The subtitle of Shelley’s work, “The Modern Prometheus,” surely implies the content of the novel, bringing our minds the ancient Promethean myths. An analysis on the plot and the main characters in the stories, Prometheus and Dr. Frankenstein, may lead us to the answer why Mary Shelley subtitled her book Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus.
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After comparing Prometheus and Dr. Frankenstein, it becomes clearer why the subtitle of the book is Or, the Modern Prometheus. There are obviously many similarities in the main characters, Frankenstein and Prometheus. For example, both Prometheus and Dr. Frankenstein give life to creatures and as a result of this they both suffer their consequences. Their aim of creating a human being causes them great suffering and eventually teaches them worthful lessons. Mary Shelley incorporates some of the traits of Prometheus, such as being ambitious and daring into Dr. Frankenstein. It is because of their similarities that Mary Shelley decided to subtitle her book in reference to Prometheus. Her creation of the character Dr. Frankenstein is a modern version of the Greek myth about Prometheus. She also shows how Frankenstein learns his lesson and refuses to make another monster because he knows what the effects of his ignorance towards the laws of nature will be. Just like Prometheus refuses to take the creation of the woman from gods, Frankenstein refuses to create a female companion for the monster. In conclusion, the book is subtitled Or, the Modern Prometheus because the fictional character, Dr. Frankenstein, has many similarities in their faults and understandings to that of the Greek character, Prometheus. In Prometheus and Frankenstein, the protagonists are very alike in many ways. They created life, stole and got punished for what they did.
As far as Kenneth Branagh’s movie version of Frankenstein is concerned, the Monster’s final ending is different than the novel version. When Prometheus was punished, he was chained for thousands of years. The other gods begged Zeus to show mercy and finally Zeus offered Prometheus freedom on one condition and later broke the chains that bound him. After his years of suffering, Prometheus was free. In the book, after Victor Frankenstein has passed away, the Monster begins to utter words of sorrow to his deceased creator and of anger towards himself. The Monster continues to speak of his sins and then comes to the point that he will leave the ship’s vessel and seek the most northern extremity of the globe and then ultimately die there. The Monster believes that the only thing to do now is to dispose of himself. Soon after he is done speaking, he jumps out of the cabin window onto the ice raft that carries him away into the darkness and distance, ending the story. The movie follows most of the story but differs in the Monster’s departure. In the movie, Walton and his crew build a stretcher for the deceased Frankenstein and hold a funeral for him. After the funeral the ice that the men are standing on breaks away and they rush back to the boat for safety. Walton sees the Monster in the water and extends his hand and asks him to come aboard with him but the Monster refuses and swims to the ice raft that his creator lies on. In the end the Monster is seen floating away on the raft with his creator. The director of this movie decided to have the Monster and its creator finish the story together unlike the book’s version of the Monster going off to die on his own. And by letting the
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