Dystopia: 1984 and Harrison Bergeron Essay

Year 11, English Extension Essay ( 2 CORE texts and 1 RELATED text) What ideas do you see linking the texts you have studied through your exploration of Utopias and Dystopias. The novels Utopia by Thomas More and 1984 by George Orwell and short story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut explore the Utopic and Dystopic genre through the structure and regulations of their societies. In Utopia, More provides us with a contemporary understanding of society and human nature, with an indepth study of morals, values and beliefs in England around the Renaissance Era. 984 was published while the Second World War was fresh in people’s minds, creating fears amongst society with Orwell emphasizing the possibility of such a dehumanised and controlled world if people did not exercise vigilence. Harrison Bergeron is a futuristic science fiction short story which exagerates the extent of authority and its abilities to control society, written during the time of the Cold War. Each text presents a society which reflects the growing concerns of the time and questions the nature of the individual within the society.

The themes of freedom and governmental authority are explored which reinforce the utopic and dystopic views through the nature of the societies. In the texts, the key idea of freedom is explored where all people should be freely entitiled to this right. However, through the limitations and restrictions of the societies, we see that the people are unable to do as they please and exercise free will. Although the novel Utopia aims at presenting a supposedly ideal and perfect world, the concern of freedom is neglected.

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Through the juxtapostion of the two sections of the novel, Book 1 and Book 2, More highlights the concerns of his time where European rule hindered the freedom of the people. While More aims to convey a utopia, the regimented and orderly lifestyle of Utopians emphasize the loss of freedom. “They go to bed at 8 p. m. , and sleep for eight hours. ” This quote shows the collective nature of the society whereby freedom is lost. Utopians follow a strict and ordered routine and must collectively obey the rules enforced amongst the people.

Some have even described such a society as communist, with everything being planned out and done according to societal structure. Similarly in 1984, we see that this basic right of individual freedom is violated through the totalitarian authority governing the society. We see the limitations that are imposed on the people through the invasive system involving secret police, planted microphones and television screens in both public and private places.

Winston Smith, the protagonist, takes us through his life where we share his thoughts and memories, and follow his journey, from his first moments of rebellion right through to his interogation and consequent change in attitude to Big Brother. The author uses a third person narrative voice so we can see the story from Winston’s perspective, allowing us to see his loathing of the current society. There is repitition of the phrase, “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER”, emphasizes Winston’s hate for Big Brother and the freedom deprived society which Big Brother and the Party have created .

Orwell presents a very regimented and structured lifestyle by which both the Party members must abide by. Orwell employs irony in the party slogans such as “Freedom is Slavery” which highlights the Party’s view on freedom and how the individual’s in the society lack freedom. “Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge succesfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you”. We can see the fear that is engrained in Winston, and the fear of the Party that the society feels as a whole.

The television screens and planted microphones are also in place to stop anyone from commiting any crimes highlighting the rigid system in place which prevents free thoughts and conversation. Orwell presents a dystopic society in 1984, through the loss of truth in the society. “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows. ” This shows that the Party’s manipulation of the ‘facts’ has effectively prevented the freedom to think. Orwell also uses the Red-armed prole woman represents a symbol of freedom, by her ability to sing passionately, which the party members never do. Her voice floated upward with the summer sweet air, very tuneful, charge with a sort of happy melancholy”. Winston and Julia see her as “beautiful” through her largeness and toughness and her ability to give birth to many children. Orwell’s characterisation of the prole woman allows us to see the loss of freedom of the Party members in contrast with the rest of society. In Harrison Bergeron, there is also a loss of freedom through the 211th, 212th and 213th amendments to the United States Constitution.

The people in this society have lost the freedom to be individuals and are instead “handicapped” for having different abilities, having different looks and being individual people. “They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful guesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in”. This metaphor highlights the extent to which this society makes sure that no one is better than anyone else.

But in doing so, these ammendments have made the freedom to achieve and be succesful obselete as it is no longer possible to be be good at anything without being handicapped. A common theme in the three texts is the control by government authority and the power they have over the society. We see that those in charge have the ability to enforce the rules and consequently have control over all of the society. In Utopi, from Book 1, More explains how the hierarchy system is dominated by the King in his time. By reffering to the king as “His invincible Majesty”, we can see the importance and and how much power the king had.

Through Raphael, More explains the abuse of power by Kings and how by “hook or by crook” they attempt to acquire new kingdoms rather than govern the existing ones properly. More highlights the king’s ambitions in gaining power, money and expansion of kingdoms showing their negligence of their actual duties. Raphael uses an example the King of France aims to seize milan while also maintaining his authority over his current kingdom. This example demonstrates how powerful the kings are and also their greed in trying to get more than they already have.

We see that their focus is not on their people, but on gaining assets and acquiring new kingdoms. In Book One, More uses am accumulation of examples and anecdotes to emphasize the nature of authority in 16th century Europe. This European style governance is later juxtaposed with the style of Government in Utopia in Book 2. This highlights how the King of France is so nelgecting of his people, unlike the Utopian rulers. “Why do you suppose they made you a king in the first place,? Not for your benefit, but for theirs. ” More through the persona of Raphael, warns against the power-hungry and ambitious kings in Europe.

In 1984, Orwell uses the Party to show the dystopic nature of the society through the all-powerful and controlling government. Through its various ministries, it is able to take control of Oceania as well as oppressing the people. In the Ministry of Truth, the Party has the ability to manipulate news and entertainment. Ironically, it is named the Ministry of “Truth” when we realise that almost all history has been altered in some way. Through Winston’s job, we see that the Party aims to change all that is true inorder to make the history of events suited to the Party’s doctrine. A paradox rises because although the Ministry is responsible for falsifying history, it is actually creating “truth”. Through such a controlling governernment, we see the concerns that Orwell had in his time and the fear of such a society arising after World War II. Orwell uses the paperweight and St Clement’s Church as symbols in the novel. “What appealed to him was not so much its beauty but the air it seemed to possess of belonging to an age quite different from the present one”. Not only is the paperweight a symbol of beauty but it is also a remanant of the past, something which has been altered so drastically by the Party.

These symbols are evidence of a past that once existed. Through all the propaganda, contradictory “facts” and memories, Winston seeks out these items, to rejuvenate his memories of the world that existed before the Party took control. Although the Party, with all its power, has destroyed the way the world was before, these symbols are a reminder of what life used to be like. The picture of St Clement’s Church also evokes memories from Winston who is able to recall it is once being a church. “.. If it was reasonably new in appearance, was automatically claimed as having been built since the Revolution.. This quote shows the Party’s abiltity to falsify the past as well as its ability to make everyone believe that the Party had built it. The symbols highlight the government’s authority in rewrting history, emphasizing the need for people to understand the past and the truth inorder to live free and happy lives. Similarly, Harrison Bergeron explores a society where the 211th, 212th and 213th ammendments to the United States constitution have allowed authority to control the people and authorise “handicaps” to achieve equality.

Diana Moon Glampers is the handicap general and represents power and authority in the short story. Although she appears in only the end, her actions are very impacting. “Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the Studio with a double-barreled ten-auge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emporer and the Empress were dead before they hit the flaw. ” The reference to the weapon she uses to kill, shows her violence and how she has no mercy for people who do not abide by the law. “She aimed at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on”.

Like the Party in 1984, her controlling authority demonstrates the dystopic world controlled by government. In the seemingly ideal paradise presented in Utopia and the dystopic societies presented in 1984 and Harrison Bergeron, we discover the nature of such societies where the loss of freedom and the overdominance of government authority result in a very depressing society. In the texts freedom and governmental authority are explored enabling us to see the helplessness of individuals as well as the harsh and oppressive societies in which the people live.


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