In Frankenstein, how is the funeral pyre at the end of the novel symbolic, and how does it connect to the Prometheus myth?

In Frankenstein, the funeral pyre is symbolic of both cleansing and destruction, as the creature vows to destroy himself on it. It also points to the Prometheus myth, in which Prometheus steals the secret fire and unleashes destruction upon humanity and upon himself.

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At the end of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein lies dead. The creature he brought to life beholds the body of his creator and makes a final speech. The creature has endured a miserable existence and has given into passion and killed innocent people. Yet he seems to have a conscience, for he expresses his regret to Walton and announces that he will travel further north and then “collect my funeral pile and consume to ashes this miserable frame.” He will go to his death by his own hand “triumphantly,” he says, and he will “exult in the agony of torturing flames.” He believes that this is what he deserves and that it will punish him properly before he is no more.

There is symbolism in this funeral “pile,” or “pyre.” It is both destructive and cleansing. It will purify the world of Victor Frankenstein's overreaching and its result—the creature. This fire symbolism ties in with the Prometheus myth as well. Prometheus stole the secret of fire from the other gods as a gift for humanity, yet in a way, the gift backfired on both humanity and on Prometheus. Humanity received a force that was both useful and destructive, and as a punishment, it also received Pandora, who let loose a multitude of miseries on the world. For his eternal punishment, Prometheus is chained to a rock and is repeatedly visited by an eagle who eats his liver.

We can see the connection to Frankenstein. Victor steals a secret, too, the secret of life, when he constructs and animates his creature. Like Prometheus, he has gone too far, and he has unleashed a deadly, destructive force upon the world. Indeed, the monster kills several innocent people and causes great misery. Also like Prometheus, Victor himself suffers immensely from his overreaching actions as he loses loved ones, including his bride, to the rage of the creature. He has plenty of time to feel like an eagle is pecking away at his liver.

In the end, the fire consumes the creature; a destructive force destroys another destructive force, but not before devastation has been unleashed. This fire ultimately evokes the Promethean fire brought down to humanity, though, in a kind of reversal, the pyre marks the end of destruction and forbidden knowledge, whereas in the Greek myth, the fire marks the beginning of those forces.

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