Man is a deleterious being, a poison to itself and enervates the very foundation of the world it calls home. Forsaken to bear the weight our sins, we humans cannot veer from this obstinate track, a byproduct of our mulish actions. Mary Shelly captures such a conundrum perfectly with her magnum opus, Frankenstein. This ever relevant novel transpires in an early 1800s Romantic society, a time when Europe was paralleled by science and spiritualism. In it, mad scientist Victor Frankenstein bestows upon himself the power of creation and gives life to a malady of society, a monster. Furor only follows such a ruthful soul, alone to face the roughshod world with innocent eyes. After relentless prejudicial proscription, the creature fixates the anger brewing within towards his God and archenemies. He lays waste upon Victor in a no bars hold barrage of tragedy, reducing the man to a solitude of his own devices. With palpable indication via the subtitle, Shelly pays tribute to the ancient legend of Prometheus, a Greek god who brazenly steals fire from Zeus and is reciprocated in kind. In this right, Victor Frankenstein can be considered “The Modern Prometheus” due to his blatant disregard for consequence, hidebound ambition dictated by desire, and portentous pursuit of nature’s secrets.
Lacking proper consideration and forethoughtful contemplation, only hardship follows Victor’s depraved endeavors. Upon pondering such repercussions, our protagonist thinks to himself, “how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries” (36). This mindset of foolhardy determination paired with inane underestimation leads Victor down a guised path of false entitlement. He throws caution to the wind along with fleeting ethics and morals, relishing in a possible future precluded by the actions taken to achieve it. This all comes to fruition after perceiving the abomination “that [he] had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled [his] heart” (42). Once the scales have fallen from his eyes, the deluded reality that is his present awakens him to the folly of his past. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, his careless decisions bring about a plethora of ruin and a crescendo of guilt. This hapless man is merely a victim of his own wanton urges, disregarding his conscience in favor of glory.
Victor is an addict to the drug of knowledge, his curiosity bent past the point of obsession. After discovering how to bestow life, he was overcome with confidence and “feelings which bore [him] onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success” (38). By this time, his ideals have been cemented, and all focus lay on the task at hand. Results initiate a chain reaction, exponentially escalating the intensity of his fixation while also deepening the chasm of isolation between himself and society. As the day of reckoning approaches, Victor’s nerves are calmed when “a resistless and almost frantic impulse urged [him] forward; [he] seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit” (39). Finally, the sway of his madness has reached a climax, losing consciousness to an unvanquishable hunger. Intellectual starvation eats at him from within, a terminal dystrophy plaguing the mind. Any sense of reason falls upon the deaf ears of a fixated apparition, purposed with the sole function of deciphering what lays hidden past the mortal plane.
Nature serves to invigorate Victor’s curiosity, sparking his motivation to unmask the omnipotent principles of life. While living a privileged, intellectual upbringing, all “[his] inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world” (22). Thoughts of doubt fill his mind and question the very teachings instilled by his surroundings. Led astray by his curiosity, he finds comfort in discerning the opaque mirror of reality. Over time, science began to consume his youth as “[he] had gazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed to keep human beings from entering the citadel of nature, and rashly and ignorantly [he] had repined” (25). He rejects common knowledge like a rebellious teenager and resolves to attain the unattainable. Fueled by petty injustice, his simple ideals evolve ferociously and reproach the universe for its coy deception. This passion, among other double-edged traits, lead him down a path paved by suffering.
Victor Frankenstein is most definitely “The Modern Prometheus”, a fact exemplified by his actions and corroborated by the author. By not thinking about how his actions will impact the future, the creation he perceives is an abomination and an unknowing harbinger of tragedy. This is paired with an overbearing ego, hell-bent on discovery and uninfluenced by reason. While constructing the monster, Victor quickly adverts serious ethical deliberation by writing his work off as an exception. This is reinforced by continual success and ever growing confidence, fueling a mania poised on the brink of sanity. Barred by human limitations, unjust inequality drives him to take back the knowledge he believes to be rightfully his. Nature plays this part in the conception of a childhood rival, challenging his intellect and becoming a target for his inquires. All contemporary science fiction works are scions of this prophetical bible, foretelling a plausible future through a farfetched story. It emanates the perplexities of morality, not providing a panacea, but a warning to tread carefully in this tempest of infinite fates.