In Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, written in the late nineteenth century by Mary Shelley, Shelley proposes that knowledge and its effects can be dangerous to individuals and all of humanity. Frankenstein was one of our first and still is one of our best cautionary tales about scientific research.. Shelley's novel is a metaphor of the problems technology is causing today. 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 . . . in texts scattered from Francis Bacon's time to the present. These uses would change as the prevailing first principles of the time evolved under the impact the advances brought by science and as the consequent needs of artist also changed . . .
In the early seventeenth century, when the prevailing first principles in the artist's discourse community were theological, Bacon, as we have seen, used the authority of theology to validate the rhetoric of science. As science and technology and the persuasiveness of the rhetoric of science changed the world and the way people viewed it, the competing authorities changed their balance until today the rhetoric of science is used to lend authority to religion (Rankin 25, 37).
Tillyard confirms the proof of science and technology as firmly established in Mary Shelley's lifetime by quoting a book on Homer that proclaimed England's arts improving and its sciences advancing. Tillyard's point is that "the eighteenth-century myth of freedom in England included the doctrine of progress" ( Tillyard 106). The doctrine of progress is connected with the emerging doctrine of industrialization and science. It was this doctrine, seemingly inside by English scholars and popular culture, although reflected by...
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Tillyard, E.M.W. Myth and the English Mind. New York: Collier Books, 1961.
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