Hubris is a common theme in world literature and storytelling wherein heros try to out do the work of the Gods. This behavior often leads to tragic results. One ancient Greek tale of hubris is the story of Prometheus. Prometheus, the Greek Titan, created humanity from clay and water, and then supplied humans with the gift of fire behind the back of Zeus, King of the Gods. The Gothic European novel Frankenstein tells the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation of a large and frightening monster. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein parallels many subjects and themes found in Prometheus, and reexamines the concept of hubris in a new and creative manner.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus is the Titan who disobeyed Zeus’ rules by creating humanity out of clay and water. Prometheus loves his creations and wants to help them, so he steals fire from Mount Olympus and gives it to the humans. In Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor attempts to unlock the secrets of life by creating a monster. Both characters disregard any preset rules and choose to defy the order established by the gods. Victor becomes “capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter” (p 37) as his obsession with creating life grows. He gains so much power and knowledge that he is able to actually create a living being. However, the creature does not resemble a true human. Instead, Victor’s imagination expands and he gives “life to an animal as complex and wonderful as man”, but eight feet tall and with a yellow-tinted skin color. This shows that he gained so much power that instead of creating a human; he purposefully created a monster to look nothing like humans. Even after he is warned by numerous professors that the experiments are dangerous, Victor refuses to listen. In Prometheus, Prometheus refuses to listen to what Zeus tells him and continues to act as if he is above the rules of nature and the gods.
Prometheus and Victor do not accept their limitation set by society and nature; they dream of a creation without thinking about any potential consequences. Victor is eager to test his scientific skills, but never ponders any consequences that could occur as a result to the creature or to others. Similarly, Prometheus creates humans to spite the power of Zeus, but never actually thinks of what could happen if humans have the power of thought or fire. Victor defies laws of nature and realizes that “...the different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature…” (p 42). He doesn’t want to create an animal similar to humans, as it could eventually pose as a threat. Attempting to think logically, Victor produces a monster “of a gigantic stature....about eight feet in height, and proportionally large” (p 38). He knows that this being will be much different than humans, and that satisfies him at first. Victor never imagines that his creature could actually be intelligent and have a distinct personality. When Prometheus creates humanity, he doesn’t think of the possible repercussions from creating an intelligent creature that has the ability to think independently.
Both stories use the concept of fire; not only literally but also metaphorically. With fire, comes the gift of knowledge, which then can be used to help conquer. When Victor was just a child, he “beheld a stream of fire (lightning) issue from an old and beautiful oak…”, and “...so soon as the dazzling light [had]…