When we say the word technology, most of us (including myself) think about the everyday electronics and machinery we use in our lives. There is such a range of definitions for the word "technology" that its actually extremely hard to pinpoint. Each individual has their own take on what it means to them, and I'm going to explore Mark Twain's take on it in his book, "A Conneticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court.
When thinking about how Twain interprets technology in the novel, chapter 7, "Merlin's Tower", stuck out like a sore thumb if you will. It is after the Yankee's terms are met and he is treated as royalty. He describes the living quarters in this way...
"As for convieniences, properly speaking, there weren't any. I mean little convieniences;
it is the little convieniences that make the real comfort of life. The big oaken chairs,
graced with rude carvings, were well enough, but that was a stopping-place. There was
no soap, no matches, no looking glass- except a metal one, about as powerful as a pail of
water. " (Twain, 79).
It is the little "convieniences" that we take for granted. These are included in technology, for I believe Twain views technology as progression, and "convieniences" that make life a whole lot easier. He extends past this passage about the living quarters and leads to the fact that we don't really know just how much technology is intertwined with our lives until we lose it. Technology represents a developed society for Twain, one where people are of high intelligence and use machinery in their daily lives. In the beginning, the Yankee describes the people of King Arthurs Court almost childlike, and this is very interesting to me. Technology is a symbol for progress, and it helps us develop into complex and intelligent beings whereas the people of the Court are still at a child's level of emotion, complexity and intelligence.
The Yankee uses technology to his advantage, when he outsmarts the kingdom into thinking he is some sort of magician. He begins to create factories and schools to increase the amount of technology in society, but does this in secret. Something as simple as reading and writing is a scarcity in this 6th century, and it shows just how much we take those little things for granted. For instance when the Yankee is on his adventure to the castle, he doesn't understand how these people can go without bathing or changing out of armour. It is a matter of what you are used to. Technology can go unnoticed when it is there all around you.
"It is a little thing-glass is- until it is absent, then it becomes a big thing,"(Twain 81). Twain's main theme that I can make out so far is the importance of technology or progress and how much we don't appreciate it until it is taken away. It is an interesting concept to put a 20th century factory owner, whose life is run by technology, into the 6th century where technology is so much less developed that it seems absent completely.
Twain, Mark. A conneticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court. Penguin Books. New York City, New York. 1986.