“Gothic and Romanticism” – David Punter
Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus and a Monster’s inevitable doom
In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, it appears that Shelley attempts to draw an important analogy between the lone genius Prometheus, the archetypal seeker after forbidden wisdom, and her own protagonist Victor Frankenstein, who also dares to transgress boundaries in order to create life. Thus the subtitle The Modern Prometheus. However, it is crucial to note the invariable difference between both old and modern Prometheus. Whereas old Prometheus suffers alone for his sin, in the case of Shelley’s Prometheus, Frankenstein, the monster involuntarily partakes in the sin, by being its final product, and therefore has to suffer too. To the reader, it seems that Shelly consistently reminds us of the lack of responsibility on the part of Frankenstein, and the monster’s inherent innocence, who is only made evil by his circumstances. But like the reader, Shelley too, is unclear about whose behaviour is most unjustifiable and unpardonable.
With reference to David Punter’s essay “Gothic and Romanticism”, Victor Frankenstein can be compared to the ‘Wanderer’, the Wanderer’s essential characteristics being that he is hero and victim both, who defies God by crossing the laws of mortality and dares to touch the untouchable. The Wanderer is never satisfied with the restrictions placed on him by an ordered society, and he ultimately suffers for his disobedience. Victor clearly fits the description of the Wanderer, as his obsessive need to create life and be its sole creator has a hint of an unnatural desperation to satisfy his ego and attain gratitude. His unhealthy obsession overrides what may be called his healthy passion for the natural sciences, and consequently leads him to live a life of despair and loneliness. But it must be noted that although his initial seclusion from society is a choice he makes for himself, his final seclusion from friends and family...