Prometheus, one of the Titans, was Iapetos' son and Uranus' grandchild. He wanted to create a being which was able to absorb spirit, and Prometheus took clay and water and shaped human beings according to the image of the gods. Athene gave his creatures divine breath and shortly after the creation a great number of men lived in the world. Now Zeus and his fellows became aware of them and wanted to be adored by the human beings. The gods promised to take care of the human beings if they adore the gods and said what exactly they had to do in order to be protected. Prometheus went to Zeus as a lawyer of humanity to see to it that the conditions would not be too hard. But he tricked Zeus. For that Zeus punished the human beings with misery and illness and refused them the essential fire. When he heard that Prometheus stole a piece of the sun and brought the fire to his creatures. As a result Zeus got very angry and had Prometheus tied up to a rock of the Kaukasus.
From this point of view Frankenstein has a lot in common with the classic Prometheus: the dream and the creation of a new species, the disregard of limits... But on the other hand Frankenstein is quite different from Prometheus. When the Titan recognizes that his human beings do not know how to use their capabilities (for example they do not see anything although they are able to see and they do not hear anything although they are able to hear), he takes care of his creatures, he teaches them to observe the stars, to read and write and to heal. And when Zeus refuses to give them fire, Prometheus exposes himself to danger to bring them fire. Victor Frankenstein on the other hand refuses his responsibility and flees from his creature after having brought it to life. He lets the creature alone, ignorant as it is. He is not able to understand that he as creator is a father and responsible for his creature and that he has to show it how to deal with its ugliness and how to treat human beings, for example. He tells the creature nothing about human life and human society. Even at the end of the story he does not accept his own failure of moral imaginations and dies without understanding the nature of his guilt.
The dream of a rebirth of mankind is a great dream of the Romantic time. The people by whom Mary Shelley was mostly influenced, Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley's mother), William Godwin (Shelley's father) and Percy Bysshe Shelley (her husband), had the vision of a new mankind in a newly structured society, too, the vision of a mankind without timidity and conventional morality. This influence could be a possible explanation for the fact that Mary Shelley chose the subject of a modern Prometheus for her story.
Last Updated : 14/05/99
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