Undoubtedly, the thought of living in, or forming a utopian society has flashed through nearly every persons mind. A few people have even tried to make this ideal dream society a reality. Unfortunately, within the pursuit of these societies the leaders become corrupt and begin to become paranoid with the fear of rebellion. Hundreds of people were murdered during the reigns of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin in what they considered measures to maintain peace and stability within their respective perfect society. One must also consider the hardships that the citizens were forced to endure while living under these oppressive governments.
This dream of forming and maintaining a utopian society was immortalized in two novels dealing with the same basic ideas, 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Both of these novels deal with the lives of main characters that inadvertently become subversives in a totalitarian government. These two books differ greatly however with the manner in which the government controls the population and the strictness of the measures taken to maintain this stability. This essay with compare and contrast the message and tone of each novel as well as consider whether the utopia is a positive or negative one.
In 1984, George Orwell explores the many facets of a negative utopia. Orwell seems to focus on the measures that the government takes to maintain a public of plebeians who have no personality or identity and believe that they are not unique individuals, but instead are part of a greater senseless mob of people who constantly work for a hostile and oppressive government which is involved in incessant wars. These people are taught to love. They then learn to fear their government because they believe all of the propaganda that is constantly instilled into their minds. They willing follow their government without contest for the duration of their meaningless lives. The government controls all forms of the media (thus denying the people the basic right of free speech) and use it to personify the government (known as big brother) .The government therefore seems omnipotent, or all knowing and always correct. Forecasts are changed from one week to the next always proving the government was correct. As was mentioned before, many of the rights that present day Westerners take for granted, such as freedom of speech and the inalienable rights of individuals are withheld from the common citizen, the proles. George Orwell obviously meant to portray a negative utopia in the novel 1984.
Although the novel Brave New World is comparable to 1984 as both are views of a totalitarian government which attempts to provide its citizens with a utopian society, they differ drastically as Brave New World could be perceived as a positive utopia (in contrast to negative one in 1984). There are many drawbacks in this future society such as its lack of individuality and loving relationships, which include not only the love expressed within the confines of a family but also the love shared between partners in a marriage. Humans were treated as laboratory experiments; created using the Bokanovsky processembryos are like photograph film, they can only stand red light. On the other hand, though, the citizens were allowed a great deal more freedom than those living in the 1984- society experienced. Peace and stability within this society is maintained not by force, but through a much simpler and more ingenious solution, the caste system. Every member of the caste system is truly happy with their lives, from the lower three castes whose lives consist of meaningless jobs like elevator operators to assembly line workers to the intellectual alphas who were the thinkers and consumers of the society. This is a much more peaceful way of maintaining the stability of the populace. Since every member of the society is truly content with his or her lives this is a positive utopia.
Fear, paranoia, loneliness, sexual desire and other emotions experienced by Winston Smith, the main character in 1984, are conveyed from the author to the reader through the tone in which the novel is written. Winston Smith is constantly afraid of the government which controls every aspect of his life and is always paranoid that he might accidentally say something in his sleep (in which case he would be detected by the screen which is in his apartment) or to another person (in which case he might be reported). The society in which Winston Smith lives is strictly against loving relationships, thus Mr. Smith is constantly lonely. Mr. Smith's wife disappeared many years ago and though the society is against sexual relations (other than for procreation) Mr. Smith still desires to spend time with a woman.
Much like in 1984 the author of Brave New World uses tone to convey the emotions of the main characters, however they are, for the most part much more pleasant than those of 1984 are. In Brave New World the reader experiences mindless happiness and fulfillment. In the beginning of the novel most of the characters are satisfied with their lives and are happy with their society, thus the tone is light-hearted and pleasant. Towards the end of the book the tone suddenly shifts. Confusion is expressed as John is transferred from his small, confined world on the reservation to what he perceives as an immoral society in the brave new world. Also, the reader experiences the excitement and fear created during the encounter between John, Bernard and Mustapha Mond (among others). Finally, in 1984 George Orwell urges the reader to not sit back quietly and allow a government of such qualities to form. Orwell shared with the reader a view of the future and the horrors that may be yet to come. Orwell used Winston Smith not only as a prediction of what life may be like in the future but also as a means in which to explore how the government would use propaganda and fear of the missile attacks to control the proles. Since Winston Smith ironically was, himself, a member of the very Big Brother government he gave his life to fight against. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley delivers unto the reader what appears to be a message of appreciation. Although the society Huxley created was not entirely bad, Huxley urges the reader to be appreciative of their families, loves, and individuality. In Brave New World everyone but the alpha's and beta's travel through a meaningless life filled only with work and rest. When one reads this novel they see the society as acceptable, myself included. Upon further consideration, we only contemplate living as an alpha or beta because we cannot contemplate living without being able to formulate ideas or basically think. No one considers living as one of the lower castes and only working throughout life until death. Thus, it seems that Huxley intended to portray an acceptable society on the surface with undesirable traits hidden deeper. In conclusion, both of these novels portray an attractive life in a utopian society, if one can conform to the rules. When people cannot conform to the societies in which they dwell (as the main characters of both novels cannot) they are branded as subversives and punished as traitors. Life in 1984 would be almost too unbearable to live. Life in Brave New World is only acceptable if one is willing to live a life of the caste one is in, that is to produce (as a lower caste) or consume (as a higher caste).
This essay has compared the differences between the societies in these two novels. There is one great similarity however that both make me thankful for having been born into a freethinking society where a person can be truly free. Our present society may not be truly perfect, but as these two novels show, it could be worse.