Of Machines and Men

While the industrial revolution was a revolution of lifestyle and society.  Romanticism is much more of a revolution in thinking, art and literature. In fact, Romanticism is a revolt of sorts against the industrial revolution.  Obviously, society had become too dependent on the modern advances that came with the industrial revolution, and there was virtually no chance for society as a whole to go back to the way things were, but there was obviously a desire to do just that.  Rather than having a complete De-revolution, the people of the day turned to other outlets, such as literature to express their desire for simplicity.

Before the romantic periods, literature tended to be more scientific and rational in nature. This is not surprising, as the Industrial Revolution was a huge revolution in science and reason. Romantic literature, on the other hand, explored more imaginative topics. They tended focus on capturing the feelings in an individual moment, rather than writing books with the intent of conveying information.  Describing emotion was more powerful to them than simply creating literature based in reason.

One of the most classic examples of Romantic literature ins Frankenstein By Mary Shelly. In her book, she attempts to capture the emotion of a scientist’s quest to create something. In classic romantic style, the book is more about the thoughts of the scientist and the creature than it is about the process of creation. One of the more famous quotes in the book is “I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.” This is just one of the many examples of how focused the book is on the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the characters.  All through the book, the characters are developed by their thoughts and emotions rather than their actions. Victor Frankenstein is developed almost exclusively by his thoughts.  In fact, the entire book is based inside of the lab. This doesn’t give the scientist a whole lot of time to interact with others to develop his character.  Instead he is developed through quotes that portray his thoughts and desires, such as “So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein—more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.” This quote also shows how classically romantic the character is.  Frankenstein is preoccupied in his desire to create the sublime.

In addition to character development, there are several other aspects of Romanticism in this work. Even though the book takes place mostly in a lab, nature plays and important role through the book. Through the book, Frankenstein constantly describes the hills around his lab as bleak and barren.  In contrast, he describes the hills around Switzerland as being much more beautiful. (it is obviously symbolic that Frankenstein has chosen to do his work in the bleak hills around his lab).

One thing that I personally found interesting was the way that the scientist was developed.  After watching so many movies that portray him as being a mad scientist, the characterizes him to be an honest scientist looking to create a perfect human. Almost ironically he creates a monster that is held in check by other institutions that humans have created.  The author of the book is very careful to write in flaws to these institutions.  It is not coincidental that every item created by humans in the book has flaws, clearly stating that humans cannot create perfection.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading the book Frankenstein. Generally the kind of books that I like to read are a bit more factually based that don’t have much depth. It was interesting to read a book with a bit more depth. I actually had to pay attention and make connections as I was reading. I would recommend this book to others, especially to others studying the romantic period.

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One thought on “Of Machines and Men

  1. Pingback: 42 « Hakuna Matata

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