Science and Morality in Shelley's Frankenstein - Consequences of Technology

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The Consequences of Technology Revealed in Shelley's Frankenstein In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, written in the late nineteenth century, the author proposes that knowledge and technology can be dangerous to individuals and all of humanity. Frankenstein was one of the first cautionary tales about scientific research. Shelley's novel offers profound insight of the consequences of morally insensitive scientific and technological research. Learn from me. . . 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 (Shelley 101) The popular belief of how Frankenstein came to be written derives from Shelley herself, who explains in an introduction to the novel that she, her husband Percy Shelly, and Lord Byron set themselves the task of creating ghost stories during a short vacation at a European villa. According to Shelley, the short story she conceived was predicated of the notion as the eighteenth became the nineteenth century that electricity could be a catalyst of life. In her introduction she recalls the talk about Erasmus Darwin, who had preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case, till by some extraordinary means it began to move with voluntary motion," (Joseph vii). The extraordinary means forms the basis for Frankenstein. Many people also believe that a nightmare that Mary Shelley had could also be partly responsible for the creation of the novel. At the time the novel was written, England was on the brink of leading the Industrial revolution in Europe. The experiments of Huntsman (crucible steel manufacture), Newcome (steam-powered pumps), and Cochrane (coal tar production) throughout the eighteenth century in England were decisive in the initial transformation of England into an industrialized country (Burke 137, 173, 195). The emerging age of technology appears to have found followers throughout the culture and to have become firmly reinforced by the time Frankenstein was written. Eric Rabkin (author), says that in England early in the eighteenth century, "there exist a populous discourse community that accepted the rhetoric of science" (Rabkin 39). This rhetoric has proof extending back to the English Renaissance. Those sensitive to change and those prepared to embrace a rhetoric of change need not be scientists. While scientists address a discourse community of scientists, novelists address a wider discourse community of the literate. If we can accept the earlier argument that science and poetry are not ontologically antagonistic, then we might well hope to find fictional uses of the rhetoric of science .
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