“Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus”: meaning and analysis of the book by Mary Shelley

“Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus”: meaning and analysis of the book by Mary Shelley Literature

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, emerged during the emergence and spread of the science fiction subgenre. For the 19th century, the story of a scientist who created a living being in an unnatural way was unbelievable and frightening because of the fear of God’s wrath for appropriating his rights and human aspirations to act in analogy with the Creator.

What the book is about

This is a novel about a great achievement and a fatal mistake of human genius. Student Victor Frankenstein managed to find a way to animate a human being assembled from the body fragments of several dead people. The creature moved, reacted to stimuli, showed free will. But it escaped, felt the cruelty of the crowd in full force, gained the ability to speak in anguish–and returned to its creator to call him to account.

The meaning of the book

The author analyzes what is the meaning of being human in this world? The main goals are reproduction of full-fledged offspring, self-expression in the profession, personal and spiritual growth, relationships with loved ones, relatives and other people. In the background is money allowance, life, recreation.

The author pushes the reader to the conclusion that man is an animate creature, able to think and act, and to reflect, analyze and transform the world in accordance with his vision.

Book Analysis

Frankenstein’s last name is the scientist himself. But why does this work have Prometheus in the title, which does not appear in the narrative in any way? Here Mary Shelley refers readers to antiquity, its incarnation in the ancient Greek epic. Aeschylus’ poem Prometheus Liberated tells of one of the Olympian gods, overthrown by Zeus for helping the people, teaching them crafts, giving them fire, giving them memory and a scientific view of the world. Here is the connection between Prometheus and Victor Frankenstein — both characters, as if the Creator, seek to improve the human race, for which they are later punished.

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History of the book’s creation

Some literary scholars believe that Mary Shelley cannot be considered the creator of something unique. But no one will probably say who exactly is considered the founder of the English horror novel, because similar works appeared as much as half a century before that famous evening at Lake Geneva.

What new things has brought the writer into the genre? Why has her work become considered a horror novel, and the first work of science fiction? All because the main character in the work was a scientist, and the scientific search lay in the plot. Not so smoothly with the descriptions of scientific research in this work. According to the fashion of those times, the output is a purely humanitarian work, where Mary, in the episodes, speaks in a tongue-in-cheek manner through Victor: “I went through the crypts of the bones; I blasphemously shook my own hand over the secret corners of the human body. I worried and agonized, but I managed to ignite life in the emotionless monster sprawled at my feet. It was midnight, the dreary rain was drumming in the window; the candle was almost out; and its light twitched and I found that the dim yellow eyes opened; the creature gasped and twitched…” – that’s all the readers know about Victor’s research.

In part, the novel was a reflection of the transformation of the horror of magical acts and the modern fear of science: the fear of something indefinite, into which a person could not penetrate and generously projects his own judgments of an evil principle onto it. But even though Frankenstein repents of his boldness, he does not cease to be a “modern Prometheus”: even while approaching his own death, he does not lose faith in the human mind and spirit.

The meaning of the title of the book

Victor Frankenstein is the protagonist of the novel by Mary Shelley, as well as the character of many book, drama and cinema adaptations of this story.

The book got its name from the name of this character.

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Problems of the book

Although the genre of this novel is science fiction, the writer is deeply concerned about existential issues that are relevant today. These problems are analyzed in terms of worldview and human mentality. Both Prometheus and Victor Frankenstein – both characters, like the Creator, improve the universal human race, for which they are then punished: Prometheus is forever chained and attached to a mountain and every day an eagle pecks at his liver, bringing unbearable suffering to the hero, and the scientist always runs away from of his creation, by whose hand he eventually dies. The monster that was meant to be a protector eliminates its creator.

Frankenstein’s desire to study human nature begins with the study of the bodies of the dead, and also “at the cost of many days and nights of titanic work and efforts” the scientist gets to unravel the mystery of the origin of life, he himself learns to give life to inanimate substance. The scientist believes that this “enormous force” misled him. But he was driven by exploratory curiosity and a desire for public recognition. But Victor’s creature turns out to be frighteningly ugly, and it is problematic to call him a man. But it is smart, capable of learning and self-knowledge. So why is the main character running away from his own creation. Afraid to meet him face-to-face? The root of this problem lies in areas far from morality and fantastic background. He is known through answers to questions: what is a person and why does he exist in this world at all, what goals does he pursue?

What does the book teach

Readers have the most important question – is a person generally entitled to take on so much, is he allowed to create creatures similar to himself in an unconventional biological way? The monster perfectly demonstrates that even if people can comprehend the nuances of the reproduction of representatives of a structure that is different organically, and even if these creatures learn to develop and manifest their sensual-emotional sphere, they will not be able to comprehend such trivial and at the same time sublime human feelings as happiness and love . Is it possible to achieve happiness alone with oneself, when there is no one to talk to, and even if they are afraid of you, and if they are not even going to kill, then they will certainly hide in horror. “Even if such beautiful creatures endure torment and suffering, I simply cease to be surprised that I am unhappy and constantly lonely.” It is not at all necessary that the answer to this question will be the same for everyone. A person should not appropriate the power of the Creator, otherwise he will not be able to create a more perfect creation, because he is not subject to dispose of the completeness of his own existence.

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Explanation of the book’s ending

Victor is hiding from his own created monster not out of fear of his repulsive and disgusting appearance, but out of fear of retribution for dooming the monster to eternal mental anguish and torment that nothing can compensate for. “My misdeeds can only be justified by the forced loneliness I hate.”

So, the following conclusion is obtained: the work of the English writer is based only on a philosophical question, implying the theme of a person in a divine hypostasis. The author, using as an example the two fundamental characters of his novel – the scientist Victor Frankenstein and the monster he created – denies the possibility of the existence of a person in the role of a creator.

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