Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the uses of technology play a huge role in how the story pans out. New ways of combining science and technology and the purposes people use them for has become a huge controversy between people all over the world. Today, scientists aren’t afraid to try new things; however, in Victor’s time his experiment may have been a little ahead of the game.
Frankenstein having taken place in the 1700’s, didn’t have a ton of technological developments. This lack of technology links to the idea present in the book that time passes quickly. Victor leaves for University in the beginning of chapter 3 of Frankenstein and “six years had elapsed…and I stood in the same place where I had last embraced my father before my departure for Ingolstadt” says Victor when returning in chapter 7 after the death of his younger brother (Shelley 81). That much time passing in so few chapters may be part of Shelley’s writing style but, I think it’s also due to the lack of technology. With today’s technology you can talk to whoever you want whenever you want and get a reply in seconds. If Victor was to write a letter, (which was pretty well the only form of communication technology at the time) it could take weeks for him to receive a reply. The journey from Ingolstadt to his home in Geneva was also long and so, Shelley basically skipped over the “boring” parts of Victor’s life and stuck to the details which made time seem to pass more quickly.
Today, it is unimaginable, especially to teenagers and children that a letter was once the only form of long-distance communication. Now all you have to do is click a few buttons or tap your message on a virtual keyboard and press send. Imagine if today’s technology was accessible to Victor during Frankenstein. What would have been different? Victor wouldn’t have had lost touch with his family because there would be no excuse for him to not send them a text; not that there was much of an excuse for him to not write a letter. There are so many cameras around that the Monster would have been spotted. The murder of William may have even been caught on camera. This means Justine would be alive, and maybe everyone else too if the Monster had been captured. The Monster spent a lot of time in “the forest near Ingolstadt” at night so he wouldn’t be seen, this would be much more difficult today because of things such as tree cameras that would have caught him, even at night (Shelley 108). This situation reminds me of Bigfoot. A monster creeping through the forest at night, claimed to have been spotted before. Oddly, no one seems to think the cottagers or anyone else who encountered the Monster to be ‘crazy’ for seeing him like some people think about those claiming to have seen Bigfoot.
Sighting of Bigfoot
Many scientific discoveries become controversial at some point in time and this may be why Victor kept his own discoveries to himself. “Certain scientist have always changed the dogma of the era and often faced persecution because of it” says The Brain Bank North West. Victor was definitely changing the dogma of his era, but no one knew because of his secrecy. Was Victor afraid of persecution? I would be, considering the intensity of his discoveries and the lack of technology and other scientific advancements of his time. But what was the point in all this work if Victor couldn’t even bring himself to share his successes with his best friend? “I could never persuade myself to confide in him that event which was so often present to my recollection” Victor says about Henry. Women tell their friends everything and I’m sure everyone has experienced an example of this, some people even say it’s why women tend to live longer than men because they share their thoughts and feelings. It’s unhealthy to keep everything boggled up inside of you and that is exactly what Victor is doing. All the stress of his mother’s death, his brother and Justine’s death that he blames himself for, as well as the never-ending terror of not knowing what additional crimes your creation is committing out in the world that Victor doesn’t talk about with anyone begins to drive him mad. While Victor is in prison he continually accuses himself for Henry’s death and his father who is there with him blames Victor’s state on his illness when in reality Victor was really ‘going crazy.’ Although it made Victor crazy, a lot of scientific breakthroughs are made when people push ethical boundaries of their time. Recreating life is pushing boundaries, but Victor never admitted it to be wrong; although, “[he] shuddered to think that future ages might curse [him] as their pest” for creating a second monster (Shelley 180).
Another controversy involving Frankenstein is whether science and technology is good or evil. Torben Friehe, the Co. founder of the Good Technology Collective says, “whether tech is good or bad depends on the people that create it.” Friehe also says “engineers also need to… question the purpose of the tech they contribute to” this goes for any type of innovation. Victor never gives reason for creating the Monster or even thinks what he’ll do if his experiment works and it ends up backfiring. Does this make Victor bad or just idiotic for not thinking ahead? All Victor seemed to care about was “that [he] alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret” he had no reason why, he just wanted to be the first to make this discovery (Shelley 52). Too many people look at ‘can’ it be done not ‘should’ it be done. For example, during the holocaust the technology of trains and gas chambers made is possible to kill 6 million Jews, but that doesn’t mean it should have been done. A modern example would be that scientists managed to create healthy baby mice from just stem cells and believe they may be able to do the same with human cells. This discovery is positive because the experiments worked, and they had a vision in the end to help infertile women be able to have children. In the end, Science and technology are neither good or evil, it all depends on the people who create it and they ways they intend to use it.
Brain Bank North West. “Pushing Scientific Boundaries: How Far Is Too Far?” The Brain Bank North West, 25 Feb. 2013, thebrainbank.scienceblog.com/2013/02/25/pushing-scientific-boundaries-how-far-is-too-far/.
Maack, Már Másson. “Whether Technology Is Good or Bad Depends on the People That Create It.” The Next Web, 13 Dec. 2017, thenextweb.com/tech/2017/12/13/whether-technology-is-good-or-bad-depends-on-the-people-that-create-it/.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Maurice Hindle. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Penguin, 1992.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “Frankenstein Victor Frankenstein Quotes Page 1.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/frankenstein/victor-frankenstein-quotes.html.
History.com Editors. “The Holocaust.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 14 Oct. 2009, www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/the-holocaust.
GmbH, StepMap. “Frankenstein’s Journey – Landkarte Für Switzerland.” StepMap, 19 Feb. 2013, www.stepmap.com/map/frankensteins-journey-dJoNIrRwdA.
“Top 10 Bigfoot Sightings of the Last 5 Years.” Animal Planet, 15 Dec. 2014, www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/finding-bigfoot/lists/10-bigfoot-sightings-last-5-years/.