A Dark Chest of Wonders

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Tag: Utopia


Today, in my English class, we were given a prompt for which we will write an essay on tomorrow. We’re about to start 1984, a book that has been on my to-read list for some time now, and I think that this is the perfect setting to do it in. To be sure, I have always taken the books we read–anything in English–quite seriously, because above math, above science, English teaches you to be human, truly. For this matter, every essay where we only had to answer the prompt accordingly, I took it as an opportunity to really take a look at the literature that we were reading, and this is mostly because I believe one day, people are going to want to read my little High School essays. Not to mention, I’m allergic to mediocrity, therefore, to only do the bare-minimum doesn’t sit well in my gut. Why use only one color paint, or only a small part of the canvas, if you have the whole canvas to do whatever you want? Why would I only do what is required when I can do what is required plus one in order to satiate my questions, my considerations. The point of it is, not many people English–school for that matter–as seriously as I do, but English mostly. Anyways, the prompt we’re given asks us to create an argument based on a critics views of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984, which is that, Huxley’s dream of the world to come is more relevant.

Considering that which was given to us, one finds that Huxley is obviously the true Nostradamus.  Orwell’s vision of the future is one that is construed with paranoia and simple lecturing; Orwell feared the day that the world turned over to Communism. In a patriotic kind of way, as an American, I can root for Orwell and say, yeah, down with big government and secrecy, but that’s as far as I can take it. Orwell’s prose is very archaic, or maybe it’s simply that I find it to be non-literary. Huxley’s very first two paragraphs are littered with language that anyone could admire, while Orwell has the kind of addictive quality you get out of the cheesy and redundant YA novels of the era, and I suppose that’s where they get their cliche from. This is not to say that Orwell was not a convincing nor a non-compelling author, rather, he was just not very effective with his language in the way that he could have been with a novel like 1984, especially with a predecessor like Brave New World. All this is to say, though, that Huxley is more alike to a professor, a scientist, or a philosopher; Orwell reminds me of the guy who rants in front of your college, on his soapbox, as he pounds his fist in the air crying out his favorite phrase, “DOWNWITHBIGBROTHERDOWNWITHBIGBROTHERDOWNWITHBIGBROTHER”, Orwell’s vision is archaic and only, truly, good from a historical stand point. While Orwell manages to create compelling arguments on the idea of government spying and secrecy on its people in order to keep them in check, which is certainly relevant in the modern age, it’s but a stepping stone of what Huxley envisioned. Huxley looks at the whole of the picture, not only a small part of the canvas as Orwell does. In this way, we find that Huxley’s vision might be the correct one, in the long run. Brave New World addresses the problem of community and society today: teenagers–my pupils–are consumed by themselves, we are consumers are consumed by ourselves, we are as much a product as the products we buy on late night infomercials and the ads on the sides of your screen catered just for you by AdSense. We are not ourselves!

Chuck Palahniuk tells us that we are not our car, our job, our wallet, yet we are! People would rather know that they have everything that they want, that they are comfortable before they are uncomfortable, rather than knowing that the world is not centered around them. Many people take a stance against my generation, when we are only a product of the world for which the previous generation helped to create. We are self centered because the technology that we used is centered around us. Siri asks us what we would like to be called, we can choose what we want Siri to sound like; we are told that our parents took up a second job for our benefit, we are told that we are being forced to do this and this for our benefit. Do you understand? We are constantly told that this is the ME generation, and thus we have been indoctrinated into the Cult of Self. This is our great transgression, our great demise: the things we love, what we believe to be “us”, is what’s killing us, as Huxley feared. We’ve all be diagnosed with Stockholm Syndrome and are in love with our captors, our iPhones. In these ways, one can only agree with Huxley.

YET! As I listen to a podcast–Ear Biscuits with Rhett and Link, Good Mythical Morning–the guest being the co-creator of reddit, Alexis Ohanian, they’ve started talking about how the internet, social media, is a reflection of society as a whole. While there is a large group of people who would try and misuse sites like reddit, Vine, Instagram, and Facebook for porn, there is an even larger group of people who would oppose it, and an even larger group still who are decent human beings. We find that, overall, as a society, we really do only want to advance, and the way that we advocate this is through social media. By cultivating virtual communities where we congregate to talk about cheese melts, Doctor Who, and suicide, we are creating a society where we are not captive at all: we are our governors, we are our own masters, we are, in a sense, the vision of communism realized. The Internet is in fact the utopia for which writers such as Orwell and Huxley have been searching for. There are those who may try to thwart it–that is the issue of net neutrality–but you simply cannot. In this way, I agree neither with Huxley or Orwell, or more aptly, the critic who contrasted the two to begin with, since that is what the prompt ask.

This is learning. This is what I think the purpose of school is: to make you truly think about the subjects for which you are being compelled to write about, not for a grade, but for the thrill of exploring such topics and how they will effect you. This is how we are created. Some of my pupils only come to make true those things for which Huxley predicted: they have become the captives of their iPhones, they have become the captives of their own filtered reflection. This is my confliction, but, I have never been more pleased to be conflicted.

We only have forty minute to write the essay, by hand, and I wrote this in something like 10 minutes. Let’s hope I can come to some stance by tomorrow.

A Comment about Dystopia, based upon The Hunger Games and Divergent

So, this is probably the first of a series of posts about the dystopian genre, which is probably my favorite genre to write, and I feel the need to share it, and since Slate.com has decided that it would like to have problems, I’m just going to post the comment here. Anyhow, note that, as crazy as it is, this is based on what was said about Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy, which was that it was ‘gritty’, which it is not, and you will learn why I would say such a thing as you read the comment below! Hope that you can speak your own mind in the comment section below, and erm, yeah!

The comment:

‘Firstly, let it be known that I enjoy both Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth’s works, but I favor Suzanne Collins’s works more. I also know that this article is about Divergent, it’s simply one little part really ticked me off to write this little post, as a little thought to keep in mind as you read this.

Hold on, I have to say as a Dystopian-Horror writer myself, Divergent is far from ‘gritty’ or ‘grim’. Roth’s dystopian series is closer to a utopia than it is a dystopia; just because buildings are in shambles and there is a lifestyle that these people must live does not make it gritty nor grim. Collins’s Hunger Games is much closer to the vision of what dystopia is supposed to be than Roth’s. Collins’s world has much more meaningful, darker, and realistic undertones and ideas than Roth’s. Roth’s is purely a) experimental in that, the series is a good, quick read and beyond it’s surface idea, it has little to say and b) very action-ey, not that this is a bad thing, but it’s what a YA novel is on the most basic level, and Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent Series, proved this, and not because it was action-paced (because it wasn’t, most of it was mindless repetition of what the reader already knew and Roth trying to tie up the series which I don’t think she had a whole, big plan for in the first place as the revelation is a great big cop-out), but because it lacked the action of the first two novels, which ultimately contributed to the series’s success in the fist place.

Anyhow, Hunger Games really connects to many other meanings other than the brutal reality of reality television, but it emphasizes the class differences that are so predominant in our society that it drives us to have prejudice and hatred towards those from the lower class, it speaks out to the corruption of the government, it speaks out towards war–in Mockingjay, I believe it was (it wasn’t the most memorable final book for me, trilogies always end very offhanded in my opinion), Peeta says something about how war is pointless as at some point we’re just going to destroy the human race, and inevitably, there will be no human race at all–it speaks out towards a great wealth of other things, and what also contributed to making Collins’s story such a success was that before the final two books in the trilogy, really the great finale, romance was put on the back burner so that rebellion, war, and Katniss’s struggle could flourish and Collins could speak out against the things that are destroying our world.

Roth, on the other hand, is doing nothing more than following the generic formula of what made YA novels popular in the first place which is ‘I’m different’ theme of YA books, and we see how heavy handed this gets in the final book when the revelation that ‘Divergence’ is nothing more than a fluke. Roth, I understand, wants to speak about being yourself and that no one is one category, high school cliques and such things shouldn’t matter, but the story needs more backbone than that. What little backbone she could have added she did not emphasize. The only other thing that I think she did a very good job with was the idea of experimentation and serums, how in the future, we could likely be subject to an endless dependence on simulation and mind altering technology, of course such backbone that boils in the broth of it all, collapses under Roth’s un-plotted finale (I know that I keep making everything tie back to the finale, but in truth, even though I loved the books for what they were, the finale is the only one where the ideas and thoughts come to full fruition and in addition to this, it is the only one of the three books that gives us any legitimate answers for some of the things what happen, no matter how horribly derived or explained they may be) as she herself becomes far to dependent on this system of serums, which is sad because there was so much psychological war she could have touched down on in this final book, it would have really made the book much more bearable and acceptable as in truth, Allegiant has killed the series for me. But that is besides the point.

To talk about some other things, though, as many have mentioned: non-verbal communication has a great deal of importance in this series, and it is probably one of the redeeming aspects about it. This non-verbal communication plays with the subtle, and almost not there, psychological war between the characters. Four, in the first book, hid his emotions, but Roth works emotion into him by these little non-verbals and motions that Four does, in the second book, such non-verbal communication could mean the difference between life and death, and often times, words would only increase the tension; Roth also uses non-verbal communication in a way to often times describe the scene and give Tris time to relish in her thoughts and reflect, dialogue would weigh this crucial aspect of the series down by some great weight, as we would slog through deals of dialogue of arguments and thoughts that would stretch for pages when they could’ve been condensed into those little reflections. Non-verbal-ity is what Divergent is all about.

Finally, to head back into my main point, know the difference between dark, gritty, and grim. I may be more critical on what you call dark and grim because my work is highly dark and hopeless, simply because that is dystopia on a level, though another level suggests that dystopian fiction shows how making the world ‘good’ can make it worse than ever before while making it only better for those who decided that dystopian world was ‘better’; it is not about how the author describes the world on the outside, say a gray sky or broken buildings, but rather, it’s about the ideas that play subtly in the background of the stories. Collins plays with this idea far more than Roth, Collins shows what dystopia should be on a level, that dystopia is not about making the world look as shitty as you can possibly make it look, but rather, it’s about what caused it to be this way and how it’s getting worse. For The Capitol, in The Hunger Games, Panem is beautiful, for those who live in it, it is the ugliest place of all; in Divergent, though, what both strengthens the story and weakens is it is that these people have been brainwashed into thinking that this is society, society must be this way, this is how a normal human functions and they all see it as good, which plays upon the utopian aspect of it. While there is a lot of utopianism in Divergent, it still plays out into a dystopia, but know how that The Hunger Games, wears the dress better than Divergent. 

 This is all I have to say, I’m sorry this was a lot, and I’m sorry if some of the things that I say are highly biased or contradicting, but I’m writing this on the spot about what I believe and know about dystopia and how I feel about both series. Once again, I like both of these series, Hunger Games is simply the more well played of the two, and is the true down-dark-and-gritty future.


ALSO! Here is a link to the original post from Slate.com!