Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a hideous sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment.

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley (1797–1851). The book is infused with elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement.

Even broken in spirit as one is, no one can feel more deeply than one does the beauties of nature. They starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions, seems still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth.

Such a person has a double existence: to suffer misery, and be overwhelmed by disappointments; yet, when one has retired into oneself, as a celestial spirit that has a halo around, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

“Hateful day when I received life!” I exclaimed in agony. “Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust. God, in pity, made humans beautiful and alluring, after his own image. But my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance, Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.”

— Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

It has been argued that it should be considered the first true science fiction story. In contrast to previous stories with fantastical elements resembling those of later science fiction, the central character “makes a deliberate decision” and “turns to modern experiments in the laboratory” to achieve fantastic results.

There is ubiquitous foreshadowing throughout Victor’s first person narrative. He uses words such as ‘fate’ and ‘omen’ to hint at the tragedy that has befallen him; additionally, he occasionally pauses in his recounting to collect himself in the face of frightening memories.

Themes, Motifs and Symbols of Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus

Dangerous knowledge, sublime nature, secrecy, and monstrosity are the themes Shelley carries throughout the narration. The novel, which most likely seeks to help Shelley find answers to questions that perplexed her about life, at the time, brings in the motifs of passive women and abortion.

The symbols of fire and light, nature and technology–two contrasting elements also directs attention to the treatment of the poor and uneducated as major theme throughout the book. Elizabeth Lavenza is the orphan child taken in by the Frankenstein family and lovingly raised with Victor. Elizabeth later becomes Victor’s wife and is killed by the monster on their honeymoon. She is the champion for the poor and underprivileged.

The narrator, Robert Walton, is an Arctic explorer on his way to find the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean from Russia to the Pacific Ocean. Walton finds Victor Frankenstein near death, listens to his tale, and records it in letters to his sister Margaret Saville.

Frankenstein starts with this letter written by Walton to Saville, first chapter …

These reflections have dispelled the agitation with which I began my letter, and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven, for nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as a steady purpose–a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.

My courage and my resolution is firm; but my hopes fluctuate, and my spirits are often depressed. I am about to proceed on a long and difficult voyage: the emergencies of which will demand all my fortitude: I am required not only to raise the spirits of others, but sometimes to sustain my own, when theirs is failing.

— Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
About the Author: Mary Shelley

Mary Wollestonecraft (Godwin) Shelley was born on August 30, 1797 in London, England. Her parents were William Godwin, a philosopher, and Mary Wollestonecraft, a feminist. Shelley’s mother was a leading feminist writer who espoused her views in her famous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792).

Shelley started writing the story when she was 18, and the first edition was published anonymously in London on 1 January 1818, when she was 20. Her name first appeared on the second edition, published in 1823.

Shelley’s book has had a considerable influence in literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories, films and plays.

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