Monday, December 08, 2008

So much for the future

With the conclusion of Brazil, we also arrive at the conclusion of our dystopian future unit. Here are your discussion prompts:

1. Compare the physical environments presented in our three dystopian texts. Compare the social structures (government systems, cultural values, etc...). What are the most salient features? What do they have in common? How do the differences reflect Huxley's, Orwell's and Gilliam's personal worldviews?

2. In all three texts, consumer products make repeated appearances (cigarettes and gin in 1984, Malthusian belts in Brave New World, the "executive toy" in Brazil). Consider what the detailed descriptions of these products convey about the world they come from.

3. At the heart of each story is a romantic/love relationship. Why? What message do you think the creators intended by centering the conflict around the love a man has for a woman? What do the outcomes of these relationships have in common? What does that say about love?

4. How are each of the protagonists (in Brave New World, let's assume that Bernard Marx is the protagonist in the first half of the novel, and shifts to John the Savage in the second half) complicit in his own oppression, even as he strives to subvert society's rules?

5. Consider the timelines of these three texts: Brave New World in 1932; 1984 in 1948; Brazil in 1985. Can you connect historical events from each era to the text? What do you think informed the author's choices?

Remember, you can address all or some of the questions using all or some of the texts. Try to be as analytical as possible, citing textual evidence to support your's just a good habit to develop. Engage each other in discussion, respond to other people's ideas, either building on what is already said or offering an opposing viewpoint. Be civil and use your name in all postings.

Thank you.


Alex K said...

Sexual motivation is a common theme we find in not only the distopian future texts, but in almost all of the texts we have read thus far. These writers understand the power of romantic relationships in a story, but the use of love is unique in the distopian texts because it directly contrasts the theme of the societies. In 1984 and Brave New World, the idea of love itself was shunned by the societies, but Orwell and Huxley intend to show the inevitability of romantic desires to emerge from suppression. Although 1984 focused on sexual desires and Brave New World focused more on intimate connections, both display essential human needs being suppressed and the authors show humans' external motivation cannot be contained. Brazil is different from the other two texts because the love is not forbidden because of the act, but because the woman involved is a convict. Once again, society could not dispel Sam Lowry's sexual desires. This common theme found in all three texts may reveal something about each of the authors. They may agree that men cannot control who they fall in love with, or simply who they lust for. And by each of them showing how their romances led to their downfall, the authors may also believe that love leads to men's downfall. Because of the message I gained from these three authors, I intend to never get married.

Lane said...

Romantic relationships for 600, Alex. All three stories center on a romantic relationship because that's one of the most base parts of being a human. Even if the society or government was powerful enough to completely corrupt the way they thought and lived their lives, they still couldn't muster up the force required to break the human need for companionship and sex.

In 1984, George Orwell shows how the World Controllers, despite conditioning and deliberate fetal alcohol syndrome can't completely crush the need for a good old one on one heterosexual relationship. I"m not saying Bernard couldn't have been a character if he was gay, but at least to audience of 1949 he was more palatable.

Sam Lowry in Brazil was a unique character in that not only did he find love, but he only found it through dreaming. Sure, he consummated his relationship with Jill for about three seconds, but his character is introduced in the flying dream and the movie is ended with his comatose dream of the green valley farm and the happily ever after ending. Unlike 1984 with the thought police, in the society Sam Lowry lived in, the only escape from terrorism and the government is your dreamworld. Even a government that can frame you for a crime you haven't committed (Minority Report anyone?) can't control where your subconscious thoughts gravitate. Love seems to be what it means to be a human.

What do these three texts have in common? You can find love, no matter the tyrannical faceless omnipotent governmental superpower you live in. Only problem is, once you do, the omnipotent part of your governing body kicks in and they stomp you into cosmic dust. John the Savage is driven to suicide after trying with all his might to break the bonds of his brave new world and ultimately failing in an orgy porgy. Winston is tortured into submission, rats on Julia, his "love", and comes to love Big Brother, the same entity he vowed to destroy when he joined the brotherhood. Amazing what a few hungry rats can do. Sam Lowry is tortured into a coma, or something like it, and though he permanently is in a state of happiness, much the same as Winston, it is also in a unreal universe. The government trapped both men in their own heads. So basically, although love makes for a tantalizing story, if you are unfortunate enough to live under the control of a super-government like that, you will always lose. So does love truly conquer all?

Brian said...

I agree with you Lane that love is represented in the stories as the foundation of human nature, but sex became a lethal poison to every character that indulged in it. Right after the orgy in Brave New World, John ends up in a noose. The countless copulations between Winston and Julia were directly responsible for their plight in the Ministry of Love. And upon waking up from his first steamy encounter with Miss Layton, Sam finds himself with a bag over his head being dragged to his demise at the Ministry of Information. This is probably the strongest point each author makes about his dystopian governments. For the reader, it is difficult to fathom the impact of genetically engineered human beings, televisions that can watch what you’re doing, or bombings that are more of an inconvenience than a catastrophe. However, if ones sexuality becomes controlled (not just suppressed, like in 1984, but also trivialized as in Brave New World), then suddenly these fictional worlds become much more appalling to the reader.

The protagonists in each work acts as the sole human being in a perverted society, where everyone else is a mindless component of the government. What makes these main characters human is that they yearn for love, unlike the numb robots that live around them. They desire not only the carnal pleasure of lovemaking, but the attachment and affection that comes with it. In 1984, the Party tries to eliminate love by severing the innate sexual instinct in its citizens. The Junior Anti-Sex League fosters celibacy, and O’Brien even says scientists are trying to get rid of orgasms. Without this healthy vitality, love, as Winston endured with his wife, is tormenting. Brave New World achieves the same effect, but using the opposite approach. Promiscuity is a social norm in this futuristic world, and an act as momentous as sex is belittled to an insignificant, routine activity. Long-term relationships and marriage are taboo, restricting any chance for an intimate connection to form. John and Lenina express their love for each other the only way they know how, resulting in a disastrous denouement.

Both corporeal gratification and compassionate endearment are necessary for love to thrive. The Party and World State work perpetually to annihilate the key elements of romance in order to maintain control. By removing love, the foundation of human nature, the citizens can hardly be called people anymore. Once its subjects are incapable of love, the government has attained the ultimate power: deprivation of humanity.

Quanisha said...

Like George Orwell's 1984, Brave New World depicts a dystopia in which an all-powerful state controls the behaviors and actions of its people in order to preserve its own stability and power. But a major difference between the two is that, whereas in 1984 control is maintained by constant government surveillance, secret police, and torture, power in Brave New World is maintained through technological interventions that start before birth and last until death, and that actually change what people want. The government of 1984 maintains power through force and intimidation. The government of Brave New World retains control by making its citizens so happy and superficially fulfilled that they don't care about their personal freedom. In Brave New World the consequences of state control are a loss of dignity, morals, values, and emotions—in short, a loss of humanity.
Brazil is different because the government doesn't necessarily try to control the thoughts or feelings of its people. Their government is controlled by the fear of terrorism, which may or may not exist. But what's scary is that things that would scare a person, such as bombs, is apart of every day life.
After reading A Brave New World, 1984, and Brazil, I start to think that these three men were against the governments they had in their time. The views of Huxley and Orwell came from a futuristic perspective and their works reflected what they felt or thought the world or the world they knew would be like. Gilliam was simply against his government completely and he expressed in a way in which the world could see. But one thing none of these men did was speak out publicly for or against the givernment which was reflected in their work.

Vanathi Ganesh said...

On the topic of love:
I think that these dystopian societies seek to deteriorate all types of love and not just that between a man and woman. John, Sam, and Winston all had mothers that were unable to reciprocate the love that each son had for them. In Brave New World the society conditions children to hate the concept of mothers. In 1984 children are trained to spy on their parents and betray them. Sam’s mother is obsessed with plastic surgery and younger men. Winston’s mother was killed when he was child. John’s mother is disgusted with him and does not want to accept the fact that she is his mother. All these men were robbed of love from the very beginning. This issue occurred to me when I saw that Sam’s mother turned into Jill during the nightmare sequence. More than carnal satisfaction these men are looking for human attachment and connection. The apparent control these societies gain is through the suppression of human relationships.

On complicity in their own oppression:

All four characters are complicit in their own oppression because there is some aspect of their life that they enjoy or are dependent on. Bernard is complicit in his own oppression because he seeks the approval of those that head the government he despises. He also does not speak out against the use of soma or the enslavement of deltas and gammas by soma. In helping their oppression he is helping his own. Bernard is also conditioned to hate things that are human or natural like mothers, sickness, and love and until he becomes open to other ideas of human life he is bound to be complicit in his own oppression. Bernard is also hypocritical because the society he condemns is one he longs to be a part of.

John the Savage actively seeks this civilized society and willingly goes there. He continues to be complicit in his own oppression because he allows himself to be controlled by the director even though he isn’t part of their society.

Winston loves his job and does his job properly. His job in turn helps keep the party in power and thus continue with their oppression. Winston also supports the party by drinking the gin and buying cigarettes.

Sam Lowry also seems to enjoy his job and his job supports the continued use of the machines. Sam is also selfish and only uses his power and connections to help himself. If he had been more ambitious he may have been able to bring the system down from the inside using his influence. Sam was nurtured by the system his parents seemed to have played an integral part in helping its development. He also seeks to work in information retrieval which I think is the code word for torture.

These characters are all complicit in their own oppression because they represent the common man who often doesn’t see the bigger picture. They are concerned with only their lives and the immediate conflicts in their lives.

Eric said...

Prompt: Consumer products

All three works in this unit reflect the conditioning performed in their respective dystopian societies.

In George Orwell's 1984, "Victory" cigarettes and gin make repeated appearances. The conditioning of the Outer Party is so absolute that Winston relies on these goods in order to start his day. Yet it is clear that these "Victory" goods are quite inferior: the tobacco of the Victory cigarettes falls out quite easily, the taste of the Victory gin makes Winston feel nauseous before feeling better, and even the Victory coffee probably tastes like chalk. In short: life as an Outer Party member sucked, but most of them lived on with it, since that's what they were conditioned to do.

In a similar sense, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World introduces various products and conditions methods that are not perfectly apt for their tasks. The "Malthusian belts", even if done properly, are neither perfectly efficient nor perfectly protective. Female condoms take a while to set up, and can still break from time to time. Another consumer product in Huxley's novel is soma, which is used to place people into a dazed state of happiness. It may feel good and sell well, but it doesn't really do anything of true importance.

And that brings us to Terry Gilliam's Brazil. The executive toy is the little lever that randomly points to either "Yes" or "No". While looking at it is probably quite reassuring, it's completely random. Again, it doesn't really do any actual work. It's just a superstitious object for the workers at Information Retrieval, conditioning them to make decisions quickly, as exemplified by Mr. Warren's quick action to all of the surrounding workers' demands.

Mary Wheeler said...

In Brave New World, people are allowed to have sex, but they are not allowed to love. I think that says something about Huxley's views on relationships. He saw that most people were only in relationships to have sex, and not to actually get married and love one another unconditionally. This is still something very real that we see happening today, which is probably why we have an epidemic of STDs. However, not every man is going to want a life like that; which was probably his point of the story. Most men would be elated to live in a society like that, but there is still that one man out of every 100 that wants true love.
In 1984, people were allowed to marry once and only have sex for reproduction purposes. This is the opposite of Brave New World, however, it still leads to the same conclusion. Some men wouldnt mind that, but there are still those that dont want to be tied down to one person. This possibly relates to the trend leading into the early 1900s when people werent usually allowed to choose who they wanted to marry. They married who their families wanted them to marry, and love was rarely involved. Men were constantly having affairs, and they rarely ever touched their wives.
The authors probably centered the stories around love and sex because those are basic human urges. It proves that even in dictatorial societies, you cannot take away peoples feelings and desires.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Alex that love leads to men's downfall because the downfall of the men in these three books was because of the society they lived in. The creators intended to center the conflict around the love a man has for a woman because all the men never can have what they want. John, Bernard, Winston, and Sam all want woman who they can't have which translates into the bigger theme of people in these oppressive worlds being stuck and never getting what they want. The outcomes of all the relationships are the outcomes of all the mens' desires to get out of their worlds, they never work out and there is never any hope.

Shreyas RAo said...

I agree with Amy on her comment. However I would like to go a little more in depth by stating that the reason that the characters who fell in love ended up failing in their cause was because love has the power to overthrown any form of oppression. In other words, if two people truly love each other, they will defend each other at all costs. The governments that were present in the different works this unit were designed to eliminate partnerships and force the people to have singular opinions. By doing so, it was easy for the government to spot and get rid of the so called “bad apples.” When it saw such partnerships were beginning to form, the system acted quickly to eliminate the revolt. The protagonists of the novel did not succeed in their uprising, in the literal aspect, but they did succeed by sending a message and did not allow the system to have the last laugh.
On a side note: Alex’s post on sexual motivation concluded that love is bad and so is marriage. Does this leave room for premarital sex? What about sex without love? I’m just playing Alex…

Lane said...

Just realized my second paragraph references two works incorrectly. I meant that one to only talk about Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Himanshi Arora said...

I agree with Mary in the sense that love and sex are inbuilt within humans and that overcoming those urges is extremely difficult but is not impossible. Mary also stated that "you cannot take away peoples feelings and desires." Yet, most of the society in Brave New World, 1984, and Brazil was comfortably blooming without the the most simplest desire for love and sex. In all three pieces of literature, the main character along with a few other characters (such as Tuttle from Brazil) go against the society's rules. This shows that it is possible to destroy our feelings and desires if we are exposed to such control throughout our lives but there will always be those "different ones", the ones who break apart from the rest of society. Therefore, the central theme in all three pieces of work had to do with romantic relationship to portray the fact that, humans, much like any other machine, can be trained in such a way except for the few that still remain human at heart.