Let's start with the definition of dystopia, just to understand what we are dealing with. The word dystopia is formed from the Greek ‘dys’ (bad) and ‘topos’ (place), so it literally means bad place, formally it is used to indicate negative, unpleasant societies, often set in the future, in which there is oppression, fear and sacrifice. Sound great right?
The first autor that we encounter in our dystopian journey is George Orwell (1903-19509. We deeply analysed two of his books, 1984 and Animal Farm.
LET'S START OFF WITH
1984 is a novel set in a nation called Oceania, where ‘the Party’ (the government) controls every movement of every person. There are ‘telescreens’ which are used to watch people and, at the same time, to show them fake news, in order to make people believe that everything they see in those screens in real. Language is manipulated, in order to be ‘easier’ and to make people think less, and therefore be less dangerous and easier to control. The police is extremely violent and toughtcrime is punished with torture. Winston, the protagonist goes against this system and is caught.
An important theme is TRUTH. The system provides people with news constantly from some ‘telescreens’ which can never be turned off. In this way there is no chance to find out whether what you are reading or hearing is true or not, you just have to trust what the telesceen gives you. This is linked to what happens now a days with the fake news that you can read on the internet. You always need to double check what you read and make sure that your sources are reliable.
Animal Farm is a short narrative set on a farm where some animals (capable of speaking and thinking) are betrayed by their farmer. Guided by an old boar, they rebel and the pigs become the leaders of the revolution. Napoleon (the pigs’ boss) writes 7 commandments which are based on equality. At the end the power goes to the pigs heads and they become dictators. The Seven Commandments are reduced to just one: “all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”
The novel is a satire on dictatorship, in particular of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the early years of the Soviet Union. Every character stands for a real protagonist of the Russian Revolution, such as Marx, Nicholas II, Lenin and Trotsky.
The main theme here is EQUALITY, which is a huge topic at the moment.People all over the world are fighting for their rights. This created some movements like ‘black lives matter’ and the gay pride.
Now, let's move to another important author, Aldous Huxley.
Brave New World
In Brave New World we are plunged into a new world ruled by industrialisation and consumerism. People are classified in order to their future role in society and are brainwashed into a permanently happy state of mind. They are constantly under the effects of drugs and babies are not born naturally, but they are created in some test tubes. Also sex is forced into peoples lives (starting from when they are kids) as a daily practise.
Sexuality is a problem at the moment, in two ways. The first problem is that often women are objectified in order to please man and they are considered inferior to them. The other problem is that more and more teenagers are afraid to express their sexuality because they are afraid of other people’s judgment. The can’t ‘get out of the closet’.
I found a video and an aricle that raise awareness about these two topics.
Up next, we have William Golding.
Lord Of The Flies
Lord Of The Flies is a dystopian allegory and there are plenty of symbols. In the novel a group of boys aged six to twelve have been left on a desert island after a plane crash. They were escaping from war. In the island they have to learn how to survive and take care of themselves. There are no adults with them.
Reading passages from this novel I started to think about savagery. Are people who live in industrialized and developed countries free from becoming savages? What actually is a savage? Usually the word savage is linked to violence, but also to freedom. Many artists and celebrities expressed their thoughts about savagery and they show two sides of the same coin.
Jean Dubuffet said: " Personally, I believe very much in values of savagey; I mean: instinct, passion, mood, violence, madness."
Henry Rider Haggard said: " Civilizaton is only savagery silver-gilt".
The next author we studied is Ray Bradbury.
Fahrenheit 451 is a novel set in an American unknown city, in a non-specified future during a mysterious war. The protagonist, Guy Montag, is a fireman but the role of the fireman is not the one that we all know. A fireman’s job is to set fire to all books, because reading is forbidden by law.
How would a world without books look like?
Personally, I couldn’t live without books. I love reading them, I love the smell of the ink on the paper and the sound that the pages make as you turn them.
And for now we are done with dystopian pieces! Up next is Charles Dickens.
Oliver Twist sheds a light into what the life of an orphan child was like during the Victorian Age, known as the age of compromise. The author himself experienced some of his character’s agonies. Oliver lives in a workhouse for a while, that he is sold to an undertaker, he runs away, joins a gang of pickpockets and finally is helped by an old man.
In workhouses children were exploited and teachers were really strict and the punishment were usually physical.
Kids are still exploited nowadays, but there are some centres and organizations that help them such as the ‘National Center For Missing and Exploited Children’ or ‘Save The Children’. Here are their official web sites.
During the Victorian Age children were punished in many ways, the one that I find the most original is the ‘Punishment Baskets’. Bad students were put on baskets and hung on the ceiling using ropes.
The next author is Oscar Wilde.
Oscar Wilde was one of a kind, a unique character and writer. He was a dandy and an aesthete.
Literally a dandy is ‘a men who cares a lot about his appearance and always wears fashionable clothes’.
We read a few of Wilde’s pieces, such as ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, ‘De Profundis’ and 'The Importance of Being Ernest'. Dorian is the perfect incarnation of a dandy and reflects the author’s ideas, the ballad explains perfectly how bas prisons were at the time, but the work that struck me the most was ‘De Profundis’.
Oscar wrote this letter to his beloved ‘Bosie’ (Alfred Douglas), while in prison. He was imprisoned for ‘gross indecency’, which basically is homosexuality. In this letter Oscar expresses all the feelings he feels during the imprisonment. He accuses Bosie for not writing to him, for publishing his private letters and calls him vain and shallow.
I love this letter in particular because it makes me think about how brave Wilde has been. He fought for his love and never gave up, even if Bosie was just using him. I think that Oscar knew that he meant nothing to Bosie, but he loved him too much not to try, al least, to fight for their love. I see ‘De Profundis’ as a little revenge that Oscar took against Bosie.
We read a few poems of Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, who are called ‘War Poets’, because their poems were written as they were soldiers during World War I.
Reading this poems made me think about our present and I wonder if we are free from war. Are we?
I found some images about what is happening RIGHT NOW in Syria.