Essay: Frankenstein (The Modern Prometheus) and Dorian Gray

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  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
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  • Published on: July 16, 2019
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  • Frankenstein (The Modern Prometheus) and Dorian Gray
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1. Who is Prometheus? Why is Frankenstein subtitled “The Modern Prometheus?”

Prometheus, meaning “forethought,” was the son of Titan, Iapetus and Oceanid, Clymene. He was given the task of molding the first man out of clay. Later Zeus instructed Epimetheus and Prometheus to give mankind gifts to make them prosper. To do so, Prometheus stole fire from Hephaistos and Athena’s workshop. Along with this, he taught mankind the gift of metalwork. Due to Prometheus’ crime, Zeus ordered him to be sent to the east and chained to a rock for an eagle to come and eat his liver.

Frankenstein is subtitled “The Modern Prometheus” due to the parallels found in both stories. These parallels are exposed in the first chapter of the novel when the readers are introduced to Victors background. The narrator explains how Victor’s “ancestors had been for many years counsellors and syndics; and my father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation.” This expresses how he has grown up through a childhood of power and wealth. Similarly, Prometheus had come from parents of wealth and power, the Titans. They both had been raised through a privileged lifestyle, being born into a privileged family. Later, in chapter two, Victor expresses his desire towards a higher knowledge. He expresses how he “betook himself to the mathematics, and the branches of study appertaining to that science” along with enrolling in the university of Ingolstadt to become accustomed to other customs than his native area. As for Prometheus, he was given the gift of learning mathematics, writing, astronomy, etc. from Athena after helping free her from Zeus. They both share in the passion of education and expanding their knowledge. Finally, they share similar downfalls. Prometheus’ poor decision led himself to his death, and as for Victor, he is punished with the deaths of his loved ones. They both bring about their isolation and suffering through their thirst for higher knowledge and their new creations.

2. What were the prevalent ideas that influenced Mary Shelley’s writing of this novel?

In the summer of 1816, Mary Shelley found herself gathered around a fire telling ghost stories up in the environs of Geneva. In that moment, her and two other friends agreed they would each create a story surrounded by these fictional supernatural occurrences. In the preface, she references her literary influences of Shakespeare and Milton, especially in his work of Paradise Lost. The time period leading up to the conception of the novel was an era of Romanticism, focusing on an emotional, subjective response from the reader. This created a time of reform and revolution for Shelley’s era.

3. What were the first narrator’s ambitions and endeavors, and what aroused them?

The first narrator, Robert Walton, stumbles across Victor during his search to find the North Pole. His ambition is centered towards a passion for discovery, science, and praise. These ambitions are shared with Victor in his creation of the monster. Walton is so wrapped up in these ambitions that his trip may/ will end up in his own death. Due to his father expressing his feelings on Walton not becoming a sailor and Walton’s failure over his passion for poetry, he is destined to prove his family wrong.

4. Characterize the narrator’s relationship with Victor.

Victor and Walton share many similarities in their ambitions. They are both searching for a greater understanding in science through a new discovery. Through this they both hope to gain glory and praise. However, from their own desires they put others at risk and ignore the possible bad outcomes of their new discoveries. Due to Shelley’s era of Romanticism, friendship is a common theme found through Victor and Walton. They both share the same ideas and ambitions which brings them closer to becoming friends.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

What is the significance of youth and beauty for Dorian Gray?

The significance of youth and beauty are correlated throughout the novel. This theme enters the novel when Henry expresses concern over how Dorian must make the best of his time now because his beauty will fade with age. Due to this, Dorian becomes obsessed and worried over growing older and letting his beauty fade. While looking upon the portrait of himself, he learns how the photo is essentially mocking him, leaving it up to him to accept that his youthful beauty will fade.

What is the connection between identity and social masks within the novel?

Dorian is in constant turmoil over his inner thoughts, portrayed by the portrait, while on the outside he is viewed as a beautiful and young man. He is advised on keeping a good reputation in the public eye through Lord Henry and Basil. This creates a feud between the thoughts he has about himself and how he views himself versus the public eyes portrayal of him. He creates a persona that may seem “perfect” to the outside eye but is in personal havoc internally on how he views himself. This relationship between identity and social masks leads Dorian to his own self imposed downfall.

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