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Utopian Societies Essay, Research Paper
A Utopian Society is based on the idea that all governmental tactics, laws, and social conditions are ideal to perfection. The relationship between authority and citizen coincide creating endless stability. Any abrupt disagreement regarding a radical idea can shift the equilibrium off balance, causing the population to become a threat to officials that could lead to a revolutionary plan. In the novels A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and 1984 by George Orwell, both authors discuss the power and ability the governments hold to preserve order over their citizens. In both situations, the authorities go to great lengths in hope to reach Utopianism by the process of spying, monitoring, and brainwashing civilians. The amount of corruption lurking beneath the soil is greater than all the peacefulness found in a Utopian society. Although these societies make an attempt to annihilate the evil, there will always be characters like Alex and Winston Smith who poison the system with their extreme beliefs, violent outbreaks, and thoughtless crimes. Alex, a selfish adolescent, cares only about his desire to inflict pain and damage to his neighbors and his surroundings. And Winston is a curious man forced to obey a culture that discriminates, oppresses, and desensitizes his knowledge of the past political structure. Characteristically, both Alex and Winston share a trait that leads to the collapse of tranquility, in turn, causing the government to take action and rehabilitate the individual responsible for the legible crime. Government officials manipulate the minds of Alex and Winston to create a society free of sin and hatred in order to mentally stabilize any anarchic, chaotic, or rebellious thoughts to achieve a Utopian society.
Upon writing A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess was highly inspired by; “reading accounts of conditioning in American prisons, and it happened that as the teddy
boys [teenage gang related hooligans] were being replaced on the streets by the mods and rockers, and youth was continuing to express its disdain for the modern state, a British youth should be conditioned to be good.”(Bloom, p 118) On this note, Burgess created; “one of the most appallingly vicious creations in recent fiction”(Bloom, p 118) who is known as Alex. Underneath the simplicity of the name “Alex” lies other suggested meanings. When split apart the letter “a” acts as a negative prefix, and the word “lex” means an absence of law and a lack of words. It is evident that Alex clearly expresses both ideas. He lives his life on the basis of no rules, with a careless destructive attitude towards others. The “lack of words” concept relates to his lack of; “. . . attempt to explain or justify his actions in terms of abstract ideas or goals such as ‘liberty’ or ‘stability’. . . . Instead, he simply experiences life directly, sensuously, and, while he is free, joyously.”(Bloom, p 118)
Orwell’s motive to write 1984 relates to England during the 1930’s. “The novel converts the social injustice, sexual repression and xenophobia . . . into the rigid class system, sexual puritanism, and permanent state of war in Oceania [the city in which 1984 takes place in].”(Lee, p 136) 1984’s atmosphere was inspired by Orwell’s life. He said; “It wouldn’t have been so gloomy . . . if I hadn’t been so ill.” The melancholy mood was also the result of his wife’s death in 1945. Choosing a name for Orwell’s main character was derived from a common English surname; “ . . . and combining it with a Christian name obviously drawn from Winston Churchill, Orwell immediately suggests several things about his hero: He is Everyman and Anyman; his fate can be the fate of any citizen
in this kind of society; at the same time, Winston Smith, like Winston Churchill, is atypical in society . . ..”(Lee, pp. 136-137)
Both authors include a type of made up language in their novels. Burgess invented a slang he name “Nadsat”. “To the Western ear, the Slavic roots provide a strange and alien sound, and the Russian flavor of the vocabulary connects almost subliminally with the Westerner’s fear of repressive governments and state authority the authoritarian socialism of Burgess’s futuristic society comes to us through this harsh, unnerving speech.” (Coale, p 89) Orwell invented “Newspeak”, the language for the future citizens of Oceania. Although Orwell does not have actual characters conversing in Newspeak, it is mentioned and defined. “Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.” (Orwell, p 247) By the use of Newspeak, the government is limiting the civilians of Oceania to a simple language. The more complex the language is, the more people think. Without complexity, the government controls the intricate and most important part of anyone, the mind.
The authors’ ability to create a language acts as a mystery; “a puzzle to be solved, a message to be decoded. This strange language, therefore, distances the reader from the action in the book, because it automatically disconnects him from the world he is used to.” (Coale, p 89) Once the reader connects with the author’s language, he or she must also challenge the world the author is presenting them. (Coale, p 89)
When comparing A Clockwork Orange and 1984, many similarities can be found. Each book consists of three parts, and has a main character, which is focused on
throughout the entire novel. In the first part, both authors describe the characters present life, and concentrate on their daily routines. “The first third of the novel is taken up with
Alex’s joyful satiation of all his appetites, and as rape and murder follow assault, robbery and vandalism, we are overwhelmed by the spectacle pleasure of violence.”(Bloom, p 119) This shows Alex’s love for life, it is almost his reason to live. In 1984; “The first part of the novel is a satiric sketch of Winston’s life, and especially his job at the Ministry of Truth.”(Meyers, p 116) In Part Two, Burgess; “describes Alex’s life in prison, [after his capture by the police]” and the “Reclamation Treatment, which is called Ludovico’s Technique.”(Coale, p 86) This procedure is designed to cure a patient with the potential of violent thoughts and extremely violent behavior. “The second part begins with his first conversation with Julia, describes the progress of their love affair, Winston’s growing belief in the existence of a secret movement to overthrow Big Brother [a popular political propaganda idea of what the Oceania political system is based upon] and his contact with O’Brien [an authority figure with great power] and ends with their dramatic arrest.”(Meyers, p 116) Winston’s encounter with O’Brien and the law, is similar to the lack of hope Alex is facing in his lonely jail cell. In part Three; “the former victimizer becomes complete victim.”(Coale, p 87) Everyone Alex abused in the past, now seeks revenge on him. The final part in 1984; “describes Winston’s brainwashing and final defeat.”(Coale, p 116) Like Alex, the people Winston thought that he undermined, now, are undermining him. Both characters are victims of their own actions, and both characters are deeply affected by their preventable errors.
The lack of respect Alex and Winston show for their society indirectly makes them an outcast, a noticeable suspect or a threat to the system. The government expects the citizens to behave according to the laws. In 1984 the government installs monitors in
every home, called “telescreens”. The government can see and watch every body movement, and can listen and hear every sound in the room. For someone like Winston, these conditions are not ideal. His life is under eye. The government is stealing his freedom. “Orwell is trying to present the kind of world in which individuality has become obsolete and personality a crime.”(Lee, p 129) This oppression continues to accumulate inside of Winston, and sooner or later somebody like him expresses himself or herself in a rebellious matter. “Winston has committed an inconceivable crime, he possesses a diary; he attempts to record history; he attempts to maintain a physical link with the past.”(Lee, p 137) Winston’s obsession with past, the lost culture of Oceania, drives him to establish and maintain a diary. This is considered a crime, but to Winston it is a way of relieving the oppression. Another way he attempts to detach himself from the state is by developing a relationship with the opposite sex. Her name is Julia. “Their involvement is rapid . . . their love-making, the ‘animal instinct, the simple undifferentiated desire’ frees them dramatically.” Like Winston, Julia feels oppressed and develops a hatred for the government. Both of them are citizens the authorities would like to have less of. Unlike Winston, Alex was born with the violent skills he used ignorantly throughout his early life. Winston obtained those certain skills from his surrounding environment. Alex did not have a reason for his actions. Although if he did, it would probably be for the fun and amusement of it all.
In both of the novels, trust and betrayal leads to the defeat of Alex and Winston. After numerous crimes; “Alex is finally caught (while attempting to escape from a burglary involving a fatal assault on an old women) it is mainly because his gang has betrayed him and facilitated the capture. He is sentenced to fourteen years in prison, and it is here that he will feel the effects of a major change in government policy.”(Bloom, p 120) Alex thought he was invincible, and that no one can stop him. Alex’s dominant personality over his friends causes them to challenge his leadership of the gang. “Alex retains his control by thoroughly thrashing them and slicing Dim’s wrist with his razor.”(Coale, p 85-86) By harming his friends, they retaliated with conjuring his arrest.
Winston and Julia, endure a similar situation. A man by the name of Mr. Charrington owns a local shop. Above the shop is a “shabby little room”(Lee, p 139) This room is of great interest to Winston, because Mr. Charrington tells him that there aren’t any telescreens. This room quickly becomes Winston and Julia’s paradise. They visit frequently as much as they could. Here, they can enjoy life. They can leave all of their worries outside the room, because inside was private and isolated away from the ordinary life. “We soon find out, Mr. Charrington is a member of the Thought Police [the name given to people enrolled in the police system of Oceania]”(Lee, p 139) Winston trusted Mr. Charrington, but Mr. Charrington betrayed him, resulting in his arrest.
Another occurrence that led to Winston’s defeat was his confrontation with O’Brien. “Now fully committed to each other and simultaneously to eventual destruction, Winston and Julia share one more defiant delusion of freedom. O’Brien
contacts Winston, Winston and Julia go to his home, and they are admitted to the – nonexistent, of course – Brotherhood, the supposed resistance organization.”(Lee, p 139) Winston is under the impression, that the past culture of Oceania will be resurrected with the help of a powerful official, like O’Brien. He trusted O’Brien deeply. But O’Brien’s deviant course of action, lures him into believing future oppression will in fact, be eliminated. Winston endangers the structure of the state; therefore O’Brien created this plan, to put people like Winston into a rehabilitation program, to force the beliefs of the state into their minds.
The events after Alex and Winston are in custody are quite similar. They both undergo a type of brainwashing treatment. Alex undergoes the Ludovico Technique.
“The Ludovico Technique is an experimental state-authorized program of brainwashing and physical reconditioning. It consists of injections of a drug that causes Alex to become violently ill whenever he begins to respond pleasurably to violent thoughts. As part of the treatment Alex watches certain violent films, complete with various musical backgrounds, after he has been injected. The intent is to prevent him from wanting to participate in any such actions ever again.”(Coale, p 86)
The treatment causes Alex to lose part of his personality, a part of him. Although it is an evil part of him, the government is stealing who he is and what he stands for. This process is suppose to recreate him; “He [Dr. Brodsky, the one responsible for the treatment of Alex] believes that an individual should be impelled toward the Universal or socially acceptable good, as defined by the state.”(Coale, p 93) The point to argue is whether officials are erasing the evil, and replacing it with healthy sanity, or are they killing a piece of society to reach normality.
Winston’s involvement with Brotherhood ensures a long, painful road to the state’s idea of mental tranquility. In custody, Winston is constantly abused and tortured by party officials.
“Sometimes it was fists, sometimes it was truncheons, sometimes it was steel rods, sometimes it was boots. There were times when he rolled about the floor, as shameless as an animal, writhing his body this way and that in an endless, hopeless effort to dodge the kicks and simply inviting more and yet more kicks in his ribs, in his belly on his elbows, on his shin, in his groin, in his testicles, on the bone at the base of his spine.”(Orwell, pp. 243-244)
This was part of the physical treatment. He suffered week after week, month after month under these conditions. Under these conditions Winston became weak, physically and mentally. This makes it easier for authorities to tap into his brain.
The manipulation process Winston goes through is long and strenuous. O’Brien formulates a simple question; “ ‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’ ‘Four.’ ‘And if the Party says that is not four but five – then how many?’ ‘Four.’ ”(Orwell, p 206) While O’Brien is asking him questions his arms and legs are strapped into a device. When O’Brien turns a dial, Winston’s body is slowly being pulled apart causing unbearable pain. Each time he stubbornly answers a question wrong, the pain becomes stronger. This interrogation is painfully frustrating Winston. For O’Brien, it is delightful. He has the ability to control what people believe, by the turn of a dial. He motivates Winston to believe what he is forcing him to believe; “You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”(Orwell, p 207) Once he becomes sane and believes that O’Brien is holding up five fingers, the government has then successfully manipulated his
mind. This marks the elimination of a threat towards the system. Winston has metamorphosed into the product of a government operation. The procedure violated his train of thought and his freedom to think alone. “After the ‘surrender’ of his mind, the only action left is the surrender of his ‘inner heart’, (p. 283), which demands that Winston love not Julia but Big Brother.”(Lee, p 146) Winston’s mind is now the property of the state.
The power the government possesses over their citizens is evident in both novels. The ability to change a person’s thinking process, is a violation of one’s personal freedom. The unequal share of power in a society results only in unfair animosity brought out in the people. Alex and Winston are victims of their actions as well as their oppressive officials. If Alex wasn’t such a violent, obnoxious teenager and if Winston wasn’t such an anti-believer they wouldn’t have experienced what they did. When laws cannot restrain citizens, new modes of operation are added. These modes are steps towards a Utopian society. But resistance and stubbornness increase the effort of Alex and Winston to repel against what they are forced into.
1. Bloom. Harold. Modern Critical: Anthony Burgess. New York : Chelsea House
2. Burgess. Anthony. A Clockwork Orange.
3. Coale. Samuel. Anthony Burgess. New York : Fredrick Ungar Publishing CO. 1981
4. Lee. Robert. A. Orwell’s Fiction. Notre Dame, London : University of Notre Dame
5. Meyers. Valerie. Modern Novelists: George Orwell. New York : St.Martins
6. Orwell. George. 1984. Harcourt Brace Tovanovich, Inc. 1949
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