“The Role Of Theology In Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus”

1481 words - 6 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

Prometheus steals fire from the gods and is punished and Viktor creates is monster and must be punished in a relentless pursuit because he dared to explore beyond the
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“The Role of Theology in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus
limits that G-d, the Church, and society set for him. Prometheus sought to share the knowledge of fire as a tool with mankind, a transgression against the gods. Frankenstein seeks to expand mankind‟s knowledge and understanding of life and death—with the aim of defeating Death—and must be destroyed.
Frankenstein‟s theology of punishing those who seek to expand their knowledge finds precedent in the Christian Bible in the third chapter of the book of Genesis. This book recounts the myth of Adam and Eve eating of the Fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and the mandatory punishment that they must suffer.
6And when the woman saw that the tree was good (suitable, pleasant) for food and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate ... 16 To the woman He (G-d) said, I will greatly multiply your grief and your suffering in pregnancy and the pangs of childbearing; with spasms of distress you will bring forth children. Yet your desire and craving will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. 17And to Adam He said, Because you have listened and given heed to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it, the ground is under a curse because of you; in sorrow and toil shall you eat [of the fruits] of it all the days of your life.
This is a theology of judgment and of vengeance. It is a theology of the consequences for rebelling against a divine plan and order, much like Lucifer‟s rebellion against a heavenly G-d. The monster represents man, the creation. Frankenstein portrays both Satan and G-d as Creator (G-d) and as Rebel against the divine order (Satan).
The theology of creation poses a conflict for Judeo-Christianity and it poses a problem with Shelley‟s universe as inhabited by Frankenstein and his creation. The Tanakh and the Christian Bible imply that G-d created everything (although it would seem that he was not alone when He did so as implied by the term “elohim” which would refer to a group of lords). If this assertion is correct, then G-d had to have created the serpent, Lucifer, and the possibility of evil and conflict. Religion‟s G-d created His own enemy. Viktor Frankenstein created his “monster,” something he considered an abomination and a mistake. He created the monster which he
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“The Role of Theology in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus
would hunt (his own enemy as Lucifer would be to G-d) and which, in turn, would hunt down to destroy his own creator. Shelly repeats the religious tension of good versus evil, G-d versus Satan, and...

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