self importance and was determined to be adored by men.
Because men had no control over fire they were destined to remain mere animals. The forbidden knowledge of fire, the most basic and natural form of energy was the domain of the god, Zeus. The ego-centric Prometheus became obsessed with devising a means by which he could procure fire and with no other motive in mind than glory, he cunningly stole fire from Zeus and gave it to a grateful mankind. Prometheus trickery was bound to invite catastrophe. Zeus retribution was swift and twofold. Firstly, with the help of Hephaestus, Hermes and Aphrodite, he fashioned out of clay the first woman, Pandora.
Thereafter, men would no longer be born directly from the earth; now through women, they would undergo birth by procreation, and consequently old age, suffering and death. She was given a box which contained all manner of misery and evils and was responsible for letting them escape, to torment humankind forever. Secondly, Zeus caught Prometheus, chained him to a rock, and each day an eagle would visit him and feed on his liver. Prometheus liver, however, replenished itself overnight, so he was condemned not so much to a single act of punishment but to perpetual torture.
This is the price of tampering with nature. Prometheus ultimate downfall was caused, not by a poorly executed theft, but by the driving force of his own self-interest. By characterising Prometheanism, Mary Shelleys Frankenstein is a critique of male egoism. Shelley represents male egoism through the assertiveness of her glory seeking characters. The attitude of her narrator, Robert Walton, is typified by his belief in his God given right to have ultimate success in Arctic explorations.
He writes to his sister Margaret asking, “do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose? Shelley 17) This attitude continues as he tells Victor that he would sacrifice anything, including mens (presumably other mens) lives for the success of his polar expedition and for “the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race”(28). This boast, made in the very midst of vast polar 2. ice fields, impels Victor to tell his story, as both a confession and also as a warning to Walton. If Victor is the Modern Prometheus, Walton is certainly his apprentice.
Like Victors knowledge of how to create a living being from dead matter, the knowledge which Walton seeks is forbidden; the secret of nature. By the end of the novel Walton has become aware of the ominous aspect of the Arctic. Certainly, the cruelty of the Arctic has not been lost on the crew of his ship who threaten mutiny. Their human spirit, in striving for forbidden knowledge, when confronted with the terrifying and mysterious abyss of nature, prefers to retreat trembling from the inhuman and seemingly infinite icy wilds.
On his deathbed, Victor asks them, “Did you not call this a glorious expedition? “….. “You were hereafter to be hailed as the benefactor of your species; your names adored, as belonging to the brave men who encountered death and honour, and the benefit of mankind”(214). Despite Victors rousing speech, the crew resolve to return to the safety and warmth of Mother England, no longer able to call themselves true men. Or, perhaps they have some forethought that, in finding absolution in Walton The Confessor, Victors parting words would be, “Seek happiness in tranquillity, and avoid ambition… 217).
With these last words, Victor is finally able to release himself from his dogma of glory and from life itself but his unflagging egoism will not let him concede that he might have acted in error: “I have myself been blasted in these hopes (of discovery), yet another may succeed”(218). Another, almost passing, reference to Prometheanism appears when Walton tells Margaret that his lieutenant is likewise “madly desirous of glory”(20). Victors closest friend, Henry Clerval, is one male who pursues his objectives without striving for glory.
This is due to the moderating influence of a female, the epitome of a contemporary males idea of femininity, Elizabeth Lavenza. Whilst growing up together, she “… unfolded to him the real loveliness and beneficence, and made the doing good the end and aim of his soaring ambition”(38). As Victor Frankenstein relates his story to Walton, he speaks of the desire to learn beyond the physical sciences, to discover metaphysical secrets which is more than a simple quest for wisdom.
Fuelled by his perceived elevation in esteem and admiration at Ingolstadt University, it becomes his obsession to find everlasting life, a quest for forbidden knowledge. Like Prometheus, he is driven by the thought of glory more than the benefit he might bestow upon humankind: “Wealth was an 3. 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! “(40). And like Prometheus, he is able to fashion a living being from inaminate parts.
But here he has made a double transgression. Not only has he gone against nature, and circumvented the act of procreation, he has used the parts of dead humans to achieve his result. Compounding his crimes, Victor makes his gravest error. His egoism does not allow him to fulfil his obligations as a creator; to nurture and provide for his offspring . Victor finds the look of the demoniacal corpse too abhorrent; “…. but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart”(57).
Shelley employs the monster to mete out Victors punishment. Frustrated by a lack of compassion, the monster seeks revenge upon his creator. By killing William, Clerval, and Elizabeth, the monster enslaves Victor to the turmoil of his own mind and emotions, thereby destroying any hope of tranquillity, and his subsequent ability to rationalise clearly and deeply. Victors ability to devise a plan whereby he can destroy his creation is overshadowed by his own predicament, merely pursuing the monster to wherever the monster wishes to lead him.
Victors perpetual punishment is not so much physical as mental and emotional. By contrast, Clervals death has nothing to do with his ambitions. Perhaps, because his motives are honourable, that is, not ego driven, that he is allowed to die quickly. But like William, Victors brother, and Elizabeth, it is the affection bestowed on him by Victor that makes him a victim; his death is but another part of what keeps Victor, like Prometheus, “chained in an eternal hell”(211). In an attempt to placate the monster, Victor agrees to make a female companion, a Pandora.
But when half completed, he claims, like Pandora, “she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate” or “a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth”(165). In the presence of the monster, he destroys his work. But it is the lack of glorification were she to become what he predicts which really stops him proceeding. If his egoism had allowed him to believe humanity would marvel at his achievements, he would have kept going. So, with his Promethean traits in tact, Victors self-interest determines his actions once more.
Further retribution from the monster is a fait accompli . Victors egoism even denies him the opportunity of understanding the implications of the monsters 4. promise to be with him on his wedding night. Victors self obsession leads him to say, “Villain! before you sign my death-warrant, be sure that you are yourself safe” (168). As far as Victor is concerned, the safety of Elizabeth is not a consideration; as far as his perpetual torture is concerned, her fate is sealed. The seeking of glory is a pursuit of ego driven males which, if left unchecked, deserves the fate of Prometheus.
Shelley tells the story of three men who deal with Prometheanism in three ways. Innocent Clerval lived a happy, fulfilled, albeit brief life. Victor, refusing to repent until his last breath, and unable to pursue the monster, is chained to his bed with only his memories to persecute him. And Walton relinquishes his own egoism and abandons his quest in the Arctic thus allowing the story of The Modern Prometheus to be told. The product of Prometheanism, the hapless monster, regretful of his own existence and with revenge complete, exits stage right, presumably to his death in the unknown wilderness.
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