Shawn Isenegger


Honor Code

Frankenstein and Prometheus: Different Times, Same Stories

            I feel I have several strengths in this paper.  First, I was able to identify many moments of intertextuality that make Frankenstein and Prometheus comparable.  I was able to locate eight similarities.  Second, I was able to find a few quotes that aided my response.  Third, I was able to find a difference between Prometheus and Frankenstein that make each story original.  I feel I could use another quote, but didn’t locate another that I really liked.  I feel my paper overall is well done.

            In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the Greek mythological story of Prometheus, there exists intertextuality.  Intertextuality is a concept in which an author of a literary work will incorporate concepts or direct quotes from another literary work.  In the case of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley includes concepts and follows the basic principles of the story of Prometheus.  In fact, the story of Victor Frankenstein has been labeled as the “Modern Prometheus” for its striking similarities to Mary Shelley’s creation.  Intertextuality highlights a particular passage and provides significance.  This significance is present in Prometheus through the writing of Shelley in Frankenstein.

            The Greek mythological tale of Prometheus begins with Prometheus himself; Prometheus was a Greek Titan given the title of champion of humanity.  Prometheus created man, and stole the gift of fire from the rest of the Greek Gods, and gave the gift to humanity.  Because of his actions, Prometheus was sentenced to eternal torture by having his liver eaten on a daily basis.  What makes the story of Victor Frankenstein the “Modern Prometheus?”  First, in both tales that are creators, and those creators create something.  In Prometheus, the Titan creates the human race.  In Frankenstein, Victor forms a being from body parts, and brings the creature to life.  So, both characters brought life to a being or beings.  Second, both characters endure some sort of suffering because of their act of creating life.  By creating life, both characters made themselves a sort of god-like figure, and responsible for their creation’s actions as the creations only know their creators.  Through their responsibility, both characters endured hardship.  Prometheus was chained down, and had his liver eaten daily.  Victor is alarmed and disturbed by his creation.  Victor abandons his creation out of disgust, and the monster is isolated.  Because of the absence of his creator and Victor’s general lack of care for his creation, the monster seeks revenge.  Over the course of time, the monster eliminates family and friends that Victor cares about.  As more and more of his connections are eliminated, Victor feels the same torture and isolation that the monster feels because of Victor’s abandonment of him.  Third, the creators abandon their creations because of a particular circumstance.  When Prometheus created the human race, he sought to aid humanity in every way possible.  However, due to his punishment Prometheus was unable to aid humanity, and thus humanity was abandoned.  Victor was immediately horrified by what his work had created, and sought to avoid the monster by any means possible.  Fourth, both characters die because of their creations.  No one can live without a liver, so Prometheus faced death as his liver was eaten.  Due to the monster’s elimination of Victor’s relations, Victor becomes a monster of his own and seeks revenge against his creation.  In his pursuit, Victor passes away, leaving his creation to die as well.  Fifth, both characters believed that “a new species would bless him as its creator and source.”  However, this assumption proved to be incorrect; as said, both characters experienced hardship due to their creations.  Sixth, the creations were created in the same matter.  Prometheus used clay to create humanity.  Victor sought to “animate the lifeless clay” (Shelley 58).  Victor’s use of clay to create the monster is perhaps a direct reference to the tale of Prometheus.  Seventh, each character defied natural creation.  Natural creation is through birth, and neither of the characters’ creations was through natural birth.  Eighth, each creator gave a “piece” of themselves to their creations.  Prometheus was a god, and modeled his creation off of himself, and in general the gods.  Victor’s personality became that of the monster, and their personalities directly affected each other.  Through the use of intertextuality, Shelley has connected an old tale with a newer tale as seen through the above similarities.  However, there is a distinct difference between the two.

            The difference between Frankenstein and Prometheus is simple: one creator is good, and one creator is bad.  After creating humanity, Prometheus attempts to get aid for humanity from the rest of the gods, but is denied.  Despite this setback, Prometheus steals fire and gives this gift to the human race.  Prometheus appeared to care about his creations, and sought to make their lives better.  On the other hand, Victor is terrible to his creation.  He is horrified by what he had created, and escapes his creature out of disgust.  Over time, the monster feels more and more isolation, and seeks revenge.  Because of Victor, the creation literally becomes a monster, thus leading to Victor’s downfall.  If Victor had cared for what he had created, Victor could be considered a good creator, and the creature would not have been a monster.  However, Victor doesn’t care, and so his reputation as a creator is tarnished.  Through intertextuality, Shelley is able to portray this difference, and is also able to make an original story that doesn’t completely mirror Prometheus. 

            In conclusion, intertextuality is a concept in which an author of a literary work will incorporate concepts or direct quotes from another literary work.  Throughout intertextuality, Mary Shelley is able to use concepts from the Greek mythological tale of Prometheus to create her tale of Victor Frankenstein, and make the two stories comparable.  There are many similarities between Frankenstein and Prometheus.  These similarities include that both beings created life, their creations were abandoned by their creators because of particular circumstances, and that both creators violated the principles of natural birth by creating a being not born naturally.  Throughout the novel, Shelley provides text that can be compared directly to the story of Prometheus.  At times, the choice of text may have come directly from Prometheus, such as Victor’s use of clay to make his being as Prometheus used clay when he created the human race.  It is through intertextuality that Frankenstein and Prometheus are similar stories. 













Shelley, Mary . “Chapter IV.” Frankenstein. Second Edition ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s,

            2000. 58. Print.