English / Dystopian Society -Compare &Amp; Contrast Brave New World And 1984

Dystopian Society -Compare &Amp; Contrast Brave New World And 1984

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Autor:  anton  05 January 2011
Tags:  Dystopian,  Society,  compare,  Contrast
Words: 1900   |   Pages: 8
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Dystopian Society

Different societies have risen and fallen in the continual search for the “perfect” society. The definition of this utopia is in constant flux due to changing times and cultural values. Many works of literature have been written describing a utopian society and the steps needed to achieve it. However, there are those with a more cynical or more realistic view of society that comment on current and future trends. These individuals look at the problems in society and show how to solve them with the use of control and power. Such a society is considered undesirable and has become known as dystopian society.

In the books 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, both authors depict a dystopian society with some disturbing similarities. Orwell and Huxley each emphasize the use of power to control the masses. This power is always situated with a small group of individuals that uses it to control every aspect of the people’s lives. Using such a technique brings to mind a severe dictatorship of rigid control that destroys individuality. Each society makes use of a caste system. Each caste has certain responsibilities and regulations it must follow. Any sign of nonconformity is immediately punished and the societies are set up so the people will never question the morality or humaneness of their situation. Such concepts have been abolished from common thought so the people in power remain in power. Religion has been abolished and philosophical thought destroyed. The days are constantly filled with meaningless tasks and a desire to be alone is considered a dangerous social leaning. In both books the main characters rebel against the established society but in the end they succumb to societies rules and essentially die as a person as in the case of 1984 or literally in Brave New World.

There are some differences between the two novels based mainly on the form of control used to mold society to the ideals put forth from the leaders of the society. Orwell focuses on the use of the media, fear and hate to control the masses while Huxley depicts the use of conditioning, sex and soma (drugs). The novel 1984 is rift with hate and violence. This is especially seen through the unending war between the three worldpowers and the use of the Two Minute Hate to bring the people to a state of frenzy. The telescreens are never allowed to be turned off and the people are constantly watched and can be punished for even a thoughtcrime. In contrast, Brave New World focuses on making people happy with their assigned place in life. They are conditioned from decanting through childhood with the prejudice and social values determined by the ten world leaders. This keeps everyone focused on shallow things like physical pleasure without looking for a deeper meaning in life. If everyone is already happy then there is no need to change the system because no one will ever have a cause to rebel. Both societies use a different form of control with the main difference lying in the use of punishment or reward as the stimulus.

The United States features aspects from both novels but can better be described as a mixture of the two. Society is broken down into castes or social classes that in turn effects how people are treated. We have the poor, middle class and upper class with the ability to move between classes. The ability to change your status is not available in Huxley’s book while it is possible in extreme circumstances in Orwell’s book. The breakdown of social class is relatively the same in all three examples. The United States uses a combination of punishment and reward to keep people in line. There are punishments for breaking the law and rewards when people contribute to society. Information is screened by the media and television is the soma of the masses. Education is difficult to receive unless one has the money from social standing with which to obtain it. Thinking is discouraged in all three societies to keep the masses placated and to maintain the status quo. The reason the United States does not completely resemble either society is the relative intelligence of the people. Dystopian societies would be difficult to build overnight instead a long process of change is needed for them to emerge. The United States is slowly headed in that direction but a push for such a society would be rejected by the masses. The culture still focuses on freedom in all its many forms even though those freedoms are being eroded over time.

As mentioned earlier, in each book the main characters rebelled against the current system. Both characters felt there was something intrinsically wrong with society and began to question the norms. They each used references to the past or a contrast society as comparison to the current system. Each character felt there was something wrong and tried to get other people to notice it as well and finally took a physical action to stand up for what they believe in. In each case they were brought before authority figures and eventually failed in their rebellion. However, Winston and John were forced to rebel in different ways based on the nature of the society they lived in.

Winston went about rebelling by furtively writing a diary, having a love affair and joining the brotherhood. When he was caught instead of just punishment they eventually succeeded in making him love Big Brother, the ultimate admission of defeat. The process of doublethink allows people to lie to themselves and believe the lies while being able to change them at will. John, the savage, comes from the Reservation into the London society which gives him a point of comparison. His upbringing and the assimilation of Shakespeare’s works makes John predisposed to violence. This is seen through his refusal of sex with Lenina, call to the Deltas to give up soma and the consequent throwing of the soma out the window by John when they refuse which causes a riot. His violent behavior reaches its climax with the self flagellation and whipping of Lenina which results in an orgy in which he takes part. Seeing his participation as assimilation into that society John then decides to kill himself.

In the end, whether by furtive or open rebellion each character fails to make an impact on the current society. This means that their resistance was not effective in bringing about change because they could not get others to join them and maintain a consistent rebellion. In the movie, Catch A Fire, the main character resisted with a group that provided training, morale, supplies and a plan to follow. With this extra support the main character had a better chance of succeeding then the characters in the novels that had little support from others. Patrick, even though acting alone, knew that others supported him even if not present and such knowledge eased his mind when caught. The plan to blow up the plant may have succeeded if he had not been betrayed. Patrick’s resistance sprang forth from the unfairness of society and the fact the authority figures tortured (him & Precious) and killed people with no regard to basic human rights. By the end of the movie the rebellion is successful and Patrick is released from imprisonment. Even though he failed he never lost his conviction and can be considered a success where the other characters had failed.

In each case the main characters went through four different stages before rebelling all out. At first, each character was in denial that there was anything wrong with the society they lived in usually due to a lack of comparison or suppression of thought. Eventually they all began to realize that something was wrong with the system in the form of injustice and oppression. The books start with this recognition but the characters still feel powerless to change things. The injustice and oppression continues to weigh on their minds and finally they enact small levels of rebellion. Winston writes a diary; John refuses to go to the Singery and Patrick turns up the volume of the radio broadcasting rebellion information. Finally even these small acts are not enough and they must stand up for what they believe in even if it means death. Winston joins the underground brotherhood. John tries to incite rebellion among the Deltas and lives alone in his lighthouse punishing himself. Patrick joins the rebellion and tries to blow up the plant. Each character has full knowledge of the consequences of their actions but chooses to go through with them anyway based on the strength of their convictions.

These three examples of dystopian societies emphasize the importance of educating the masses. If people can critically think about the issues facing society, involve themselves in government and learn from the mistakes of the past then our future would be a brighter place. Such a place as a dystopian society would not be able to form because people would have the intelligence and will to keep it from happening. It is alarming when looking at our current culture and society to find aspects from those societies creeping into our own. The true power to change society lies with the masses and they are no longer being encouraged to think. Instead they believe everything portrayed in the media is true. There is also a separatist movement in the United States pushed by the media. Only information pertaining to the United States is emphasized and world issues are left relatively uncovered. This lack of understanding and connection with other cultures leaves us without a comparison by which to evaluate our own society. In fact, things have progressively been getting worse but few people seem to understand the alarming implications this raises. We need to take heed of the lessons learned from these examples or we may one day resemble them.


Catch A Fire. Dir. Phillip Noyce. Perfs. Tim Robbins, Derek Luke, Bonnie Henna. DVD.

Mirage Enterprises, 2006.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Modern Classics, 2006.

Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Signet Classics, 1977.

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