This leads us to the key impact of science on society, which is explored by both Atwood and Shelley. The negative impact of science on society is explored in Frankenstein through perceived humanity in the characters. During the early 1800’s, the period in which Shelley wrote this novel, scientific progress was rapid, scientists such as Darwin having a huge impact on society as a whole. “progress” is a key word, as the forward movement with which we often associate science to is not portrayed in this novel. Rather, a backwards movement is shown. Victors “ardour” and obsession with science drains him of humanity – the more knowledge he acquires, the more selfish, egotistical and unhealthy he becomes. Heavily contrasting this is not only the behaviour of the peasant family in the woods, but of the creature himself, ending up more humane than victor. The peasant family, who we assume have minimal scientific knowledge and modest if any education, seem to be the only functional family in the novel, and the most civilized. They live in harmony with nature – juxtaposing victors distance from nature and his family in his scientific pursuits. From a societal point of view, this may be Shelley using the family as a microcosm, and showing in turn sciences impact on social order as a detrimental one rather than a positive one. Descriptions of the family rich in positive language, “a countenance beaming with benevolence and love” contrasting the “feverish ardour” associated with Frankenstein are used by Shelley effectively to show this.
Atwood does not seemingly disprove of science in the way that Shelley does, but rather represents a society in which the forward momentum of science is flipped into a negative aspect. This is clear in the descriptions of the dead doctors bodies hung up on the wall as a punishment, “time travellers, anachronisms.” The positive image of doctors of scientists known to the reader is now a thing of the past, and the society of Gilead frowns upon scientists and doctors. In the same manner that Shelley shows a deterioration of humanity in association with science, Atwood also seems to drain any humanity from the rare scientific processes in the novel. Childbirth, and examinations are strangely ritualistic and devoid of anaesthetic or consideration of the human involved. However, from a more contextual point of view, Atwood does in a way criticize the evolution of science. The idea that the whole society is in fact result of a nuclear disaster is especially relevant in the context that this was written, 1985 being near the end of the cold war, tensions and fears of nuclear disaster having been incredibly high. The dystopia in this novel shows a clear negative impact of science in society, Gilead reverting to backwards and oppressive regime in a time of evolving freedom of expression.
Whilst both novels explore different features of science and their impacts on society, both have been written with a clear concern for sciences impacts on social development. The different eras in which the novels were written show different criticisms, yet broadly they both boil down to a vast similarity – we as humans must not get carried away with science to a point where we lose our humanity.