Did Mary Shelley initially title her work about Victor Frankenstein and his creation The Modern Prometheus solely because of the glaring similarities between their stories? That is a question that is often discussed, but a conclusion rarely arrives. One of the possible reasons for this could be because there are many different interpretations of the Promethean myth, which are mainly based on the ambiguous nature of the story. The parallels between the Promethean myth and Frankenstein are obvious, and that, in combination with her subtitle, The Modern Prometheus, indicates that Mary Shelley did have the myth in mind as she wrote the story.
One perception of Prometheus' actions views him as a hero: the creator of man, the giver of knowledge, one who is self-sacrificing for the good of others. Meanwhile, there is another perception of Prometheus' actions, which is almost the complete opposite of "Prometheus the Hero." That is the view that Prometheus was more the "usurper of their [the Gods'] powers" (Smith, p. 1) than a hero. It is the two contrasting views of the Prometheus myth that makes its connection to Frankenstein so intriguing. Frankenstein also has a duality in how its story is perceived. Was Victor Frankenstein the archetype of the Promethean hero, or was he the usurper of divine power? Although there are direct parallels between Victor Frankenstein's story and that of Prometheus, there are many differences that contribute to why Frankenstein was subtitled The Modern Prometheus. In following the pattern of a well-known Greek myth, with the addition of her own changes, Shelley makes it clear that Victor Frankenstein is more the usurper of divine power, as opposed to being an archetype of a Promethean hero. That is why she uses MODERN in the subtitle. It is because of the difference between the modern values of Frankenstein and those of the Promethean myth that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is subtitled The Modern Prom...
Norton, Dans and Peters Rushton. Classical Myths in English Literature. New York:
Greenwood Press Publishers, 1969. P. 311-316.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Penguin Group, 1963.
Smith, Johanna M. Forbidden Knowledge or "Sad Trash"?
HTTP://www2.centenary.edu/forbidden/smith. February 1, 1999.
Mullen, Patrick. The Creation of Man by Prometheus.
HTTP://members.tripod.com/`greekmyth/creationman.html. January 31, 1999.