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The 19th century was a period of progress - Essay Example

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19th century is mostly attributed to be a period of progress. However, the thing to be kept in mind is that progress is primarily a relative attribute, which is always vulnerable to diverse interpretations. Some people associate 19th century with progress and development primarily owing to the rise of a scientific temperament in the period under consideration…
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Download file to see previous pages There is no dearth of totalitarian states that are scientifically developed. Yet they extend to their citizens a subhuman life. Still, others regard 19th century to be progressive owing to the unprecedented extension of Western colonialism in large parts of the world. Colonial expansions definitely brought affluence and riches to the West. However, at least by the contemporary standards, colonialism could in no way be considered an essential attribute of progress. Especially, when one takes into consideration the brutality and rapaciousness of the colonial regimes those were dominant in the 19th century. If 19th century is to be labeled as being progressive, then the term 'progress' needs to be defined as something vibrant and humane. A cursory perusal of the literary and sociological works of 19th century reveal the rise of unprecedented, radical yet intense stirrings in the social and political environment, which blatantly questioned the existing order and scheme of things in the religious, political and social dimensions of human life. It is this very discontent and aversion to the existing state of affairs that qualifies 19th century as a progressive age.
Mary Shelley's work 'Frankenstein' though superficially seems to be a Gothic tale relying on the supernatural, horrible and absurd to grab human interest and attention. However, this literary masterpiece no doubt points towards much potent interpretations, which bring to fore the general mindset and intellectual temperament of the 19th century man. 'Frankenstein' unravels a novel approach towards the understanding of creation and life, which is rebellious, unconventional, far from being conservative and orthodox and intrinsically irreverent at the same time. In fact, these are the very attributes that delineate the intellectual atmosphere in the 19th century and account for all the ensuing progress and development. The 19th century man was able to muster enough of essential heresy, which emboldened him to allocate within one's scope the matters of life and death, till now appropriated to the realm of divine and celestial. This is indicative of an approach towards life that is rational, matter of fact, inquisitive and bold. In the words of Shelley:
"Whence, I often ask myself, did the principle of life proceed It was a bold question, and one, which was ever been, considered as a mystery: yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice and carelessness did not restrain our enquiries (33)."
Yet, this severing of the ties with predominantly theological and anachronistic values in no way means that the 19th century intellectual environment was bereft of any moral or ethical constraints. On the contrary, this is representative of an intellectual mindset that though being audacious was marred by lurking fears and apprehensions. 'Frankenstein' also gives voice to such societal fears by indicating that an ethically unrestrained intellect may give way to something monstrous and abominable.
'My Bondage and My Freedom' written by From Douglas, takes this enquiry into ethics and morality into an entirely new realm. Slavery was no doubt, one of the most burning and controversial issue of 19th century. 'My Bondage ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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