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Manifestations Of Totalitarianism In Brave New World English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3405 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The two literary masterpieces- Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go – are known for their unusual plot, strong characters, profound ideas and messages of the authors. Both writings tell about the different manifestations of totalitarianism as a form of complete social control, however without direct critics or denunciations, rather through skillful usage of irony and allegory.

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The writing of Aldous Huxley – Brave New World, which appeared in 1932, was claimed to be an example of “softer form of totalitarianism”, because it presented an idea of building a positive society with the help of engineered babies, grown from the bottles and further hypnotic persuasion, without direct brutality or oppression. In her review of this book, Margaret Atwood wrote, that this story was about “boundless consumption that keeps the wheels of production turning and of officially enforced promiscuity that does away with sexual frustration, of a pre-ordained caste system ranging from a highly intelligent managerial class to a subgroup of dim-witted serfs programmed to love their menial work, and of soma, a drug that confers instant bliss with no side effects” (Atwood., 3).

Critics couldn’t agree whether this writing could belong to utopia or dystopia, because the characters, presented in the novel are good-looking, not suffering from any serious diseases, don’t really have a lot of troubles and worries, but probable none of us would like to live the way, they did. Generally “utopia” is derived from the Greek word, meaning either “no place” or “good place”. In the Brave New World there is no good place, thus the author himself called his writing – “negative utopia”.

Brave New World is said to have a lot of literary works, written before, which could serve a basis for this writing. The list includes Plato’s Republic and the Bible book about the myth of Atlantis, certainly More’s Utopia. Actually, the nineteenth century brought a lot of innovations to people’s lives – sewage systems, new medicine, new transportation means and so on – this is its turn caused the raise of optimism in literary writings. “The first world war marked the end of the romantic-idealistic utopian dream in literature, just as several real-life utopian plans were about to be launched with disastrous effects. The Communist regime in Russia and the Nazi takeover of Germany both began as utopian visions” (Atwood, 4).

In his novel Huxley builds the futuristic picture of the world, taking John Savage as an outsider, struggling with accepted norms of life in this world. The author decided to split his narration approximately into three main parts in order to have a stronger impact upon the readers. In the first part the readers find the description of the London in the future, with all necessary details for having the picture of the world. In the second part of the novel the readers get the chance to travel to a different place – the Savage Reservation, which is certainly contrasted to the city of London. Here we also meet one of the key characters of the story – John. Finally, the third part presents the conflict between the set order of things in London and John’s life and ideas. The fact, that the author shows two “types” of world contributed to numerous discussions, whether his novel should be considered utopia or not.

The setting of the story is unreal, as the events happen in the future. Most of the important life spheres, like for example sex, birth, death are used to create the needed atmosphere, corresponding to the setting and the main message of the author. The setting itself is mostly used by Huxley with the aim of presenting the ways, how residents of the reservation are controlled, thus every detail of the setting described, has its sense.

Huxley wrote his novel in 1930s and he was “an “amused, Pyrrhonic aesthete”, as he said himself. This was probably one of the main reasons, why the author chose such kind of setting – industrialized sceneries, consisting of towers with electric lighting, unnatural cities and so on. Instead of normal clothes people wear viscose and imitation of leather, the music is artificial, even the natural process of child birth exists no longer, instead babies are kept in special bottles. Naturally the word “mother” lost its sacred and unique sense and became an obscenity. Free sex on the contrary is considered to be a norm: “”He patted me on the behind this afternoon,” said Lenina. “There, you see!” Fanny was triumphant. “That shows what he stands for. The strictest conventionality.” (Huxley, 22). The theme of sex is so important because it has also its role in reflecting of the strict control over the citizens, even over their reproductive rights. There is a special authorization system created, aiming at sterilizing most of the women, whereas the rest are obliged to take contraceptives. In case the medicines don’t work properly – there are abortion clinics, unexpectedly with pink colors in their architecture. The usage of this color in this case is certainly the deep irony and even mocking in a way. The descriptions of sex also serve to show the readers the conflict between genuine values and those, implanted by the World State authorities, like for example in the situation with Lenina and John – Lenina is interested in simple sex relations without any further commitments, whereas John is looking for real love and feels despair, realizing that Lenina is not able to fall in love with him.

Very important for the main theme of the story is the problem of the new technologies, which put people at risk of getting under their complete control. This control is underlined by the description, how the birth is controlled with the help of technology and medicine. Another good example is entertainment machines, the harmless leisure they are able to provide, ensures the consumption and production, needed for progressive and stable functioning of the World State.

Brave New World can not be treated simply as a kind of warning about the future, in case something goes wrong with technologies, robots and so on. Huxley was not satisfied with the world, he was living in, in reality and he made an attempt to express his attitude to it through profound satire. “While the attitudes and behaviors of World State citizens at first appear bizarre, cruel, or scandalous, many clues point to the conclusion that the World State is simply an extreme-but logically developed-version of our society’s economic values, in which individual happiness is defined as the ability to satisfy needs, and success as a society is equated with economic growth and prosperity.” (Archie, 8). Huxley is concerned, that technologies are able to force out religion. People of the World State use name of Henry Ford, who was a famous founder of the Ford Motor Company, instead of the name of Lord. Thus sacred things are being replaced by mechanized production, production of people, of ideas, of feelings.

Alienation is an important motif, which is spread through out the whole narration and is contrasted to general compliance. John is the brightest figure, expressing alienation, he is not accepted at most levels, he is simply not able to become a part of the World State, actually he doesn’t want to become either. Bernard Marx is also not able to find his place in that world, he feels too small, too meaningless even for his position.

The most vivid and strong symbol of totalitarian control in Brave New World is the drug soma. It symbolizes the power of technology and science over people and their complete obedience to regime implanted. This drug makes the lives of people unnatural, as takes away the effects of the conflicts, which exist in any society. In reality, people can not live without pain, stress, disappointment – these are integral parts of human existence and their role is not only to do harm to people, rather to develop them psychologically, to enrich them emotionally and even physically. If these experiences are taken away or mitigated, then it is certainly easier to control weak-willed and indifferent mass of people. However, all citizens are encouraged to take soma and to forget about the problems, they faced. John seems to be the only one, who realizes, how much harm is done by soma and when he asks the Deltas to throw soma away – he is trying to initialize the rebellion not against the drugs, but against the whole social regime. Soma’s main task is to suppress the idea of individuality, which is so important for each member of a society. Bernard supports the attitude of John towards soma and inhumanity of the system, however he sees no power in himself to fight for the truth, for gaining the social rights. Being an Alpha Plus makes him think, that he lives at least partially successful life. John, on the contrary, is looking for the chance to raise the rebellion, which is evident from his appeal to the Deltas. “Although John, like Bernard, suffers from the oppression of the World State, John is able to frame his objections philosophically and debate the issue face to face with World Controller Mustapha Mond because, although John is genetically an Alpha Plus, he has not undergone the conditioning necessary to conform (Archie, 16). However, he is not so much concerned about lack of his personal comfort, he is afraid of the coming degradation of the society. John is probably the only character, who wants to fight for the rights, all individuals should possess and he acknowledges, that he is an individual, as well as other members of society are. In spite of the courage and persistence of John, all the attempts to make people free individuals independent from the World State finally fail. The power of convention destroyed all the arguments and efforts of John.

Some critics state, that the decision to end his novel in this way, was later regretted by the author. At any rate Huxley managed to perfectly transmit his main message with the help of setting, plot structure, bright characters and tragic finale. He wanted to make clear to all his readers, that tyranny, oppression, any form of totalitarianism should be eradicated by people’s resistance and struggle. All people are individuals and thus have the inalienable rights for freedom of choice, of work, of love, of life philosophy and so on. According to Huxley there still exists a serious threat to people of the modern world to fall under the influence and control of higher standing powers.

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The novel Never Let Me Go, written by Kazuo Ishiguro, immediately won the title of an extremely extraordinary piece of writing. This is the last book of the trilogy, consisting of The Unconsoled and When We Were Orphans, and continues the mysterious atmosphere of them. A story, told by the main heroin of the novel – 31 – years -old Kathy, attracted the attention of readers and critics. Though being a fantasy, the story makes such a deep impression and so much involves the readers, that it is easy to think, that it could be a part of modern reality; this fantasy is “so mundanely told, so excruciatingly ordinary in transit, its fantastic elements so smothered in the loam of the banal and so deliberately grounded, that the effect is not just of fantasy made credible or lifelike, but of the real invading fantasy, bursting into its eccentricity and claiming it as normal” (Postman, 11). This is not simply a science fiction about cloning, rather an experimental novel with mysterious and miraculous elements.

The very beginning of the narration surprises with its simplicity – “My name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for eleven years.” (Ishiguro, 1). On the surface this is a story about Kathy’s school years at Hailsham and about her two friends Ruth and Tommy. However as soon as the story is told, it becomes clear, that this was not a usual school with usual children and teachers. Teachers were substituted with “guardians”, who are looking after children, who will never be able to become normal members of the society, when they graduate. They are going to become “donors”, whose lives will be under strict control. The terrible future of these children is revealed not immediately, but step by step, which makes the impression even stronger. Only around hundred of pages later, the readers get to know the truth about the children of Hailsham, who are supposed to become donors for organs of other “normal” uncloned people. Upon graduating from the school, children will spend some time in an intermediate establishment and then they will be “called up”, in other words they will have to die. First they become carers, then they make first donation and finally after the fourth donation they will “complete” – die. They have no other choice, they have no other rights, they seem to be humans, but they are not and thus they are deprived of the right for normal life.

The author makes the plot more sophisticated, because the main heroes get to know the real truth along with the readers, and their reaction to such news and the ways, they are influenced by this information, are very important for the whole narration. The aim of Ishiguro is to make the readers realize or even feel keenly, what a child might feel of think, when he knows from the very beginning, that he won’t have any normal future, no chance to have children, family, good job and career and so on.

There is a small portion of irony in the way, how the author describes the school of Hailsham at the beginning. The children, who attend this school, as not usual ones, they seem to be privileged and should be happy to have the chance to study in special private establishment. In the first third of the novel the problems of these children are also described as those of usual kids, first love, friendship, jealousy and so on. There is a love triangle, Kathy is in love with Tommy, who finally chooses her friend Ruth instead. To make his readers plunge deeper in to the atmosphere of the school life the author makes his heroin use a lot of colloquialisms: “A teacher “loses her marbles”; a rainy day is “bucketing down”; students about to get into trouble are “for it”; students who have sex are “doing it. (Russell, 5).

Very interesting is the manner of Kathy to address the readers, as if they were the same like she – “”I don’t know how it was where you were, but at Hailsham …: (Ishiguro, 23). Ishiguro wanted to underline, that the girl considered herself to belong to the world of usual humans and certainly hoped to get the same rights, as other people did. Kathy is so much surprised to find out, that Madame was afraid of them, but not because they could do harm, but because they seemed some unreal creatures for her probably – “Ruth had been right: Madame was afraid of us. But she was afraid of us in the same way someone might be afraid of spiders. We hadn’t been ready for that. It had never occurred to us to wonder how we would feel, being seen like that, being the spiders. (Russell, 13).The impression this discovery had on children, is reflected in the following words of the main heroin “”first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it’s a cold moment. It’s like walking past a mirror you’ve walked past every day of your life, and suddenly it shows you something else, something troubling and strange.” (Ishiguro, 28).

But all Kathy’s hopes are rather passive, because neither she nor any of her schoolmates has the wish to run away, to see what is outside of the school, nobody is rebellious enough to fight. Of course they are at despair, when they receive the information about their future. But still nobody makes an attempt to escape from this future. They are put under such oppression, they are so much influenced by the reality, which was created for them, that they have no strong will, no strong desires or aims. They are living as if their lives were just habits for them.

When Kathy, Tommy and Ruth leave the school for the college, they seem to gain more freedom. They try to use this freedom in the best way they can think of, namely to look for a person, from which Ruth was modeled. They think they found a woman, but the longer they watch her, the more evident it becomes, that she has nothing in common with Ruth. The girl’s disappointment is expressed in her words “”They don’t ever, ever, use people like that woman…. We all know it. We’re modelled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, just so long as they aren’t psychos. That’s what we come from…. A woman like that? Come on…” (Ishiguro, 89). This is the moment, when science fiction comes to reality in the closest way. Certainly in Never Let Me Go, the readers find the attack on cloning with some dramatic tinge. But the author is not trying to present the terrible picture of the future, of what could happen to people and clones, if people create them. He worked on producing an allegory on the usual human life, ordinary world, we are living in. Ishiguro doesn’t want the readers to consider the lives of clones, rather to think over our own lives. Often we are the same like those clones, who had just the illusion of freedom, they were educated in a special good school, they think, that they are all individuals and possess the freedom of choice, whereas in reality, their lives, even their future are thoroughly controlled and planned, by others, standing higher and they have nothing to do about it, but to subdue. In the novel, the readers are not shown the real main characters, i.e. those, who created all this system, which is so perfect, that the victims of it don’t even have the wish and power to resist and to fight. Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, they are different from each other, at the same time they are unified by their accepting of their fate and belief, that they exist only for the sake of other humans. The main shock from this novel comes at the end, because at the beginning, the readers don’t identify themselves with clones, they see the evident difference from them. However, by the end of the novel, it becomes clear, that all people are actually metaphysical patterns, existing for some limited period of time and all of us are finally sentenced to death.

Overall, we have analyzed the two well – known writings – Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go. This is evident, that both works are similar to each other in way. They actually have common topics, such as complete control, lack of individual freedom and sense of life, opposing an individual against the society, his helplessness and insignificance. Both authors aimed at building strong allegories on the societies, they were living in, and they chose to describe the possible future in order not to present a direct critic of the modern society. The narration of Ishiguro seems however to be more dramatic, more emotional, because the main heroes are concerned about their roles in the society, about their lives and love, whereas in Brave New World, John seems to be the only one, who wants to fight and to change anything in the world. The plot structures of Huxley and of Ishiguro are used by the authors to point out their main messages and to pay attention of the readers to the key points of the narrations. The setting in Never Let Me Go seems to be narrower, than in the story by Huxley, however this is one of the techniques, used by Ishiguro to underline the isolation of the children from Hailsham school from the whole world, from other “real” people.


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