Importance of the Subtitle, “The Modern Prometheus”
Mary Shelley, in 1818 wrote Frankenstein, she gave it the subtitle, “The Modern Prometheus” which is an allusion to the Greek Prometheus legend. According to the Greek version of the myth, it is said that Prometheus was a Titan God. He was known as a protector and benefactor of man and he gave them a number of gifts, one of which was fire. He sought fire for human betterment, the ability to make tools and for warmth. This incurred the wrath of the Greek king of the gods, Zeus, who chained Prometheus to a rock for eternity. Every day an eagle would come down and eat out his liver, a metaphor for his emotions and feelings, which would regenerate each night due to his immortality. Prometheus was also the creator of man, modelling the first humans out of clay and water. Frankenstein is the story of a Victor Frankenstein, whose obsession to know the wonders of science, drives him to give life to lifeless matter and create a hideous monster. This monster ends up destroying everything that Victor loves, and his obsession eventually leads to his death.
This myth links to Frankenstein due to the fact that both Victor and Prometheus attempted to assist mankind; both of their endeavours came at a price. Victor, in a way, stole the secret of creation from God just as the Titan stole fire from heaven to give to the man. Both the Titan and Victor get punished for their actions. Victor is reprimanded by suffering the loss of those close to him and having the dread of himself getting killed by his creation. Both of these actions were acts of hubris. The title is also reference to the book’s theme of modern men overreaching into dangerous areas of knowledge and technology.
Through this it can be seen that Mary Shelley subtitle her novel The Modern Prometheus as Victor Frankenstein is her modern reincarnation of Prometheus due to the number of similarities between them.