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Essay: Brave New World and 1984

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Atwood suggests that the social prediction of both novels Brave New World and 1984 “cast their shadows over our futures, 1984 with its horrific vision of a brutal, mind-controlling totalitarian state and the other, Brave New World, which proposed a different and softer form of totalitarianism.” Brave New world can be interpreted as a ‘softer form of totalitarianism’ because unlike 1984 where people are threatened and tortured to accept the regime, citizens conform due to being genetically and psychologically constructed. Both novels can be interpreted as a stern warning to readers at the time of writing; however modern day readers may argue that these novels are viewed more as a political comment or a metaphoric satire of controlling societal class structure.

One element of control in both 1984 and Brave New World is the pre-conditioning and re-conditioning of each individual. Throughout 1984 the protagonist Winston is constantly fighting covertly against Big Brother’s regime which we see when he writes “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” repeatedly in his diary. As such, the diary itself acts as a trajectory for his rebellion despite the risks of writing it. Winston himself recognises that “theyll shoot me i dont care theyll shoot me in the back of the neck”. Through the lack of punctuation and capitalisation Orwell is depicting Winston’s inner desire to break through the constrained society he lives in through the simplistic act of choosing not to follow rules of language. Winston’s comment here, especially “i dont care” enables Orwell to portray Winston’s frustration with the society and highlight the fact that Winston has reached a point in his life where he is ready to challenge the status quo. Furthermore, it is symbolic of freedom and represents his desire to return to a time in which people were allowed to express their thoughts freely. Ironically at the end of the novel this rebellion acts as a Hamartia in which Winton is made to ‘care’ which leads to his final reconditioning, conformity and one may argue downfall.

Contrastingly pre-conditioning in Brave New World takes place before birth as seen straight away in the opening of the novel. Instead of natural birth, babies are scientifically constructed to fit their roles in society through things and subsequently physiologically through their development of adolescent. The lower classes when constructed are “dosed almost to death with alcohol;” interfering with their full growth development. The verb “dosed” disturbingly emphasizes how much alcoholic substance is mixed into the embryos, being followed by the adverb “almost” and the noun “death” in retrospect highlights how unethical this process is. As their natural growth is interfered with, these embryos will be effected due to alcoholic substances damaging the growth of a baby’s brain cells thus they are prepared for the lower and unintelligent classes of society. Despite this there is still work to be done as this conditioning is furthered furthered in the “Neo-Pavlovian conditioning rooms” as we see the physiological trauma placed on babies by the ‘Neo-Pavlovian’ method as a means of pre-conditioning. Nurses lay out flowers and books and then bring in a group of Delta babies which are one of the society’s lower castes. When these babies crawl towards these objects however they are electrified “now we proceed to rub in the lesson with a mild electric shock” and so instinctively overtime the babies are taught to be terrified and to keep away from books and flowers. The nouns “books” and “flowers” are symbolic as books are often associated with intelligence and flowers represent nature. This conditioning is used to limit free thought and direct the behaviour of the lower classes in society by preventing them from reading material that may decondition them. The reasoning behind a conditioning hating books and flowers leads to a greater amount of consumerism as it makes sure everyone has their individual roles that works to the greater good of society. This method of control is specifically done when these individuals are babies and in doing so Huxley uses babies to purposefully provoke sympathy from readers, it is seen to be more horrific and brutal to readers as babies are seen as innocent and helpless. Pathetic fallacy is used to convey this “As they approached, the sun came out of a momentary eclipse behind a cloud”. The eclipse symbolises a sudden light in the darkness which shows the sudden change in atmospheric setting and signifies the happiness of the babies when they see the objects placed in front of them however when the books and flowers are offered to them after the babies are electrocuted there is a juxtaposition in imagery where “the infants shrank away in horror; the volume of their howling suddenly increased”. This shift in imagery emphasizes the inhumane ways the World State controls its citizens. This type of artificial conditioning is done to each class depending on what their role in society will be in order to make individuals accept “their inescapable social destiny.” and removes any prospects of a desire to question the status quo, rebellion will not be an issue as society has already ensured they will never know any different.

Huxley’s opening chapters of Brave New World is depicted as a criticism of the obsessive nature of science. These views could have been influenced by Huxley’s childhood as he was the son of famous biologist Thomas Henry Huxley (known as Darwin’s bulldog for his supportive views of evolution). This could be why Huxley’s novel is very much centred around the scientific elements of human anatomy. Nevertheless, the satirical tone throughout the chapters illustrates that this science-based society is not in fact a utopia but instead a fabricated dystopia. Like Orwell’s 1984, Brave New World depicts a government dominating and controlling individuals by conditioning them to limit free thought. These methods of re-conditioning and pre-conditioning proves sustainable in both novels as the majority of citizens in Brave New World conform due to their prenatal and psychological conditioning and in 1984 Winston’s unorthodoxy is removed as a threat to the regime by him being reconditioned to conform.

The rejection of history is also a prominent method of control in both novels, the totalitarian governments in each novel conceal or amend history in order to establish power. It is more apparent and aggressive in 1984 as for citizens of the state it is impossible to comprehend the past. Details of the past are constantly rewritten to adjust with the present through the ‘Ministry of Truth’. Its main role is controlling the population through distortions of the actual ‘truth’ so that the state can sustain complete power over the people. The name of the place itself is ironic as the truth is constantly reconstructed and formulated into lies; “the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it” history therefore becomes what the Party wants it to be. Reconstructing the past makes sure for citizens of the state their current life is painted as a utopia “before the glorious revolution, London was not the beautiful city that we know today. It was a dark, dirty miserable place…” The adjectives “dark” “dirty” “miserable” automatically creates a negative image of the past, these words contrast with what is described by the use of the adjective “glorious” revolution fabricating it to be the best thing that’s happened for the people, hence their life now is seen to them as the best life they can have thus making sure there is no threat to the power structure. As readers we are able to identify that the imagery of London before is exaggerated and in fact life after the “glorious revolution” appears to be far worse; therefore, this lie clearly serves a purpose to control the populace. Orwell\’s creation of this ‘Ministry of Truth’ that modifies the truth is reflective of the actions of Hitler, who, upon establishing power of Germany immediately took control over literature, radio, film, newspapers etc. As a result of this policy the Nazi regime created a system of censorship, you could only know what the Nazis wanted you to – a corresponding link to the actions of Big Brothers regime. To produce anything that was in these groups, you had to be a member of the Reich Chamber which is parallel in 1984, to modify history you have to be a Party member seen through the characterisation and occupation of Winston which is ironic and satirical as we don’t expect a Party member and someone who assists with eradicating the truth, to be resistant to the regime. He identifies that the past is constantly being tampered with but cannot really understand why the past is being rewritten as he states “I understand HOW: I do not understand WHY.” The capitalisation of the words HOW and WHY is almost a question directed to readers and unravels our own thoughts as to why that Party is doing this however unlike Winston we can infer that the Party rewrites the past because “He who controls the past controls the future” as Isaac Asimov says “those controlling the government kept themselves in power by brute force, by distorting the truth, by continually rewriting history…” meaning those who are in power are able to falsify both history and the truth; how people shape their future is reliant on their knowledge of the past and so by re-writing history, those in power can maintain control over society as a whole- “Whatever the Party holds to be truth, is truth.”

In Brave New World history is deemed as unimportant and is therefore eradicated as explained by Mustapha Mond “We haven’t any use for old things here”, things such as historical literature e.g. Shakespeare and the historical belief of God are all eliminated. In order to create a “utopia” and a mutual visualization of perfection these things must be removed because the notion of social stability and working collectively is only achieved when everyone shares the same thoughts, feelings, and experiences. When different beliefs of literature and religion are presented to an individual it allows free thought and a choice to believe what they want to believe which creates individuality and personality, something the World State is committed in destroying. Both the history of religion and historical literature creates individual pursuits and most importantly individual thoughts. In a liberal democracy people are allowed the freedom to follow diverse lives, however in Brave New World there is no other path because everyone is working towards the same goal. Mond also makes a point that “we don’t want people to be attracted by old things. We want them to like new ones.” For a society like the World State based on consumerism it is clear that it requires citizens to need new things and so history and the past must be subjugated in order to establish the newly designed present. Historical literature such as Shakespeare is removed as the emotions and experiences in Shakespeare are something citizens of the World State aren’t familiar with. Shakespeare’s plays provide many examples of human relationships that are loving, and often portrays tragic scenarios, in the World State these elements of human emotions do not exist, therefore it is best to ban Shakespeare so the existence of those emotions continue to never exist or the idea never arises as to why they don’t exist. Shakespeare makes people think about his/her society something that World State cannot have if they want to keep control over the state. Furthermore, historical elements of religion are distorted such as God is replaced by Ford “Thank Ford” humorously deriving from the saying “Thank God”, and the commandments are replaced by the 10 World controllers, the Christian symbol of the cross is also replaced with the letter ‘T’ for technology. Mond gives readers the example of a written piece by John Henry Cardinal Newman an Anglican clergyman who converted Catholicism- “We are not our own masters. We are Gods property”. He believed that man was not made for individuality and independence but instead belong to God, this is true, people who are followers of religion follow their own principles and ideals of their religion, as mentioned before this creates a sense of individuality and different ways of life and for the World State to maintain control over society religious individuality and ideals must be forbidden.

Therefore, the rejection of history in Brave New World is similar to that in 1984, both novels convey how history is hidden and altered as a method of control. In both texts this method of control is so citizens don’t know anything other than what the totalitarian governments want them to know, thus destroying individuality and free thought. This is proved sustainable in Brave New World as everyone in society is so conditioned from pre-conditioning that they don’t ever question the past and even if they do find out about historical rituals from the outside world like when Bernard and Lenina visit the savage reservation they just think its very strange, this is evident when Linda talks about giving natural birth “me, a Beta having a baby” “(the mere suggestion made Lenina shudder)”. Although Bernard is considered to think differently and is sometimes curious unlike others in the World State even he in the end begs to be allowed to stay and conform to the World State “I promise I’ll do what I ought to do. Give me another chance. Please give me another chance.” However, in 1984 this method is proved unsustainable as its much of the reason for Winston’s unorthodoxy. Although Winston conforms in the end one of the reasons his unorthodoxy was the gaps in memories. Winston has memories of the past through external analepsis of things such as his mother “He also felt that his mother’s love for him and his awareness of her death as a tragedy belonged to a bygone age when words like love and tragedy had some real meaning just as human individuals possessed some real dignity.” Even though Winston doesn’t remember what happened to his mother or much about his past that fact he can understand the past is constantly being changed and the history is different to what is being taught is enough for Winston’s unorthodoxy occurring in the first place. Unlike the World State in Brave New World Big Brother fails to wipe out memories of the past completely, the only thing stopping people from asking or finding out things about the past is the fear placed upon them by the regime.

Another method of control in 1984 and Brave New World is destroying the construct of family. In 1984 conversely the family still exists where as in Brave New World family is non existent. In 1984 traditional values of the family are subverted and family loyalties/bonds do not exist anymore, the only loyalty that exists is loyalty to the Party. This is represented through the only ‘family’ we encounter in the novel The Parsons. The Parsons on the exterior seem like the perfect family, Mr and Mrs Parsons and their son and daughter, two children who support the regime and are also part of “the spies”, all of them loyal to the regime. However, this is all changed in the end when we find out that Parson is arrested by the Thought Police for thought crime turned in by one of his daughters for whispering “Down with Big Brother” in his sleep. From this one may presume that if their own daughter gave them into the regime they’d be disappointed though Parsons doesn’t share this same outlook. Instead Parsons believes that it is good that he is punished for his thought crime and is proud of his daughter “I don\’t bear her any grudge for it. In fact, I\’m proud of her. It shows I brought her up in the right spirit, anyway.” Parsons believes his daughters actions are a reflection of his own parenting upbringing of her, and so in Oceania the even the strongest of family bonds are broken, the bond between parent and child, as mentioned before in this regime the only loyalty allowed is to the state. In addition, Parsons daughter is part of the social group called ‘the spies’ who do exactly what the name suggests, they spy on others in the regime particularly the ones close to them. The Party uses the youth so they have eyes and ears everywhere. Children are taught to choose loyalty to the regime over anything and everyone thus breaking down the family structure and breaches of trust. For the regime to break down the family structure they must first start with the children because children are potentially easier to brainwash and manipulate. The state does this by building into the children immense nationalism, undying love for the Big Brother Regime but also things for children to do- “they adored the Party and everything connected with it. The songs the processions, the banners, the hiking, the drilling with dummy rifles, the yelling of slogans, the worship of Big Brother”. This list shows how the children are brainwashed, for children being part of the regime the system has set in place for them some role of importance. It is also a system of meritocracy where children who denounce their parents are rewarded – “for hardly a week passed in which the Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak- ‘child hero’ was the phase generally used- had overheard some compromising remark and denounced his parents to the Thought Police.” This suggests that not only to children denounce their parents but its of regular occurrence happening weekly, this thus shows how unstable family structures are in the regime for no one can be trusted. They are described as by the regime as ‘child hero’- their reward being public acknowledgement for saving the future of the nation. This is comparable to the Hitler Youth Movement which helped indoctrinate the youth and filled them with immense nationalism, they also used to spy on residents and their parents and report back to the Nazi regime in which they were rewarded for. Even Winston who creates a relationship with Julia formulated on pure love ends up betraying her in the end showing readers that in 1984 there are no bonds that the Party cannot break.

In contrast in Brave New World the family is non existent as a method of control. Things such as a “mother” or “father” are seen as derogatory terms. This is represented when Bernard says “I often think one may have missed something in not having had a mother” followed by Lenina’s shock response of “Bernard! How can you!”. Here we can see from the use of punctuation, the exclamation mark that Lenina finds Bernard’s opinion shocking. Due to the fact that everyone in Brave New World has been programmed to live in the order of the World State nobody can understand what family means or the construct of family. Mond states “The greatest care is taken to prevent you from loving any one too much.” This is because loving someone leads to the creation of a family and a family is everything the regime goes against as the whole regime is based on consumerism and creating people for their fit role in society therefore the prospect of family must be eradicated because it leads to things such as natural birth which will go against everything the World State believes in. Instead citizens of the World State are taught to engage in promiscuous sexual relationships with anyone to subside the feeling of wanting to be loved or loneliness.

Consequently, both novels share a similar view on the family. The family for both totalitarian states recognise that within the family bonds are formulated which makes it harder to maintain a wider grip on society, thus in both novels the social construct and traditional values of family is eradicated. This method is proved sustainable in both novels as both protagonists end up alone, Winston with his betrayal of Julia and John who ends up residing and dying alone.

 

 

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