Nature as a standard
In light of what we’ve been reading for the class, one of the most glaring common themes that I’ve seen is the rejection of nature itself. To me, the theme not only symbolizes the potential future of man as he tries to distance himself from what’s considered “barbaric,” but also the moral, mental, and intellectual downward spiral that goes into playing God and trying to conquer or erase the natural world.
In Frankenstein, Victor’s efforts to subvert nature create a creature that destroys everything he loves. In We and Brave New World, nature has no business in human society and anything related to the natural world and the history of mankind is treated like something disgusting to be willfully done away with. In The Time Machine, the productive humans have become technically-minded subterranean monsters who prey on the ones who let their minds go to waste. The list goes on and on.
What I find very interesting here is that while the authors of these stories were writing about their times and for the people of their times in the context of the future, the subversion of nature was used across the board to emphasize just how terrible the world of the future could be. To me, that right there indicates that nature is being used as a standard for what’s considered good and bad in human society. The further removed from nature that the characters in these stories, the more unrecognizable as functional human beings they become. Even today, the standard still stands. The majority of mainstream dystopian books, movies, and characters that have become popular aren’t set in a natural environment, but one that’s incredibly distant from the natural world, with the more evil characters frequently being gauged on how close they are to science and technology (Unless you’re Poison Ivy, but that’s different. And the fact that she’s also a comic book character). Even in the Hunger Games movies, you don’t get much more removed from nature than the people at the Capitol.
I thought this painting was appropriate here.
(Manchester from Kersal Moor, William Wyld, 1852)