Let's start with an important definition! What are the main differences between utopia, anti-utopia and dystopia? Utopia represents a permanent state of liberty, freedom and well-being. Anti-utopia represents an initial state of utopia but then the situation capsizes and it becomes a state of dystopia, where terror and fear reign. Dystopia, therefore, represents a state completely oppressed by terror and fear.
1984 - George Orwell
This summer our teacher of English gave us to read two books, one is entitled “1984” and it is written by George Orwell and the other one is entitled “The importance of being Earnest” written by Oscar Wilde. I read them during my holidays, at home and under the sun… At the beginning I found “1984” a little bit boring but then I realized that it was opening my mind. I consider it an intriguing book because when you understand who Winston Smith is and what Big Brother and The Party are, you cannot stop reading it. It is a story based on a society, which brainwashes people, so while you read it, it brainwashes even you! It is strange but you realize things that you have never thought about until that moment. You realize how future will be and how the society will be. So, obviously, it instils a sort of fear. The Party, which is the society that controls everything, imposes to people even a new limited language: a language which people are obliged to learn. If people do not do that, they “go against the law” and so they are going to be punished. The leaders of the society can even inflict pain to the people. They delete memory and so people do not remember the past, in this way people do not have power. Moreover the society controls people through telescreens which project people movements, but they cannot know on who the telescreens are tuned. It is one of the main aspects of a totalitarian society. It controls you without your permission.
The themes of this novel are: the dangers of totalitarianism, the psychological manipulation, the physical control and the language as mind control.
While I was reading this book I was thinking about the book entitled "The Circle" written by Dave Eggers.
Another link that came up to my mind when I read what "Doublespeak" was, was Donald Trump's election because he simultaneously believes that three to five million "illegals" voted in the election and that his victory in that election was completely fair and valid.
ANIMAL FARM - George Orwell
We have studied also this other book written by George Orwell that depicts a dystopian society. "Animal farm" begins with a state of oppression ruled by Mr. Jones, the human being owner of a utopian farm, and it ends with a state of oppression ruled by Napoleon, a dictator pig. This pig manipulates the other animals in order to make them thinking that it protects them, but in reality the pig thinks only about its advantage. This story is an allegory of the Russian Revolution. It focuses on Stalin’s government of the country from the 1920s to the end of the Second World War. All the characters in this story represent the main characters that took part in the Russian Revolution. It can be considered a satire for the fact that it satirizes politicians, specifically their rhetoric, their ability to manipulate others and their insatiable lust for power. Napoleon, the major pig, maintains his power by a number of means: control, education, removal of democracy, terror, control of information and propaganda.
The themes of this novel are: the corruption on socialist ideals in the Soviet Union, the societal tendency towards class stratification and the abuse of language as instrumental to the abuse of power.
This slogan represents the final step of the totalitarian state that the major pig reaches. It is the only commandent that remains from the seven that there were at the beginning of the story. These are commandments that all the animals in the Farm are obliged to respect, but Napoleon, who is the leader, modified them according to its necessities.
BRAVE NEW WORLD - Huxley
This book written by Huxley in 1932 is surprising because it speaks about things that in that time did not exist but now they exist, so, in some way, he predicts some things like the vibrovacuum massage machines, which are used for extracting milk from the breasts of the women. Huxley writes also about electric shock for children, when they open books they receive this electric shock, and about test-tube children. It is upsetting, but we have to think that in that time they did not exist and so Huxley wrote about something that belongs to the future. The most important issues this book is concerned with are: the value of the individual in a highly organised society; whether people really want to be happy; whether or not hardship and sacrifice are essentials of human existence; what happens to human beings if utopias can be achieved. This is an anti-utopia novel because it starts abruptly, the reader is faced with the imagined reality of a "new world", as I wrote before, generation and birth are not natural, but from the time of their birth, people are brainwashed into a happy state.
The themes of this novel are: the use of technology to control society, the consumerism, the incompatibility of happiness and truth and the dangers of an all-powerful state.
This novel seems to prophesize the major themes and struggles that dominated life and debate in the second half of the twentieth century, and continue to dominate it in the twenty-first.
LORD OF THE FLIES - William Golding
This novel was written in 1954 and there are two main characters: Ralph and Jack. Ralph leads the democratic form of government and Jack the authoritarian one. It depicts how in that time the authoritarian form of government reigned.
This novel deals with the dark side of human nature showing those innate defects that can destroy not only an individual but an entire society. In fact, in the absence of normal societal restraints, the boys degenerate into bloodthirsty savages. In the novel there is an invented figure of a beast and it would scare the children, but Ralph denies its presence. These children have some symbolic objects, for example the fire that symbolizes destruction but also rescue, a conch that symbolizes democracy and order, a skull of a female pig that symbolizes a sacrifical victim and the emblem of the forces of evil and the glasses of one child symbolize power and rationality. The motto of the children is “kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” because their goal is to find this beast and kill it and it symbolizes also the fact that they are becoming less civilized, returning to a time of savagery.
The themes of this novel are: civilization vs. savagery and the loss of innocence.
This novel alludes to the Cold War conflict between liberal democracy and totalitarian communism. Ralph represents the liberal tradition, while Jack represents the kind of military dictatorship that, for mid-century America and Great Britain, characterized the communist system.
In my opinion the Book Burning that occured in 1933 is one of the worst things that happened during history. How could people think that burning books they would have burnt fantasy and knowledge? It is unthinkable. Ray Bradbury said: "You don't have to burn books to destroy culture. Just get people to stop reading them". This book burning occurred in Berlin in Opernplatz by the Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. His effort was to bring German arts and culture in line with Nazi goals. For this reason the books that were burned were written by Jews and anti-fascists such as Albert Einstein, Bertolt Brecht and Franz Fafka. During the night of May 10, in most university towns, nationalist students marched in parades "against the un-German spirit". Students threw the pillaged and unwanted books into the bonfires with ceremony and songs. Ray Bradbury wrote "Fahrenheit 451"; 451 is the temperature at which books burn. The main character of this book is Montag, who shows satisfaction in watching book burning. His name is obviously connected with Germany.
But that blaze was not the only one that happened during history. Some cases of book burning are traumatically remembered because the books destroyed were irreplaceable and their loss damaged the cultural heritage of the society. Such were the destruction of Library of Alessandria, the destruction of Mayan Codices by Spanish Conquistadors and Priest and the destruction of the Sarajevo National Library.
We have made a flashback to the Victorian Age, so from 1837 to 1901. It was not only the reign of Queen Victoria but even that of Edward VII. A period that has left many things that for us today are usual, like the electricity, the railway and the photopraph, but at the time they were not. The Victorian Age is known as the period of “compromise” because on the one hand there were progress and industrialization and on the other hand there were poverty, ugliness and injustice. For this reason Parliament passed a lot of Acts regulating work, sanitation, the exploitation of little boys, the conditions of children, etc. Charles Dickens in "Oliver Twist" describes perfectly this theme of the exploitation of little boys. Children could not eat a lot and were obliged to work, they lived in awful conditions in overcrowded workhouses and the only thing they could do was to obey to the superiors. The paradoxical thing is that the superiors were chubby and disgusting people. This novel is written with a language of a child, so there are a lot of hyperboles and there is a lot of irony, these techinques convey very well the situation where children lived. In Charles Dickens’ novel "Hard Times" we can imagine perfectly how were the towns at that time because he made vivid descriptions of them, they were overcrowded because people went from the farmlands to the cities because there there was work.
Oscar Wilde is considered a brilliant artist and a dandy. He depicted Aestheticism as the search for the beauty.
The differences between a dandy and a bohemian: like bohemians, dandies rejected bourgeois values. Appearance and the latest fashion was everything to a Dandy. A significant part of their day was spent grooming. Dandies had the time and the money to devote to living extravagantly. They were wealthier than bohemians, having enough to live without employment. Many were owners of large inheritances. They never sought to earn or gain more wealth but lived in constant risk of losing their wealth. Dandies befriended bohemians and frequented the same cafes. While many dandies were forced to live a bohemian lifestyle, bohemians sometimes adopted dandy ways.
Oscar Wilde wrote "The picture of Dorian Gray" which deals with the theme of beauty. It is a 19th-century version of the myth of Faust, the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil so that all his desires might be satisfied. The moral of the novel is that every excess must be punished and reality cannot be escaped. Another principle of Wilde is that life is art, you should live it fully and you should catch all the moments.
The other pieces that we read of Oscar Wilde are: "The Ballad of the Reading Goal", "The Profundis" and "The importance of being Earnest". The one that catches my attention the most is "The Profundis". I really appreciated this letter that Oscar Wilde wrote to Lord Alfred Douglas when he was in prison, he had not the possibility to write, but in the last months of his imprisonment he was allowed to write, he had only one sheet and he decided to write to his beloved Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie). This letter caught my attention because while I was reading it I was feeling vividly the feelings that Oscar Wilde felt when he wrote it. He deeply loved Douglas and above all still had strong feelings for him.
Manuscript of "The Profundis"
We read some poems written by war poets like Sigfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. They wrote because they wanted to awake the conscience of the readers to the horrors of the war. I appreciated a lot that poems because the writers put their feelings on them and I consider this an important feature for a theme like this, the war. We, students of the 21th-century, have not lived the war and so for us, reading poems like these, makes us understand the conditions in which people lived. They gave me gooseflesh!
Unfortunately, at the very moment that I am writing this log, there are underway attacks between America and North Korea. We do not know what is going to happen...