Dystopia literally means “not-good place” and is a term used to describe a community or society that is undesirable or frightening. Dystopian novels were all the rage back when during the Cold War, possibly as a way to warn people of the perils of such a totalitarian regime as the Communist one. As a fictional genre, dystopias have the uncanny characteristic of painting a rather hopeless future for society.
Here are four dystopian novels that are eerily close to becoming true:
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
– George Orwell, 1984
Published in 1949, George Orwell’s masterpiece is a must-read for anyone who is preoccupied with the idea of a totalitarian state.
Dehumanization, deconstructing human personality, surveillance, oppression, these are but a few of the themes of this somber scenario. A Party exerts control over every aspect of human society to such an extant that said society atrophies to but a shadow of what we’d usually describe as such.
The loss of the ability to govern one self and think or speak freely is one of the most disturbing aspects of this novel. A torture to any individual who prizes freedom over everything else, you can almost feel the degenerative effects such measures of oppression would entail on human society.
Maybe it’s worth pondering over this fact: that maybe, just maybe, human beings are willing to sacrifice their freedom for the comfort of not having to think. They’d gladly give away this ability just to be able to operate on a mere subconscious level. Not quite human, not yet animal.
Animal Farm, George Orwell
“The only good human being is a dead one.”
Described by Orwell himself as a metaphor for the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent Communist Regime that followed, this short novella is a true manifesto against communism and its side-effects. The characters are corrupted by power, everything is but a caricature, a poor joke made at the expense of freedom and equality. The decay of contemporary society is criticized; humans have become unwilling to oppose themselves to degrading factors that could destroy society itself.
“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is, in some ways, a mirror to Orwell’s 1984. It uses the myth that an individual can be misguided in the ideals he chooses to pursue. Democracy is used as a billboard to advertise consumerism. Manipulated on a genetic and psychological level, the people in this work are being told that happiness is but a false promise.
As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
This work does convey a very, very old concept. Think in terms of domestication. Best way to do it? If an animal does what you want it to do, you feed it. If not, you don’t. The ones who are friendly to humans live, while the others die. Simple, isn’t it? But it does make one think. Have we been doing this to ourselves as well? Using the same methods on our own kind to shape them into fitting a certain profile?
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Published in 1953, this short novel describes American society as one that does not take kindly to ideas. Books are burned in an attempt to stop them from spreading. Media controls the way people think, or better said, the way they don’t. There’s this lethargic characteristic to the world described by Bradbury. People have irreversibly given up on their freedom to be as educated as possible. It is all meaningless. It’s all cheap entertainment.
The dumbing down of society is something prevalent in today’s world. People are less interested in books, culture, art, and more interested in the kind of media that one consumes without much effort. Our desire for comfort has its side-effects.
Why read the book when you can watch the movie? It might seem like an innocent thing, but didn’t all terrible things in this world start off that way?