“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” vs. “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus” : Compare & Contrast Essay
In his poem On first looking into Chapman’s Homer, Keats reacts with delight to a translation of the ancient Greek epics. Because Chapman was roughly a contemporary of Shakespeare, his version is tough to understand for modern readers. It is, indeed, however, lively and poetic. This feeling of being transported by the book is deeply familiar to anyone trying to read a great work of literature. He offers a fine argument for reading writing from all times and cultures.
If, as it seems from his poem, Keats had previously only tried to translate Homer himself, it is understandable that Chapman was a joyous revelation. Keats shows how he is transported by Homer in a way he never anticipated by using vivid examples of other new and unexpected items.
He compares the sensation of finding a strange celestial body or discovering a new ocean. These are both images that suggest that there is still more to learn and find in Homer, as in a new planet or a new body of water. That is the way that science fiction affects some people, and indeed the way that the fully imagined fantasy worlds of Tolkien and Rowling affect younger readers.
Keats demonstrates a feeling that anyone who has tried to struggle through a great work in its original language can recognize. For someone who is studying in a second language, this happens often. A good translation is a great gift, if not a necessity, although reading in the original, as Keats must-have, is also helpful.
Giving readers the sense of being immersed in the world of the Greeks and the Trojans, or in the world of any fine literature, is a goal for many writers. The experience of another time and place through the author’s words is one of the most compelling reasons for sharing great works across nations and times. If readers are experiencing each other’s current lives and history through their reading, then there is perhaps a higher chance of keeping the peace with one another.
Keats shows the reader, in this poem of appreciation, just how important reading is to him. His imagery makes a powerful case for reading across national, linguistic, and temporal boundaries.
Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus presents the 21st-century reader with many challenges. Although many people may think that they know the story in its significant outlines, actually reading it opens up some surprising and disturbing insights on the plot, the nature of society in the early 1800s, and holds up a mirror to contemporary society as well.
One of the most striking features, to a modern reader, of Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus is that the action that is focused on so heavily by film adaptations occupies only a few lines of the novel.
The story of Frankenstein’s creation is embedded in and surrounded by several other stories; the story of Elizabeth’s joining of the family, the story of Justine, and the story of Arctic exploration that frames the tale. These are all almost as important as the scientific achievement of the Frankenstein, or the odyssey of the created being himself. This makes reading the novel a matter of locating the familiar amongst all the rest of the story.
In addition, the modern reader may find themselves horrified by the superficial attitude towards others that is revealed in so many of the characters. The poor creation of Frankenstein is rejected and allowed to leave the apartment with no further investigation, entirely because he is ugly. Furthermore, Justine is fostered by Frankenstein’s family largely because she is pretty. Modern readers may deplore the laser focus in appearance that is shown in the current media, but it seems that this is nothing new.
Furthermore, the method of determining Justine’s guilt or innocence portrayed in the novel is terrifyingly imprecise and seems deeply unjust. This situation makes Frankenstein’s silence all the more horrifying and deplorable. A modern view would suggest that he could have found a way to point the finger of guilt in the correct direction without going into all the details of his creation’s origins Frankenstein looks truly like a coward or worse, and certainly not a hero. It suggests that the ‘monster’ is more appropriately the hero of the tale.
Reading this in its original pre-movie form offers a useful window into the life and thought in the 19th century. It reveals a complex and more nuanced story that forces the reader to examine current attitudes as well.
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