The modern Prometheus

In Greek mythology, Prometheus, a Titan, stole fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to humanity, for which presumption he was eternally punished by Zeus, king of the gods. In Roman legend Prometheus also created mankind out of clay. In Hebrew legend the golem was a clay man, animated through cabalistic magic to perform certain tasks; but if the person animating the golem had selfish motivations, the golem eventually turned on its creator. For many centuries people have built and been fascinated by automatons—human or animal figures that perform repetitive motions through some clockwork mechanism.

But contrarily to Promotheus, a good god that brought knowledge and freedom to humanity, Doctor Frankenstein is a flawed character, neither good, nor evil but certainly blind by his selfish ambition to equal god. Dr Frankenstein is the archetype of the classical mad scientist but also the embodiment of our scientific age.


Part of the tragedy Shelley describes is how Frankenstein spends much of his time running away from his monster. This results is the monster murdering members of Frankenstein’s family in retaliation to the doctor’s lack of pledge. The neglect of responsibility shows that Frankenstein was not ready for the results of his ambition.

Instead of trying to help or destroy his creature, he keeps fleeing, warding off his responsibilities, so does science today which quest to unveil nature’s secret one after one leads to disasters… Genetically-modified organisms and clones are the modern Frankenstein monsters.

Before dying, Frankenstein states, “Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how happier the man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow” (Shelley 53). Here Shelley is describing the tragedy that accompanies ambitious aspirations. In this sense, she is commenting on the romantic sentiment of her times.