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Dystopian Novels. Definition Check: Utopian. Utopian refers to human efforts to create a hypothetically perfect society. It refers to good but impossible proposals - or at least ones that are difficult to carry out. Dystopian versus Utopian.

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Dystopian Novels

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Dystopian Novels


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Definition Check: Utopian

  • Utopian refers to human efforts to create a hypothetically perfect society.

  • It refers to good but impossible proposals - or at least ones that are difficult to carry out.


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Dystopian versus Utopian

  • Dystopian is the opposite of utopian; it is often a utopia gone sour, an imaginary place or state where everything is as bad as it could possibly be.


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Dystopian Novels

  • Dystopian novels usually include elements of contemporary society and are seen as a warning against some modern trend.

  • Writers use them as cautionary tales, in which humankind is put into a society that may look inviting on the surface but in reality, is a nightmare.


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Examples of Dystopian Novels

  • 1984

  • Brave New World

  • Fahrenheit 451

  • A Clockwork Orange

  • Animal Farm

  • The Time Machine


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1984

  • 1984 by George Orwell (1948)

    • The setting is the future world of 1984, where the head of government is the all-knowing Big Brother.

    • The hero’s longing for truth and decency leads him to secretly rebel against the government.

    • He is arrested by the “Thought Police” who torture the hero to “reeducate him” and force him to love the Big Brother.


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Relation to the Real World

  • 1984 serves as a cautionary tale against totalitarianism

  • Totalitarianism - A centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life


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Relation to the Real World

  • The regime in the book could represent a futuristic England or United States, since Orwell was worried about their increasing power during his lifetime.


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Relation to the Real World

  • There are direct parallels between the book and the society at that time:

    • Leader worship – similar to Big Brother, dictators Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler were revered and followed absolutely

    • Joycamps - a reference to Jewish concentration camps

    • Thought police – a reference to the Gestapo, the secret police of the Nazis

    • The Use of Propaganda – similar tactics were used in the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin


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Brave New World

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

    • At first, the world it describes sounds like a utopia: humanity is carefree, healthy, and technologically advanced.

    • Warfare and poverty have been eliminated, and everyone is permanently happy.

    • However, all of these things have been achieved by eliminating family, cultural diversity, art, literature, science, religion, and philosophy.


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Relation to the Real World

  • The issues raised in the book were influenced by the issues of Huxley’s time.

    • The Industrial Revolution had brought massive changes to the world.

    • Mass production made cars, telephones, and radios cheap and widely available.

    • The effects of World War I and totalitarian regimes were still being felt.

  • Huxley used his book to express the fear of losing individual identity in the fast-paced world of the future.


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Relation to the Real World

  • One event that influenced Huxley was an early trip to America.

    • Huxley was outraged by the commercial-led cheeriness and selfish nature of many of the people.

    • There was a strong fear in Europe of worldwide Americanization.


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Relation to the Real World

  • Therefore, in Brave New World, Huxley explores the fears of both Soviet communism and American capitalism.

  • Worse, he suggests that the price of universal happiness will be the sacrifice of everything important in our culture: motherhood, home, family, community, and love.


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1984 versus Brave New World

  • The major difference between the two books is in 1984 people are controlled by constant government surveillance, secret police, and torture.

  • In Brave New World humans are controlled by technological interventions that start before birth and last until death, and actually change what people want.


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Fahrenheit 451

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

    • The story takes place in the twenty-first century, in an America where books are banned.

    • Society feels that “opinion” books contain conflicting theories which are disruptive to society.

    • The penalty for owning one is having one's house and books burnt by "firemen."

    • 451° F is stated as “the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns…”


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Relation to the Real World

  • In the novel, Bradbury combined several issues of his contemporary society:

    • The burnings of books in Nazi Germany.

    • Stalin's suppression of authors and books in the Soviet Union.

    • The explosion of a nuclear weapon.

  • "I meant all kinds of tyrannies anywhere in the world at any time, right, left, or middle," Bradbury has said.


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Relation to the Real World

  • The author also addresses the concern that the presence of fast cars, loud music, and advertisements creates a lifestyle with too much stimulation where no one has the time to concentrate.

  • He also addresses concerns about censorship at the expense of personal expression.


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Summary

Goals Methods Used Theme

1984

Brave New World

Fahrenheit 451

The Giver


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Summary

  • The dystopian literature of the period reflected the many concerns that resonated throughout the twentieth century.

  • The concept of a dystopia was introduced to help reveal the potential consequences of a utopia turning against itself.


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Examples of Real Life Utopian Societies

  • Religious

  • Communistic

  • Agricultural

War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength


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Religious Utopias

  • Freedom of religion attracted European groups to America who were persecuted in their own countries.

  • Some colonists hoped to form Utopian societies, self-containing religious communities, removed from the perceived “vices” found in overcrowded cities.

  • In these utopian societies, all aspects of people's lives were governed by their faith.


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Religious Utopias

  • Example: the Shakers – a religious group who fled to the United States in 1774 to escape persecution. They formed a tight knit community, which required celibacy (no sexual relations) and the separation of men and women in daily life.

Their religious expression included productive labor, peace, the equality of the sexes, and a ritual noted for its dancing and shaking.


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Communistic Utopias

  • The Soviet Union represented the creation of a political utopia on a larger scale than had ever been attempted before.

  • Communism was seen as the creation of a working society in which all give according to their means and take according to their needs. This aspect promised the future freedom of all people in a world free of oppression and inequality.


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Communistic Utopias

  • By the end of the 1920s, the disadvantages of Communism in the Soviet Union were evident.

  • Joseph Stalin forced peasants to work on the land, forced intellectuals into prison camps, burned books, and contributed to the death of millions.

  • He used mass media to create a godlike image of himself, and any opponents were executed or deported.


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Agricultural Utopias

  • In the 1960s, thousands of people formed communes in Europe and the U.S. in an attempt to redefine the institutions of marriage, family and economy.

  • People headed "back to the land“, questioning the benefits of a society based on technology and competition.


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Agricultural Utopias

  • While most of those communities disbanded, many have survived, emphasizing economic and social cooperation.

  • Some communities are separate from the rest of society while others hope to serve as an example of a better lifestyle to the rest of the world.


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Do they work?

  • What do you think about forming a utopia?

  • Is it possible to create a perfect world in which to live?


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The Giver

  • When reading The Giver, think about whether the society in the novel has created a utopia or dystopia.

  • What are positive aspects of their society? What had to be given up in order to create this society?


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