Frankenstein is a diverse novel that confronts the reader with many different ideas and themes. Critics have described the text in many different, depending on their reading of the book. These include as a political allegory, an observation of human accountability, feminism, social prejudices and alienation, and even a narrative of the nature of human life itself. Some of these themes may be in part due to the influence of Shelley's parents: Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, both very influential and radical political activists in their time. Around the period of its publication, new science was breaking down the barriers of old and the work and findings of scientists were challenging the steadfast ideas of religion and as such caused much controversy in general society.
Elements of this conflict can be seen in Shelley's novel in the character of Viktor Frankenstein. As a student of both the old science, which was based largely around the discovery of the elixir of life, and the theories of chemistry and bio-science engaged by new science, Viktor seems to be the embodiment of the society divided over knowledge. His desire to gain the glory of discovering the capacity for creating life and thus its continuation is founded in the idea of elixir. This, coupled with his interest in modern techniques that give him the ability to undertake such a task, give Viktor the motivation for such an colossal and divine mission.
At a time of industrial revolution, when electricity is an exiting new technology being harnessed by man, it is perhaps apt that it is a spark of electricity that brings Viktor's creation to life. 'I collected the instruments around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing'. The monster is the result of the convergence of the two impressions left on Viktor Frankenstein by conflicting ideas of science.
As Betty Bennett says, Frankenstein `subsumes and conflates the two central myths about knowledge in the Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian traditions: those of Prometheus and of Adam, Eve and Satan.` There are many differing stories relating to this myth, and so an accurate relation of it is difficult. However, a generalised version is the result of a combination of the roman and Greek mythologies. The Romans believed Prometheus to be the creator of man, making him from clay and water; the Greeks say he stole fire from Zeus to give to man and was severely punished for it. Over time, the two have been linked and now form the account that having thus created man, Prometheus felt an obligation to protect him. He provided man with gifts that would aid survival and make the race superior to the other beasts on earth. The ultimate gift was that of Zeus' fire (Zeus represents the sun). This gave man a means not only to create weaponry, but also a source of light, and by association, knowledge. This superior knowledge was seen to bring man closer to the level of the gods, no longer worshiping them for a gift...