The ending of Frankenstein subtly recalls to mind the Promethean myth that is featured throughout the story. When Prometheus gave fire to humans, he also brought to them the consequences of Pandora’s box, which made humans suffer through disease, war, hunger, and calamity. From the point of view of the humans in that story, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine they would see Prometheus’s ‘gift’ as more of a curse.

Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus, gave his monster the ‘gift’ of life. But more than this, Frankenstein created a monster who was doomed to suffer. In giving his last words, the monster clearly demonstrates how he would have rather not been given Promethean fire. In planning his self-cremation, he refers to his demise as “exult in the agony of the torturing flames”. This representation of the flames as torturing and ultimately harmful represents the other Promethean perspective. Where Frankenstein might see fire as a source of warmth, light, and nurture, the monster sees it as agonizing and torturous. Similarly, while Frankenstein’s Promethean intentions are good, the reality is that his monster comes to see the forces that brought him to life as cruel.

In this abrupt ending, the monster assumedly kills himself, which is represented as a release from his miserable reality. What’s missing in this text is what many people find missing when faced with suicide in real life, and that is a firm understanding of simply the why. The monster eloquently offers his reasons behind his desire to kill himself, and as readers we can clearly understand them. But suicide always leaves those who are left behind a feeling of longing – was there nothing he could have done short of killing himself? This longing for answers makes the ending of Frankenstein all the more compelling – so while the story is complete, our feelings and understandings are left incomplete. I was left pondering and thinking for quite some time after my first reading of the story. I think that is precisely what Shelley would have wanted – encouraging the readers to pause and reflect on the nature of humanity and life.