Dystopian literature has been around for quite some time, shaping the minds of young readers. However, in the course of recent decades, it has turned out to be increasingly popular, especially after the turn of the century. In a time of fear and anxiety, the dystopian genre has become more popular in pop culture, in that they provide audiences with a different aspect of entertainment, while offering a sense of comfort and control. The world that young adults of today are experiencing is vastly unlike from that of their predecessors, the reason being multiple global events, from the consequences of the World Wars, sparking major changes on a global scope, to the emergence of evolving technology. Every one of these components, trailed by a more extensive world view brought by the Internet, have added to a more prominent awareness among young adults about many social issues in the world today.
Two well-acclaimed dystopian classics that have shaped the minds of readers over the past couple centuries are 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 written by George Orwell and Ray Bradbury respectively. Orwell and Bradbury’s perspectives and views of authoritarian-based governments are similar, in that the underlying theme and message is based on that of autocratic governments maintaining their control via the use of oppressive practices as well as propaganda and censorship.
In 1984, Winston Smith is employed to work in the Party’s (the ruling government in Oceania) Ministry of Truth. His job is to ensure that all records are synonymous with the beliefs and ideas of Big Brother. This includes ‘correcting’ certain documents to guarantee the Party is always proven right and good, no matter the original instances as well as erasing all records of individuals or events that may challenge the Party, essentially rewriting history in the way the Party deems fit.
This draws parallels to Fahrenheit 451 in the sense that, Guy Montag, the protagonist, who works as a fireman. Firemen have the role of burning all books, which are banned and condemned in his society. Books are seen as a physical representation of a person’s individuality and independent thinking, and for that to be banned from the public, is in essence tantamount in eradicating all forms of individuality. Additionally, the protagonists in both novels come to the self-realization about the misery and sacrifice that plagues their society, essentially becoming enlightened about the evils of their world.
However, in order to ensure their own survival, they must conceal their knowledge, although they could not keep it hidden forever. One key difference between the protagonists is that Guy Montag from Fahrenheit 451 eventually prevails in the end, evading the government and the nuclear torn city, finding a sense of peace with a group of survivors whose mission is to memorize and recite the words of many books. On the other hand, Winston Smith eventually acquiesces to the brainwashing of O’Brien and the Party. Overall, Guy Montag and Winston’s struggle against their respective opposing governments are different, however the implementation of a third person narrative allows the readers to connect with their individual feelings and enlightenment.
A major theme between the classic dystopian novels is the use of totalitarian governments. The treachery and deceit used by these powers is very evident in the novels. Additionally, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and 1984 by George Orwell both share the common idea that technology, more specifically television, is detrimental to society. However, televisions serve fairly different roles in their respective novels. The television walls in Fahrenheit 451 are a form of entertainment that most people have inside their homes.
Televisions were implemented in this dystopian America as a way for people to distract themselves from their harsh realities. Most individuals indulge in soulless mass media and other vapid entertainment. Guy Montag discusses how immersed Mildred is engrossed with the shallow entertainment that is featured on the televisions. On the other hand, the telescreens in 1984 control people’s minds by dulling it, controlling and surveying all their actions. Additionally, they monitor an individual’s every movement, eventually leading to the capture and downfall of Winston.
Overall, both societies are desensitized, ruled by governments that control every aspect of their citizens’ lives via the use of censorship and propaganda to restrict the flow of knowledge as well as and a system in which nonconformists are murdered or simply erased from existence. Both novels criticize many of these controversial practices that governments of the modern era tend to take. Orwell and Bradbury’s societies may be a bit extreme, however they are quite applicable in our world today in that they both raise awareness of the dangers that an authoritarian based government in which rights. The novels should serve as a wake-up call to humanity about the risks and hazard of controlling governments and how almost impossible it is to get rid of them if they are allowed to grow.