Saturday, September 5, 2015

Prometheus Bride

In 1818, the novel Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, was published. (However, during its original release, the author was listed as anonymous.)

Despite many people's assumptions, Frankenstein was the name of the doctor while his creation actually remained nameless throughout the story (although the Creature himself on a handful of occasions likens himself to Adam, the Bible's first human). And, Prometheus was a mythological Greek Titan who created mankind for the gods, then taught man to hunt, read, and heal, but who was then chained and tortured by Zeus for stealing fire from the gods and sharing it with humans.

Bent on vengeance against the monster, Dr. Frankenstein struggles against his conscience and the weight of what he gave life to for the bulk of the book, seeking to destroy his creation. Meanwhile, the Creature grapples with his existence and isolation, reflecting with growing intellect and longing, but lashing out with violence. (Even more so, when the Creature loses his sole chance at companionship when Frankenstein chooses to destroy the monster bride he was creating to prevent unleashing another abomination.)

In the end, after the death of his creator, the nameless Creature, outcast from society and removed from humanity, sheds tears for the loss of his perceived father. He tells his side of the story to a single witness and walks off onto the desolate ice of the Arctic never to be seen or heard from again. Utterly alone. 

Survivors often find they relate more to the monster. Feelings of isolation and longing, issues of self-esteem and distance, internal rage and pain are often parts of the process of surviving. It is heartbreaking and disorienting to suddenly perceive ourselves as different and apart. Removed from who we once were and all we once trusted, we create a lonely landscape within ourselves.

The inspirational source of the book is often debated in literary circles. What began as a summer challenge to tell a story in a group of creative friends, has been labelled a subversive political tale of the Revolution, a suspicious reprimand at the advance of science and technology, and a Gothic romance born of the loss of her first child. (Mary Shelley was twenty years old when the book was published and she would eventually have three more children, but only one would survive childhood.)

Like the Creature and the book itself, we are all created from, inspired by, and evolve out from a complex source. We have to find our own way to and from the isolated landscape of our inner Artic. We have to learn and relearn who and what we are. 

We will rage and contemplate, rationalize and react, while moving through and away from the monstrosities of our trauma, crisis, and illness.

We need to cling to what matters and hold on to our own worth, even if we have to find beauty in the loneliness of the ice.

(Note: Over three decades after the publication of the book, on the first anniversary of Mary Shelley's death, her family opened up her writing desk. In it, they found locks of hair belonging to all of her children and the heart of her husband Percy Shelley wrapped in silk.)

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