The alternative title of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is The Modern Prometheus. This title carries a hefty weight, alluding to a modern interpretation of the Greek mythological hero Prometheus. So how are the two stories related?
The story of Prometheus is one that is well known in literature. Prometheus was a titan god who lived on Mount Olympus with the other gods and goddesses. The name Prometheus means forethought, and Prometheus was said to be very concerned with the future. He went to live amongst the men of the Earth and found them living in dark and hunger. He wished to give fire to these people in order to aid their suffering. Zeus, the king of the Gods, didn’t want to give people fire as he thought that it would inevitably lead them to revolt against the gods. Prometheus disregarded Zeus, and snuck fire away from Mount Olympus to the people. Zeus found out about this, and Prometheus was doomed to have his innards eaten out by crows everyday for eternity.
So what does this have to do with Frankenstein?
Our protagonist, Dr. Frankenstein, creates life from pieces of dead beings. This creation of life could be considered analogous with Prometheus giving fire to the people. Both actions could be considered against the will of the god(s). In the story of Prometheus, Zeus strictly forbids Prometheus from giving people fire. In the story of Frankenstein, creating life could be seen as an act against God, that the creation of life is sacrilegious and unnatural.
Frankenstein thought that he was bringing something good to the world, just as Prometheus did. Both characters were looking forward, perhaps being ahead of their time. Prometheus, as mentioned previously, means forethought, and Frankenstein was looking forward to very advanced scientific developments that perhaps the world was not ready for.
Both characters paid for their actions. The monster he created tormented Dr. Frankenstein for the rest of his life, and Prometheus was forced to live in pain for eternity.
Perhaps foresight and defying religious/mythological gods isn’t a great recipe for a prosperous life.