Tag Archives: death

The Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley’s novel is titled Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.  I’ve never really thought too much about the alternative title until today at the exhibit.  Prometheus in greek mythology was a creation by man of clay and fire.  He became a figure representing the strive for scientific knowledge and eventually condemned to eternal punishment.  Knowing this information makes the creature a modernized version of Prometheus.  He is a man made being derived from the strive for scientific knowledge and is eventually condemned to “eternal” punishment when Victor dies.

“The Promethean quest for power over life and death would remain a dream for the future.”

From the moment I saw the title, The Modern Prometheus I knew I wanted to try to somehow relate it to the movie Prometheus.  The movie is named after the ship which is named after the aforementioned Titan.  If you haven’t seen the movie and wish to you might want to quit reading because I’m going to jump to the ending after this sentence (SPOILER ALERT).  Near the end of the movie it is revealed Peter Weyland, who’s company paid for the mission to visit humanities possible creators, only funded the mission because he wished for the engineers (creators) to give him further life.  The whole mission was for Weyland’s “quest for power over life and death.”  This relates directly to Victor as both he and Weyland had an obsession with conquering death.  I should also say that Weyland is also the creator of David, an android indistinguishable from humans.

This has made me wonder if we will always be looking toward the future for a possible way to conquer death.

At the top of page 41 there is a bit about The Modern Prometheus. (Below)

This is all the text that was displayed in the exhibit


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The Story of An Hour

This story was interesting in many ways. When I first read the story, I was pretty shocked the wife, Louise, was not as devastated as most people would be if they found out their husband had died.  A line that really stuck out to me was “And yet she had loved him–sometimes. Often she had not. ” This made me wonder why Louise did not love her husband. What went wrong with Louise and her husband that made her seem to dislike him?

The discussion in class today helped me tie the loose ends together. We discussed how she said “Free! Body and soul free.” Louise clearly felt confined in this marriage which would explain her unhappiness. Another line that caught my attention was “Go away. I am not making myself ill. No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.” The key word in that sentence is the open window. Typically you can see outside a window if it were opened or closed, but the author felt the need to state the window was open. This signifies the opportunities Louise sees for her life now. She is not “closed” in anymore, and opportunities she has are endless. She can do anything she wants now and is taking in all the great things of life, like the nature outside.

I found the end of the story a little bizarre because Louise seemed to be happy to be newly widowed but her husband actually comes back, unharmed. Everything Louise was just thrilled about came to a crashing halt, and she eventually dies because of it.

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Post-revolution Shelley

Following the American and French Revolutions, there was a great deal of change occuring around the world. The defeat of Great Brittain began the move away from monarchical control, but there were still federalist proponents who were concerned with preserving the old order of the country. Strong radical feelings were also left in the minds of many due to the aftermath of the wars. Physically, economically, and politically damaged, the people of both France and England were handed the resposibility of paying the debts resulting from the wars. The working class increasingly desired a more representative governement in which they could express their concerns about the burden put on them . From the discontent rose a widespread radicalist viewpoint. This early form of political liberalism was particularly present in the youth of the early 1800’s who experienced the harships of post-war reparation obligations.

Mary Shelley was born in 1797 and very much shared the radicalist ideas typical of that time. There are many elements of the 1818 Frankenstein that are reflective of her sentiments. A great deal of detail about the amount of death that people faced during the time is very present in the story. Victor faces the death of many of his family members and others close to him. This may be simply attributed to the lack of development of medicine from a modern perspective, however, the hardship that many people saw was a result of poverty and living hardship. The taxes that burdened working people often took half of thier income, and so the difficulty of providing for a family was great. Shelley did have a number of close deaths including her mother and her half-sister, but she was provided for and afforded her to become educated. However, as a clearly very intelligent young person, I believe that she likely was able to pick up on the sentiments of those around her.

Another conclusion I have drawn about Shelley’s romantic views is that, although they were yet to given a formal title, are also a product of the time. Today in the special collections library we discussed on based on the infamous Year Without Summer, during which the sky stayed filled with soot and ash and caused many abnormal weather patterns following the erruption of an Indonesian volcano. This phenomenon was a perfect example of the sublime, but its timing is where is carries most of its weight. Due to the common disbelief in the human institutions and governments, a display of natural power/force as great as this would likely have impressed a great respect for nature itself. Nature was full of beauty and also able to create fear because of the lack of understanding of its limitations. From this I can see why the emphasis on surrounding and nature is so strong in Shelley’s writing. Maybe not directly a radical movement, but still being developed as a result of the open-mindedness that came from radicalism.

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Who is Walton like? (Warning some analysis is from Volume 2)

In discussion we talked a little about who Walton is. I want to look into the characters and analyze them more. Pages 49-62 of the book are the letters Walton writes to his cousin Margaret, which is where we started in class and is where I will start now. There are many comparable traits between Walton, Victor, and the Monster.

1) No Friends. Walton writes to his sister about being lonely and wanting a companion by his side who he could talk to. Victor shuts himself away from the world for over a year to work nonstop on the monster and subsequently dismisses all his family and friends from his life. The monster is so hideous no one will look at him or give him the chance to talk to them. Multiple times the monster recounts, “I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch” (p.129) referring to his deformity as well as his inability to meet friends.

2)Wanting to die. This is not all the time but several times within the novel all three break down to admit they do not want to live. “I have lost everything, and cannot begin life anew” (p.61) Walton says this while confiding to his sister. Victor after creating then dismissing the monster realizes the drastic mistake he has made and also admits he should just kill himself. The monster also contemplates extinguishing the light that Victor has sparked in him. Ironically they all think about death, but the only ones to die are the ones around them.

3)Seeking knowledge. Walton wants to know about Victor and how he got to be on his boat. He yearns to know more about him. Victor at a very young age wants to learn and read. “I read and studied the wild fantasies of [these] writers with delight” (p.68). As he gets to college the amount of information he takes in is enormous. The monster wants to learn the language of the people he spies on. He wants to be able to communicate with them so he can try to obtain them as his friends.

These were the most prominent ideas to me while reading the first part of the book. Do you see any more similarities between the characters?


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Beneath the Lines

I found today’s discussion about “The Suitable Surroundings” by Ambrose Bierce especially intriguing. The uncut version of the title was especially enlightening. What was Bierce thinking by adding that his publication was an instruction of reading a ghost story by example? By adding this extra line to the title it adds a different dimension to the whole story. Maybe Bierce was trying to imprint the impression into people’s minds (who read the story) that because Marsh died reading this story on July 15, that anyone who chances to read this story in the EXACT surroundings he depicts, will die as well. So, if you look at it that way, in a sense, Bierce has not made an instruction manual in reading a ghost story but a guide to suicide. I realize this is an abstract way to look at the story and recreating the exact atmosphere is next to impossible, but it could be done….

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