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You are post apocalyptic society but have no knowledge of the great disaster that your parents lived through. You aren't taught history let alone know what it is. Henry Ford is your god and you are told how to live by your government. These are just some of the characteristics of a dystopian society presented in Brave New World. But are we so far from this? It's hard to imagine yet somehow so extremely close to us is the possibility of a world of ideal perfection where there is no room or acceptance of individuality.
The term Dystopia actually derives from the term Utopia which literally means "no place". The first known utopian work comes from The Republic written by Plato in 427 B.C. In this work, he theorizes a society that rationally proposes the fulfillment of a world in which the harmony and the perfection of the justice could be realized and preserved. He based his thought on the existing form of government, by proposing a new Athens that mirrored the achievements of his philosophy. (Matteo) Since Plato's writing of The Republic the overall Utopian theme shows that being fair is part of human nature and that evil comes from ignorance of that. After the industrial revolution the situation changes, it is a period in which the technology progress brings to different trends of thought: at the same time there are capitalistic trends, obviously, but also an opposite one that sees in this system a big mistake that substituted the individualism with the concept of mass. (Matteo)
This was the beginning of the far from perfect utopias so aptly named dystopias. These are similar to utopias but give a distrusted view of human actions. Dystopian writers show that virtualization of information creates the distrust in human actions so they have to search for the real source of it. The novel 1984 relied on blaming technology and utilizing communication for conditioning the people and is seen as the over ruling force. Some novelists have brought to present a society in which the technologies used for example in medicine for curing the heart are apply to improve human ability or to create a cyber man (do androids dream on electric sheep?), an humanoid, an assembly of mechanical pieces that can act as a human being and in some cases also to have an individual thought, a personality that can make who destroy it, because considered dangerous, to feel himself as a killer. (Matteo)
Utopian and Dystopian themes have influenced many works of literature throughout the years, from the renaissance to the romantic era and even modern day. The first known use of the term dystopia appeared in a speech before the British Parliament by Greg Webber and John Stuart Mill in 1868. In that speech, Mill said, "It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favor is too bad to be practicable."(Talk: Dystopia.)
The most popular utopian work was in 1516 with Sir Thomas Moore's, Utopia. The word utopia in Greek literally means, "no place". The coinage was also a pun by Moore with "eu" meaning "good", so it was the writers job to persuade you that their "no place" is your someplace. This comes from the more than perfect ideal society that the utopian writing style tends to demonstrate. The word has been used to portray both ideal societies within our own lives and works of fiction.
"Utopia" is a perfect Renaissance expression of mans ideals and most of us would want to live on the continent depicted in this work. In his fictional society, all are free from the hardships that we, in the everyday world, must face. Imagine a world without poverty or unhappiness, a place where all are welcome, where wars never rage. All of the ills of human society disappear, and people are free to enjoy a life of satisfaction, joy, and abundance. The story is about Sir Thomas Moore and on one of his travel, encounters an old friend who introduces him to Raphael Hythloday. Raphael talks about many different countries and their policies. Obviously interested in his knowledge of foreign lands, Moore asks him to join him on his journey. He refuses as he is happy with his way of life. He also declares that his way of thinking and ideological beliefs are most likely different from theirs. He then tells them about the country, Utopia. Utopia is a country that is ruled very well, has no social standards and is an overall perfect country. They beg of him to tell more about Utopia and he explains how all of the 6000 families are as identical as possible. Here, gold has no value and therefore everything is free. Prisoners of war are not made into slaves, women are not allowed marriage before 18, and men before 22. Pre-marital sex is prohibited as it is adultery and polygamy. Religion is spoken of next; People of Utopia are required to believe in a divine being but are free to interpret it in any way they see fit; much like our very own First Amendment and its guaranteeing of freedom of religion. They are basically not allowed to believe that a soul dies within its body. The king internally expresses his emotions about these topics because he does not agree with some of the morals but wishes his government would take some of these principles into consideration. This story, "Utopia" shows how a perfect society can be envied by others yet still have some downfalls. Even perfection isn't perfect.
The 1982 film Blade Runner is a perfect example of a dystopian society at its best. (or worst). The film was originally not a success but later became one of the most influential sci-fi films, mainly for its view of a dystopian urban environment. The movie is based on a novel mentioned earlier in the novel by Philip K. Dick; "Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep?" The dystopian theme element of the caste system comes in to play when the economically less fortunate East Asians are shown in the multicultural street scenes. A sense of multicultural and international architecture influences is seen in the chaos and disorder of the irrational city. Rather than being a clean, well planned city it is a claustrophobic, dirty post-apocalyptic city. It's presumable that the upper classes live higher up in the buildings to stay out of danger. Advertisements also always tend to show up everywhere, showing the also prominent theme in dystopian literature of technology and the media controlling humans and our thoughts and actions. There is always air pollution and it's always dark and/or raining. All things organic have disappeared such as trees, and animals. Animals are only seen as replicates or statues. Also, government has lost its power and is no longer in existence. The only form of authority seen is local police. Completely opposite from the totalitarianism expressed in "1984" or "Brave New World". (Blade Runner)
The modern view of a utopian society comes not from literature but from the actual society itself; namely nukes. Many things in this world are nothing we can help. But one is of our own doing- the utopian vision of a world free from nuclear weapons. This has become known as "Global Zero". This vision of a utopia free from nuclear weapons was originated in 1933 with Norman Angell's, "The Great Illusion". Seventy-six years before Obama's election, Angell's work rendered war unsuccessful and unprofitable and therefore obsolete. (Perle) The search for peace after the first world war ran high and therefore, the Kellog-Briand Pact was written. The pact looked to dismiss aggressions between countries and simply outlawed war. We see how well that worked out. Nearly two years after it was written, Japan, one of the signatories, invaded Manchuria. Other signatories such as Italy and Germany followed in Japans footsteps when Germany started World War II. The countries understood the utopian character of the pact and that it had very little to lose. Realists agreed that even if prohibiting war couldn't actually end aggression, it would at least bolster the principle that disputes should be resolved peacefully (Perle). The problem with the Kellog-Briand pact is that it includes the same faults that allowed Hitler to build his empire and take land from neighboring countries without oppression. The mindset that the pact put forth is what stopped the countries such as Britain and France form stopping Hitler. Point being, that nations submitting to utopianism won't make the world more idealistic, but rather bring about the evils that utopias allegedly eliminate.
The late Aldous Huxley has written numerous science fiction works, his most notable work being "Brave New World". He comes from a family full of writers, scientists, and teachers. His grandfather, Henry Huxley was a key supporter of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution during the origin of species debates during the mid-Victorian period. His brother was a noted geneticist and his father a well known editor and essayist. That being said, Huxley has a strong background in science and literature which are both prominent themes in his works, especially "Brave New World".
Huxley wrote much of "Brave New World "in 1931 during a difficult period in England: "The Labour Government fell, the pound fell, productivity fell, unemployment rose, riots broke out in London and Glasgow, the navy mutinied at Invergordon, long lines formed everywhere, and the depression settled down over Britain like an ominous cloud" (qtd. in "Literature and Its Times vol:5" 39)
During Huxley's travels he saw the any things that contributed to his sense of obscurity and fester. The living conditions and unemployment of miners in Willington added to his disapproval of society. In a letter dated in January 1931 he described the despair in the lives of the miners:
"The human race fills me with a steady growing dismay. I was staying at the Durham coalfield this autumn, in the heart of English unemployment, and it was awful. The sad and humiliating conclusion is forced on one that the only thing to do is to flee and hide. Nothing one can do is any good and the doing is liable to infect one with the disease one is trying to treat. So there's nothing for it but to make one's escape while one can, as long as one can." (qtd. in "Literature and Its Times vol:5"40)
"Brave New Word' reflects the culture of the 1920s and early 1930s America. Many writers and artists were highly critical of this time period. Huxley himself wrote an essay in 1927 titled, "The Outlook for American Culture: Some Reflections in a Machine Age" In the essay he points out how our capitalist system puts quantity before quality therefore catering the masses rather than those of the best and brightest citizens. The average citizen thus becomes the focal point in society:
"This tendency to raise the ordinary, worldly man to the level of the extraordinary and disinterested one seems to me entirely deplorable. The next step will be to exalt him above the extraordinary man, who will be condemned and persecuted on principle because he is not ordinary-for not to be ordinary will be regarded as a crime. In this reversal of the old values I see a real danger, a menace to all desirable progress."
Huxley clearly views American pop culture as a threat to individuality and intellectual development. (Literature and Its Times)
"Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. That they do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history." This quote by Aldous Huxley is portrayed perfectly in his provocative novel, Brave New World both directly and inversely. The humans in the novel take most things that they have for granted yet don't know any better because there is no such thing as history in this dystopian society. With history being banned, humans have no recollection of previous mistakes and therefore are bound to make them again. The concept of a dystopian society has developed throughout history as seen in Huxley's Brave New World, in which mass production techniques are applied to human biology, and social ranking is determined by the state and true happiness is achieved at an enormous cost to individual freedom.
In Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World, the theme of a dystopian society is presented. This theme consists of a world set in the future where the government is corrupt or non-existent, humans are grown artificially and are trained like animals, and history is non-existent. True happiness is thought to only to be achieved through a drug called soma.
One of the greatest lessons learned in Brave New World is that the greatest human achievements arrive from distress and disarray. It's from failure that we as humans learn our most important lessons; we must learn to succeed without the help of the government. "Brave New World" shows that the greatest achievements and happiness is only achieved by those willing to suffer at times.(Barr)
Brave New World shows the reader what a trily safe and stable society looks like.
Utopias and Dystopias have played a major role in science fiction work, our own lives and society itself. As stated, a Utopia seems like a wonderful thing on the outside but is really "too perfect" for the likes of the world we live in. We were raised in a society where it is acceptable to start wars with foreign nations.