Presentation on theme: "The Myth of Prometheus continued Walton and Victor: ideal humans? The function of the epistolary narrative frame and Shelley’s purpose."— Presentation transcript:
The Myth of Prometheus continued Walton and Victor: ideal humans? The function of the epistolary narrative frame and Shelley’s purpose
- Both characters are overreachers, highly ambitious men who are consumed by their goal - - Their quest involves a challenge, they both seek to assert their control over the natural order - - Both feel, like Prometheus, that their quest will benefit future generations
VictorWalton Do you share my madness? Have you drunk also of the same intoxicating draught? Chapter 4- volume 1, “Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.” p54 I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with sight of a part of a world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. “...you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on mankind to the last generation” His father’s dying injunction was for his uncle to forbid Walton to lead a seafaring life One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of knowledge which I sought for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race.
Why did she allude to it? Shelley lived in a time that had recently undergone a profound shift in the way that humans saw themselves and their world. Enlightenment thinkers were humanists, they had faith in the power of humanity to change the world for the better First and foremost, they believed in progress. They believed wholeheartedly that this could be achieved through human endeavour. Sparked by the French Revolution, intellectuals believed in “divine creative activity”
Establishes similarity between Walton and Victor. What are these similarities? Both on a quest for knowledge Both seek dominion/ control Alone in their endeavours (typical of Romantic heroes) Passionate, goal oriented, ambitious They set themselves apart from the “common man” “hurries him out of the common pathways of men” Willing to sacrifice everything to achieve their dreams Both self educated (as is the monster) Do they epitomise her society’s view of ideal humanity? Walton is certainly very enamoured of Victor and his praise shows us how men like Victor were considered. His tale, however, throws this version of ideal humanity into question.
The Walton narrative helps Shelley achieve her purpose. This is a cautionary tale (a morality tale). Victor tells his story to Walton to warn him of the dangers of the pursuit of knowledge. “Hear me- let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips” Walton alludes to Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Shelley’s story borrows from this epic poem and morality tale. The Mariner, who has killed an innocent albatross is condemned to tell his tale to others to purge his guilt and the message (interestingly) is to bless and love God’s creatures!
The letters establish the story within a story structure of the novel. It is this shifting perspective that gives us a rich understanding of the characters as we see them from different perspectives. We see Victor from Walton’s perspective, Victor from the creature’s perspective and the creature from Victor’s perspective.
Enlightenment values: a deep commitment to reason, a trust in the emerging modern sciences to solve problems and provide control over nature, a commitment to the idea of progress in material wealth and in human civility, a belief in the essential goodness of human nature, an emphasis upon the individual as master of his fate and fortune, and an engagement with the public sphere of discussion and action. In short, the Enlightenment thinkers believed in the powers of humankind and saw themselves as part of a revolutionary development in history that would replace superstition and tired rituals and corrupt traditions with reason and productive energy.
Read Walton’s tale about the mariner on board his ship (letter 2, page 20) What is the purpose of this tale? How do you think this relates to the creature? The theory behind this is Rousseau’s The Noble Savage. Find out about Rousseau’s theory and then see if you can find evidence of it in the monster’s narrative.
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