“the Role of Theology in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’S Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus”

William R. Halstead
March 23, 2008
ENG 121: Composition I
Professor Jayni Breaux
“The Role of Theology in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus”
A frequent underlying theme which can be found in the Gothic classic, Frankenstein, is the theme of Man versus G-d. Rather than simply using ominous sounding theological arguments about how Shelley demonstrates the clash between free will and predetermination, another way of looking at Frankenstein is the concept of Creation versus Creator; the story offers a denial of “the implications of recent theological emphases on human beings as „created co-creators‟ with God” (Lustig, 8). Whichever point of view or choice of language that the reader elects to use as their frame of reference, the fact remains that Shelley‟s classic work is a strong condemnation on the Calvinist idea that one‟s spiritual fate is predestined and to make her condemnation, Shelley lampoons the idea that playing G-d, that operating independently outside of His control, must have terrible consequences. For Shelley, Viktor Frankenstein steals the authority of G-d and, much like the ancient Greek Titan Prometheus, brazenly opts to create man “in his own image.” Victor Frankenstein, like Prometheus, like the Industrial Revolution taking over England in the nineteenth century, is the battle between Nature and G-d against Creation and Technology, the battle between the old and the new.
When we think of Frankenstein, we usually think of the monster, of the creation, and not of Viktor Frankenstein, the creator. Somehow, we almost instinctive run to the idea of the monster and the vicarious thrill of judging Viktor for usurping the role of G-d. Theologically, Viktor steps out of his appropriate role as a man and commits the same sin that condemns Prometheus to being chained to the mountain by Zeus and having his eyes plucked out by eagles continuously. Prometheus steals fire from the gods and is punished and Viktor creates is...