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"Both Faust And Frankenstein Can Be Seen As Titanic Overreachers: The Difference Lies In The Authors' Evaluation Of This Overreaching." Discuss.

1459 words - 6 pages

Both the character of Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's novel "Frankenstein" and Goethe's eponymous hero in the play "Faust - Der Tragödie, erster Teil" are very similar to the mythical character of Prometheus. Prometheus' story, which originates in Greek legend, it is the tale of a titan who steals fire from the gods. Like both Faust and Frankenstein, Prometheus is a man who attempts to elevate his own status to that of a god by trying to gain knowledge that is exclusively available to the gods. Although both Faust and Frankenstein exist in a Christian world, their crime is considered as great as the crime of Prometheus, as both men act in an impious manner. Faust selling his soul to Mephistopheles, Frankenstein attempting to "bestow animation on lifeless matter". Each character is also punished extensively for his behaviour, as Prometheus was, being eternally chained to a rock at the top of the Caucasus mountains, and destined to have his liver torn out by a vulture whereupon it would re-grow each day and the punishment revisited.Shelley's "modern Prometheus" bears similarities not only to the character Prometheus, but also to Pandora, the first woman according to Greek mythology. For Shelley, Frankenstein's "titanic overreaching" is a character flaw rather than a purposeful attempt to emulate God. Like Pandora, who could not suppress her natural curiosity and unleashed evil upon the world, Frankenstein cannot suppress his desire to overcome death and mortality. In his quest to animate dead matter, Frankenstein unleashes a monster upon society. However, the creation of this monster is not instantly condemned, it is Frankenstein's neglect of the creature which causes it to become evil. Shelley's Frankenstein is a character who continuously errs in the name of humankind. His goal is to remove suffering and death from the world and his creation is a misguided attempt to achieve this. Goethe's Faust however, is a completely different character. Faust is a man who cannot bear to be grounded by human limitations. He wants to transcend life and experience everything. Faust is a man who believes he has gained all earthly knowledge and has become bored. He wishes to achieve universal knowledge. Faust's downfall perhaps occurs because, like Frankenstein, he does not consider the consequences of his actions, he does not however, act on behalf of mankind. He embodies the spirit of modernity - a man who always desires more knowledge, the spirit of experimentation and exploration. Faust's aspirations for knowledge are not what cause his tragedy - in fact they are celebrated. Faust, unlike his student, Wagner, wants to gain knowledge through true experience, not simply through reading books. Unlike Frankenstein, Faust seems to have no choice in his decisions - he cannot stop striving for knowledge because this would be another sort of damnation for him. Therefore he must accept Mephistopheles' 'bet' - since he does not seem to believe in hell this is...

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