The plots of novels written before the digital age might have been quite different if smartphones, texting, websites, blogs, social media, etc., existed many decades or centuries ago. Let’s examine this, shall we?
After a thwarted engagement, made-for-each-other Anne Elliot and Capt. Wentworth have no contact for seven long years in Jane Austen’s Persuasion (1817). If only they had known each other’s cell numbers in order to text. (Messaging rates may have applied.)
Edmond Dantes was framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and jailed in the miserable Chateau d’If island prison in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo (1844). If Edmond had been able to email the media from a dungeon computer…
Jane Eyre of Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 novel knows something fishy is going on in the Thornfield Hall attic. She could’ve learned the true story sooner if she had had a “nanny cam.”
The person who murdered two women in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866) is not known to the authorities for a long time. But what if Raskolnikov, during a late-night bout of self-confessional depression, posted about his guilt on Facebook?
In George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871), there are two problematic marriages: that of Dorothea Brooke and Edward Casaubon, and Tertius Lydgate and Rosamond Vincy. If TMZ.com reported on those unfortunate unions, maybe the couples would’ve soon divorced from embarrassment.
Claude Lantier was a frustrated artist in Emile Zola’s The Masterpiece (1886). He might have felt better if he posted his paintings on Instagram.
Things would have been better for Edna Pontellier if she made a TikTok video rather than doing what she did (I’m avoiding a spoiler here) at the end of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899).
In Jack London’s Martin Eden (1909), the title character has a hard time becoming a published writer. It would have helped to gain some exposure by starting a blog.
In W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage (1915), the foolishly enamored Philip Carey is stuck in an atrocious relationship with the unkind Mildred that goes on and on. If Philip had access to online dating apps, chances are he would’ve met someone more compatible many chapters earlier.
The trial in Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) was dramatic enough. Picture it trending on Twitter, with retweets galore!
Things would have been a lot less crazy in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) if a different piece of wardrobe furniture had been purchased on Craigslist.
Books burned in Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451? Replace ’em with an Amazon order…
Sal Paradise and other characters drive all over the place in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957). A good GPS might have kept them in Jersey or something.
Any scenarios you’d like to create by placing modern technology in old novels?
Here’s a 2020 song called “I Know Alone” by the three-sister band Haim. Why is it relevant to this blog post? Well, in the quirky dance the siblings do in this video, one of their moves is swiping on the screens of imaginary smartphones. 🙂 An image taken from the video is atop this blog post.
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. My latest piece — about a misleading anti-rent-control campaign and more — is here.