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Throughout human history, matters not which civilization; humanity has endeavored to attain a sociality in which one can live with freedom, enjoyment, justice, and happiness. It is human nature to see oneself in a place where it is flourishing and enjoyable, and unfortunately that is often elsewhere then where one is; after all isn’t “the grass always greener on the other side” (Eng. Proverb).
Countless writers have crafted utopian worlds for the reader to consider and explore and many of those novelists don’t deem the modern-day world as the “good place”(Hermon, Holman) but rather one of the indescribable atrocities of war, disease, hunger etc… A utopian world is a difficult, if not impossible, one to forge. Novels such as Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, and 1984 are dystopian novels, with often-satirical undertones within their pages. This works are allegories, sardonic depictions of our societies ills. Each work contain strong hard-hitting political messages with common themes such as the fine line that divides a utopia and a dystopia and the sharp contrast in the perception of the characters within the works and the reader.
In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, takes the individuality of the inhibitors of this world and has made happiness and enjoyment of life in to an artificial feeling with the constant presence of soma, a wonder-drug. In hope of achieving utopia, humankind plunges into dystopia though mass cloning which ultimately destroys humanity. In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the controllers of this world try to achieve utopia but in turn reach dystopia were knowledge is gone, due to their censorship of information. In George Orwell’s 1984, achieves dystopia by an inner party within government who strive for domination by controlling love and the individual mind. In Once and Future King, T.H. White creates a utopian world where the idea of equality, peace, fairness, and happiness appears as a result of King Arthur’s influence. Novel shows how one individual tries his whole life striving to achieve utopia. The novel shows that the lifetime of one person is not enough to obtain this utopia as King Arthur has to past his ideas for the future generations. In Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, constructs the perfect utopia where the individual, love, and knowledge are practice unlike the other worlds. Looking Backward, and Once and Future King, did what the other novels did not; it strives for utopia and reaches it, at least for a time. Novels that reach utopia keeps and works the ideas of individualism, love, and knowledge into the society; whereas the dystopian novels eliminate such ideas believing it will lead to utopia.
George Orwell presents a world to the reader where there is no chance for a utopia whereas the citizens of that world see their world as a utopia due to telescreens, propaganda and brainwashing that leads to a society of no desires or thoughts. Citizens are not allowed to have personal thoughts or feelings due to the telescreens that destroys the individual mind. Telescreens is a design that is, in every sense, a two way interacting television set that the Party uses to keep people from thinking. A force called the “Thought Police” monitors the telescreens. “Thought police plugged in on any individual wire… in the assumption that every sound you made was over heard”(Orwell 7). We see how this is forced greatly on the people when Winston has to hide himself from telescreens just to write down some of his thoughts. A huge poster with big eyes looms over the people with the perpetual reminder that “Big Brother” is watching them. This is the constant brainwashing the citizens goes trough as they are conditioned at a young ages to love Big Brother and once addicted the party controls them for then on. All the brainwashing of constant propaganda’s and telescreen turns the people in the society into drones with only one desire, to love Big Brother.
In 1984 the society obtains true power and maintains dystopia by controlling the power of love both in the filial and romantic sense. Children are brainwash at a young age not to love, but spy against their parents thus destroying the filial love. The children are persuaded to grow up and love only Big Brother. The Party has made the affection of making love to another as a vile and sinful act. “The aim of the Party was not merely to prevent men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act…. The party was trying to kill the sex instinct by distorting it and dirtying it”(Orwell 57). The mere understanding that sex was apart of love was made into be a sin in and of itself, but seen right by the party to have sex to gain new members. The party uses the Ministry of Love that implements tortures to keep control of love to achieve complete domination. Pain of torture is too much to bear as it can strip love and force one to betray, as one would do anything to stop the pain. “I don’t care who it is or what you do to them. I’ve got a wife and three children… You can take the whole lot of them and cut their throats in front of my eyes, and I’ll stand and watch it. But not room 101!”(195). Here is an example of a prisoner who has been tortured for a long period of time by the Ministry of Love that he can stand it no longer, he is willing to do anything they command to stop the agony. Due to this excessive pain he is willing to witness his own spouse and offspring killed before him for the love of the party and not for his family. This is the same process that Winston and Julia went through as they betray each other.
Winston and Julia’s severe torture destroys the romantic love they shared and leads to their mutual betrayal as they turn to love Big Brother and away from one another. This is power that the Party obtains and controls in this dystopia. “Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves”(Orwell 211). On account of the immense torment they suffer, Winston and Julia are lead to the betrayal; “I betrayed you,” she said declares baldly. “I betrayed you”(Orwell 240). After they were drained of the love for each other they were filled by love of Big Brother. This is reason why the people of Oceania are incapable of love on their own will but rather made to love Big Brother and only Big Brother through the power of torture. With this in mind, this society controlled by the party sees itself as a utopia, whereas it truly and sadly a dystopia in readers eyes and will remain so.
Dystopian worlds are often alike; consider Brave New World, which possesses much semblance to 1984. Brave New World shows the individuality striped from it’s people who are forced to live brainwashed and segregated, all unjustly without them knowing of it. The people of this futuristic world see only utopia, blind to the horrors before them. Within this world they have mastered the art genetics and are able to form identical beings pumped out by the dozen. This process is called Bokanovsky’s Process, “Bokanovsky’s Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!” (Huxley 5). The final result of the Bokanovsky process is mass cloning which does not bring about social stability but the destruction of humanity and individuality. No longer the individual exist, the term individual has a small meaning in this world of similar faces. Controllers of this world are still not done, they continue to strip more and more of human nature away from all things in quest for utopia. The controllers of Brave New World have created a caste system were at birth many human natures are taken away; the controllers act as god and decide who gets what even before birth. One must wonder how a world is equal when it comes to labor? Who gets to decide who becomes a garbage man or a company president? In this society their jobs are chosen before they are decanted from their artificial birth. Society creates different levels of humans so that the lower the class the lower quality of being. Higher classes are not identical for they are made different but are only a small percentage of the total population. The higher class is the one that coordinates society while the true labor backbone comes from the lower classes. To maintain this caste system the administrative upper class must take great efforts to keep happiness and pleasure for the castes groups so they do what they are made to do.
Happiness in Brave New World is artificial with roots in conditioning and the company of the drug called soma. All the people in this society go through conditioning; conditioning that takes away free will and judgment. If a certain group has to pick up garbage, that group will love to pick up garbage. There is no room for the individual mind because the conditioning does not allow the mind to mature in its own way, this is why children were decanted and not born. “For you must remember that in those days of gross viviparous reproduction, children were always brought up by their parents and not in State Conditioning Center”(Huxley 23). The happiness that condition brings to the caste works efficiently. However, sometimes this synthetic happiness needs a boost. The higher and lower caste can sometimes see their misery, which is not intended by the controllers, so these people are given soma. Soma, the magical ultra-drug, is what keeps the population content with there daily lives. “What you need is a gram of soma… All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects.” (Astrachan) Between the intense conditioning and soma all the desires of the populous are satisfied there is no need for love, family, or any form of nostalgia.
In this world’s endeavor to achieve utopia at all costs, they have paid dearly. Love, both filial and romantic, was trampled under by the mass stampede to attain perfection. Though decanting comes about the lose of filial love because in this world there are no mothers or fathers, or any family for that matter. ”Mother, monogamy, romance. High spurts the fountain; fierce and foamy the wild jet. The urge has but a single outlet.” (Huxley 41) The comparison to a wild jet is intended to demonstrate the inherent dangers in these activities; the controlling class encourages and conditions the citizens to have sex with many partners within their caste. No love is possible in this society because it has been weeded out. People of Brave New World even see the love between a mother and child disgusting. “The spectacle of two young women giving breasts to their babies made her blush and turn away her face. She had never seen anything so indecent in her life”(Huxley 111). The only way they can see love is when they go to the savage lands. The savage land is where John is from and through his eyes the reader can truly see this world of dystopia.
The reader of Brave New World can see that the society has not reached anything having semblance to a utopia, as can John the Savage, but ironically the people of the society think other wise; citizens believe they have reached a state of living that many dream of. The people of this world cannot see this dystopia whereas John can. Society disgust John because he is able to see without the contaminants of conditioning and soma clouding his perception. “‘O brave new world that has such people in it.’…But the Savage had suddenly broken away and was violently retching”(Huxley 63). The society does not understand John’s reaction other then that they see him as a savage and primitive being. They attempt to reveal their world to John, but with little success. “Bernard and Hemholtz show off Utopia to John. He is more disgusted and moody with each passing day”(Carey 13). It is ironic that the members of this so-called Utopia call John the savage when he truly is not. “But the central irony in Huxley’s evocation of the Noble Savage idea is that although John Savage, as he comes to be called, fits the romantic prototype in that he has a natural dignity and intelligence, he is not a savage”(Guinevera 76). This shows that Brave New World to a regular person is not seen to be a utopia; it is seen to be a dystopian horror. Another novel, Fahrenheit 451, reaches for utopia but ends up with dystopia.
Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451 shows a society that creates a world of bliss, a world without the causes of pain and confusion, which in turn only leads to a world with no thoughts. The society believes that pain was causing dystopia along with pandemonium. The society of Fahrenheit 451 begins to strive for complete happiness, believing that utopia would soon be reached. To rid pain they made devices to continuously pump in happy thoughts. Such devices resemble television sets except one is completely surround on all four sides by screens and headsets to calm you and dispense happy thoughts. “…in her ears the little seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in… of her unsleeping mind”(Bradbury 11). This demonstrates well how the society of Fahrenheit 451 tries to keep everyone happy and free from pain and confusion by robbing them of feeling. However, these devises are not enough; the human brain has many thoughts and so the society is cornered into having to try to keep the mind free of any thoughts other then happy ones.
This world believes that knowledge from literature causes much unneeded controversy, confusion, and pain so eventually they became extinct. Society wishes the people and not question why. In order too accomplish this objective society has to take away the individual mind that forms from the knowledge it receives. The source of knowledge that the society looks unfavorably upon was books. At first they did not burn books as they thought they could just shorten them. “Classic cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows, then cut again to fill a two-minute book column…whose sole knowledge, as I say, of Hamlet was a one-page digest in a book claimed: now at last you can read all the classics; keep up with your neighbors.”(Bradbury 50). By shortening books they believed it would cause fewer thoughts thus leading to less controversy that leads to less confusion and finally less pain. It is those thoughts that instill questions into your mind and this is what the society does not want. Shortening books was not enough so they had to take more drastic measures.
In Fahrenheit 451 is a world that does not allow the individual express their own thoughts by destroying all the books that help the human mind to form it’s of unique individual way. In the beginning of the novel, we see fire that is used to destroy books. “It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed”(Bradbury 3). This shows how fire is to be seen throughout the novel, as it destroys books that are knowledge. As the books burn and become blackened so do the minds of many become, as they no longer think for themselves
In this so-called utopia the society has to be on a fast pace so they have no time to think or question; just be happy. Everything in this society is accelerated. “One column, two sentences, a headline! Then, in mid-air, all vanishes! Whirl man’s mind around about so fast under pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!”(Bradbury 50). Even the teaching of knowledge is speed up. “School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored”(Bradbury 51). This society keeps going forward at breakneck speeds, no time to glimpse at itself in the mirror and see what’s wrong whereas the reader is all too well aware of the dystopia before him.
The society within the novel keeps pushing itself to be blissful and painless; they do not look back and see their dystopia whereas Montag does as Clarisse makes him think. Montag has been pushed along with society until he met Clarisse. It took a question from Clarisse, “Are you Happy?”(Bradbury 9), and an old lady who burned with her books to change Montag’s views about the society he lives in. Montag soon becomes a rebel and goes against the ways of the society. Controllers of this world eradicate Clarisse, in view of the fact that she is a loose cannon of thoughts to the society. This is what the society has come to, it will due anything to preserve their little delusions of happiness. Montag is an example of what thoughts and books can do to a citizen in this futuristic society. The power of thought can open the eyes and truly bring to light how the society really is; in chaos. In Once and Future King shows a society that is unlike this dystopia of censorship, it is unlike any society so far discussed in this paper.
T.H. White’s Once and Future King brings forth a utopia that King Arthur constructs, but is in danger by the teachings of Toirdealbhach to Arthur’s ill made son and the Orkney boys. Arthur is able to construct this Utopian kingdom do to his childhood lessons from Merlin, a wise and powerful mage. While Arthur is still a young boy Merlin, using his archon mystical powers, transforms him into a fish, afterward an ant, and then a goose. As a fish Arthur learned that of authority and strength but learns from this lesson that might is not right, that force isn’t the answer to conflict. When the young Wart was an ant he learned of war and its depraved nature, a perfect example of which was the ant creed: “When we are so numerous and starving…obviously we shall have a right to take other people’s stores of seeds” (White 128). Arthur learns how war is not worth the bloodshed it causes, in addition to this he sees just how important the individual mind is. When Arthur took the skies with the geese he learned about territories and boundaries and learned when to fight and when not to. However, Arthur’s son and the Orkney boys were all taught the old ways, which lack the enlightenment Arthur was given and lead be Arthur’s downfall. Still, with all the lessons taught by Merlin, Arthur was able to create his utopian society.
King Arthur creates an ideal society were the individual respected and could think and love freely at his discretion. Arthur society was booming with people who were free and able to live life without harm. “Where the black knights had hoved, …now any virgin could circumambulate the whole country, even with gold and ornaments upon her person, without the least fear of harm…All the tyrannous giants were dead, all the dangerous dragons had been put out of action.” (White 423)
To obtain equality Arthur made the round table so that no one was above another. “‘There will be a lot of jealousy,’…’Knights in this order of yours saying that they are the best one, and wanting to sit at top of the table.’ ‘Then we must have a round table, with no top’”(White 265). After creating the round table he had knights flocking to his kingdom. In time King Arthur creates his perfect society and devotes it revises the old ways that caused in the past the unfavorable conditions of the kingdom..
King Arthur wants his utopia to thrive hence he tries to enlighten the new generations, King Arthur wants to teach the children while still young so when older they are not “The most important thing, will be to catch them young. The old knights, the ones we are fighting against, will be mostly too old to learn. We must breed up a new generation of chivalry for the future”(White 265). Arthur’s dream of utopia is shattered when the Orkney boys with Arthur’s own son, who have been taught the old ways of deceit and hypocrisy, challenge Arthur’s authority. Dystopia came upon the society that Arthur tries so hard to maintain. All of Arthur’s ideas and values are suddenly at the brink of extinction. King Arthur’s last hopes for his society is to pass his ideas to a young page named Tom before his death. “You see, the King wanted there to be somebody left, who would remember their famous idea” (White 636). Tom was told of all the ideas of Arthur’s utopia and hopes in day that the society once again will rise again. King Arthur’s society, unlike those in Brave new world, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451 truly achieves a utopian state for a time; however, it is all too quickly lost. In Looking Backward present a world like no other where there is no chance of corruption as in King Arthur’s society.
Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, takes a dystopian world and changes it around to the perfect utopia were hunger, war, and hate no longer exist but instead knowledge, individual, and love endures. The world Julian lives in contains war, hunger, crime, and has many disputes. Julian never thinks about this distopic world because he and his family are wealthy, and enjoy the comforts of being so well off. West goes to sleep one day and wakes up in the twentieth-century after being in a suspended trance. Mr. Leete brings West out of this trance and becomes his guide to utopia. West learns through Mr. Leete about the past Boston, which has changed in to the last millennium.
Boston in the twentieth-century takes care of the individuals and allows them to form in their autonomous way. This utopian society expects the people to do what best fit them and mature in their own way. “The most delicate possible test is needed here, and so we leave the question whether a man shall be a brain or hand worker entirely to him to settle”(Bellamy 137). This shows that society does not push ideas on to the citizens. Citizens are allowed to strive within their own talents. “Public policy is to encourage all to develop suspected talents”(Bellamy 138). If one wants to be a writer he or she can be a writer. No one in society will tell or make one do something against their will other then to participate in society. Each citizen in the new Boston is taken care of “The nation guarantees the nurture, education, and comfortable maintenance of every citizen from the cradle to the grave”(Bellamy 149). The society treats their citizens as equal were no one gets more than the other.
New Boston is a utopia where the citizens can see themselves as equals whereas in the past the old Boston was filled with unequal social status. The citizens in New Boston do not know what is non-equal and West questions Mr. Leete about this alien idea to him. Mr. Leete response is, “It is precisely because we are all social equals whose equality nothing can compromise”(Bellamy 168). Mr. Leete tells West that all of the citizens get a year credit of 4 thousand dollars no matter where they work. West asks how workers are paid the same if one worker produces more than the other. Mr. Leete responds by, “The right of man to maintenance at the nation’s table depends on the fact that he is a man, and not on the amount of health and strength he may have, so long as he does his best”(Bellamy 179). The society sees effort applied by the citizens as equal no matter how smaller or greater. In new Boston society give everyone equal status and does not divide or split among caste groups that is displayed in dystopian worlds.
Splitting up groups by castes or social class leads to dystopia and is why it has been removed in new Boston. “There are no privileged few, no overpaid managerial class, and no sexism or slavery delegating dreary jobs to women, nonwhites, or an overburdened subclass” (Snodgrass 324). This quotation shows the benefits of not having class and can be seen in true utopian worlds. Having such classes create dystopia as it did in Brave New World. “It is the worst thing about any system which divides men, or allows them to be divided, into classes and castes, that it weakens the sense of a common humanity”(Bellamy 195). In new Boston the people are seen to be more social do to the fact that they are all equals. As everyone is equal there is no hate between people and crime has been made obsolete by eliminating money.
This society strives to correct what is done wrong from the past so they have taken money that causes lust, greed and temptations and done away with it. New Boston has figured out that eliminating money will rid their societal problems dealing with crime. “Result from the inequality in the possessions of individuals; want tempted the poor, lust of greater gains…money was the motive of all crime, the taproot of a vast poison growth”(Bellamy 225). Without crime new Boston is in peace and harmony, “As with other utopias, the Boston of A.D. 2000 is a dream world that suffers no anarchy and subsists in harmony and peace” (Snodgrass 325). Knowledge in this world is available and gladly given. New Boston maintains utopia by not forcing certain knowledge to the children in schools, but offers abundance amount of knowledge. Children acquire knowledge in certain areas of professions and arts. Society gives the young citizens till the age of twenty-one to learn in the area they best wish. This process is affective because the knowledge is not being forced on them that would cause them to take in less. “According to Edith, because of the efficacy of public education in skills and tastes…Art flourishes. Libraries continue to stock English classics”(Snodgrass 325). In this utopia knowledge is fluent and the thought of each individual is wanted.
Love prospers in new Boston as it shows Edith expressing herself towards West. After waking up in new Boston West has been feeling lonely ever since. West has feelings for Edith but does not tell her for he is shy. Due to freedom of expression in new Boston Edith does not feel shy as she expresses her love to West. Edith tells West that she would have told him sooner but was afraid to shock him.
“I know girls were expected to hide their feelings in your day, and I was dreadfully afraid of shocking you. Ah me, how hard it must have been for them to have always had to conceal their love like a fault. Why did they think it such a shame to love any one till they had been given permission to fall in love?” (Bellamy 293) This shows how the society feels openly about love. New Boston has no restrictions on love and therefore maintains utopia. With all this great changes that are made from the past from old Boston to the new Boston can be seen as the journey back to the garden of Eden; the very first utopia.
On a higher note, Bellamy’s Looking Backward is society that maintains utopia where citizens are becoming more and more innocent and thus in biblical terms are going back to the Garden of Eden were violence, greed, and inequality does not exist. As West was in this garden like society he was force to leave when he went to sleep and dreamed he was in old Boston. While West dreams back to old Boston West sees true dystopia of corruption, crimes, greed and inequality. West wants to go back to new Boston; wants to go back to the Garden of Eden. When West once again awakened he is back in the future and is so happy he cries, “I was gasping. The tears were streaming down my face, and I quivered in every nerve”(Bellamy 310). At the end of the novel Bellamy puts a picture in the readers mind were West and Edith represent Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. “Edith, fresh as the morning, had come into the garden and was gathering flowers. I hastened to descend to her. Kneeling before her, with my face in the dust, I confessed with tears how little was my worth to breath the air of this golden century”(Bellamy 311). This shows that new Boston will continue to be a utopia.
Hubris is excessive pride that the closed minded societies have shown in 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 where they only see utopia when they take away knowledge, individuality, and love which in turn causes dystopia. The quest for Utopia was found in all the novels, but only two made it and the rest became dystopia ironically still believing it was utopia. When great societies try to obtain utopia they become blind to their own mistakes. People and societies get wrapped up in trying to reach too far with their hands and end up losing their heads and forget that the means do not justify the ends. This is why TH. White’s Once and Future King and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backwards were able to create their utopian societies. King Arthur’s society did not eliminate all the things that caused dystopia but mixed them into his society by the new ways and old ways. In new Boston they achieve their utopia by not just eliminating but reconstructing their society from the wrongs of the previous society. All the novels have dreams of utopia and that may be their success or downfall.
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Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantine Books, 1973.
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