The Post-Modern Prometheus
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, raises many ethical issues that are relevant to today’s society. In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is portrayed as God as he is able to create a new species by reanimating dead tissue. Today, scientists aren’t able to perform such experiments as fictional as bringing back the dead, but they are able to perform other serious experiments like cloning organisms for example. Cloning and growing organs, a sub-branch of cloning, are scientific achievements done out of acts of utilitarianism: to help patients gain happiness by “intended pleasure and the absence of pain” (Cahn, 2011, p.93) through replaced ...view middle of the document...
Both the lightning strike and his mother’s death influence his monstrous creation since he figures out how to reanimate dead tissue from corpses. A series of unfortunate events occur after Victor rejects the hideous beast.
The major characters of the story includes protagonist scientist Victor Frankenstein who creates the antagonist from a freak experiment. He calls his experiment “wretch,” “daemon,” “fiend,” and so on due to its horrific appearance. According to Frankenstein, the beast is so terrifying that “A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch” (Shelley, 1818, p.46). Because of Victor’s and every other human being’s rejection towards him (like his traumatic experience with the French peasants De Lacey, Felix, and Agatha), the Monster becomes bitter and goes on a rampage, killing Victor’s loved ones like his younger brother William, best friend Henry Clerval, and cousin and true love Elizabeth.
The setting of the novel takes place in 18th century Europe. It mostly takes place in Victor’s hometown, Geneva, Switzerland, where the Creature murders William and Justine Moritz, the nanny, is blamed for his murder. It also takes place in Ingolstadt, where Victor studies chemistry and eventually created the Monster in his apartment basement. Later on in the novel, Frankenstein travels to England to find supply in order to work on a female creation for the Monster. He works on the female in the Orkney Islands, located off the coast of Scotland, but ends up destroying her. Angered, the Monster kills Clerval. Returning to Geneva and marrying Elizabeth, the monster kills his wife and flees to the North Pole, where Victor pursues him and is found by Captain Robert Walton.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, has many important ethical issues addressed within the novel. Victor Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus himself, is portrayed as God in the novel since he created a living creature. In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a Titan god who molded mankind out of clay and stole the light of fire from the gods to give to humans. Angered by this, Zeus eternally punishes Prometheus by binding him “to a stake on Mount Kaukasos where an eagle was set to feed upon his ever-regenerating liver” (Theoi). In Victor’s case, his own creation eternally tortures him by murdering the loved ones in Victor’s life, especially his wife Elizabeth. Mary Shelley also purposely named the protagonist Victor after John Milton’s Paradise Lost, where God is referred to as ‘the Victor.”
The ethical issue of “playing God” addressed in the novel relates to modern day society’s issues as well. Two very controversial practices of today that relate to the novel include lab-grown organs and cloning. Lab-grown organs are organ replacements grown with that very same patient’s cells. It is a tedious process but beneficiary in the end. First, scientists collect cell samples from that specific biopsied...