Dystopian Literature

Published: 2021-09-11 16:00:08
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Category: Dystopia

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Literature is not concerned with shaping the future but with teaching us about the problems of the present”. Discuss “Lord of the Flies” and “Animal Farm” in light of this comment. Many critics have argued that several extreme historical circumstances of the 20th century have led to the flourishing of dystopian literature. Dystopias usually extrapolate elements of contemporary society and function as a warning against some modern trend, often the threat of oppressive regimes in one form or another.
In Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”, both authors create a dystopia; however the intention of the characters originally was to create a perfect society. But Golding and Orwell are trying to convey that society will always be corrupt and a utopia can never be achieved, as in both novels the “uncorrupted” leaders who begin with good intentions soon spiral out of control with their want of power and control. In “Animal Farm”, this process happens gradually with the changing of the seven commandments by Napoleon to justify his own behaviour which at the beginning of the revolution he outlined as enemy traits.
For example, the sixth commandment is “No animal shall kill any other animal” but Squealer changes this to ‘No animal shall kill any other animal without cause’. After Napoleon executes animals that were allegedly plotting against him, also when Boxer is injured Napoleon sells him to a glue factory to be slaughtered. In response to the question both novels can seen as using allergory to criticise society in the time they were written. Though “Lord of the flies” is fictional its exploration of violence and brutality can be seen as partly based on Golding’s experience of World War II.
In relation to “Animal Farm” the novel reflects events leading up to and during the Stalin era before World War II. There are several metaphors in “Animal Farm” which refer to the Russian Revolution and demonstrate how a dream of freedom can soon turn into a violent nightmare which provides an indirect analysis of the perpetrators and events of the Russian Revolution. Animalism can be seen as an allegory mirror of the Soviet Union and is the ideology which brainwashes the animals into their new government.
At first it is a positive change from “Manor Farm” which gives them connotations of slaves as they are owned by humans into “Animal Farm” however, the majority of animals lead a worse existence under the rule of pigs who promised equality. There are comparisons that can be made with animalism and Marxism, the first is the economy, both have firm beliefs that there is no need for money or social class, however this fundamental principle is immediately undermined by the fact that the pigs are in charge thus creating a hierarchy in the farm in which they are the top of.
Another similarity is that the two concepts were created by respectable “men”, Old Major; a pig who dreams of animalism instigates the revolution in the farm before his death. Karl Marx was the soul thinker of Marxism and Orwell demonstrates through the plot in the novel how ideas of Marxism and communism bring about equality immediately but corruption in leadership brings about oppression. This technique of using animals to represent the society Orwell wished to criticise can be seen in all the characters in “Animal Farm”, however we will explore only the main contributors.
Napoleon is the villain of the novel and an obvious metaphor for Joseph Stalin, the very name Napoleon is fitting as the Napoleon the French dictator was seen by many as the Anti-Christ. At first Napoleon seems like a good leader but eventually is overcome by greed which is what occurred in Stalin’s rein, he soon became power hungry and lived a life of luxury while Russia and its people suffered. Another part of Stalin that Orwell illustrates through Napoleon is the paranoia of losing power and this fear breeds violence and leads to the execution of innocents who were seen as a threat.
Another important character is Squealer which many critics correlate with the Russian media’s use of propaganda. He is the spokesperson for the pigs and has to make everything oppressive and exploiting which occurs on the farm positive making lying necessary, much like what the media’s job was in the rein of Stalin. Snowball is also significant in representing Trotsky who was original revolutionaries but as Stalin rose to power became one of his biggest enemies and was finally expelled one year after Stalin took power.
Snowball is exiled from the farm the same as Trotsky but Trotsky was also exiled from Russian history, his face was removed from pictures of the revolution and he was renounced as a traitor, finally he was assassinated by a Stalinist agent in 1940. Although Moses the Raven has a minor role in the novel it is a significant one, as he represents the Russian Orthodox Church. Moses fled the farm shortly after the revolution and when he eventually returned he never did any work but preached to the animals about Sugar Candy Mountain, a paradise he claimed animals go to go after they die.
It is important that at first Moses is not allowed on the farm but then welcomed by Napoleon and given a “ration of beer”. Orwell could be highlighting that the Russian Church was used as a tool of oppression, as according to Marx religion is “the opium of the people”, it numbs people of their exploitation and suffering much like a drug. It also demonstrates that even the most good and pure people on earth can be corrupted and Orwell could be indicating that this cycle of corruption will always continue as human nature will never change.
Further metaphors that are used as a parallel to the Russian revolution such as the song “Beasts of England” is a metaphor for the ideology of communism. The project of building the windmill represents Stalin’s “Five year plan” in which he promised would improve the Soviets Industry which would lead to shorter working weeks for the working class as the animals were promised an easier life. However, both were a failure but Napoleon and Stalin refuse to admit to defeat and continue thinking that they will solve the problems.
Another significant technique used by Orwell is the portrayal of the oppressed through the omniscient third person narrator which makes the story more universal and relevant not only within the context of the novel. It challenges the assumption that oppression is born out of evil motives and dictatorship but that it is self inflicted by the acceptance of and the naivety of the oppressed. The main technique that is used to justify the oppression of the animals is through the manipulation of language which is exploited by the intelligent pigs.
They twist the words of the Old Majors ideals on socialism and change their own original seven commandments to decriminalize their own actions. Another means of control is the songs used to create a collective conscience on the farm mainly the “Beasts of England” which is propaganda technique which brainwashes the animals to believe that the government has their best interests at heart. Thus although some will argue that Orwell’s intention was to provide a cautionary tale through the moral issues of human kind highlighted in his novel it is important to consider it was a recollection of current affairs, criticising the original readers.
So before messages of warning can be translated for future societies through the criticism in this novel the problems of current occurrences need to be tackled by the oppressed and the oppressors because there is one common trait they both hold, human nature which they can never escape. “Lord of the Flies” shares similar themes to “Animal farm” as it is deeply rooted in socio-political concerns of its era as it was written in post World War II. It could be seen that the novel is highlighting the Cold War conflict between Liberal Democracy and totalitarian communism.
Ralph can be seen to represent the liberal tradition and Jack the military type dictatorship of the communist regime. It is significant that Golding sets the novel in future reality after an atomic war however this does not necessarily mean he is fixated on the future of society but making this tale relevant to future readers who will question the corruption of their present society. Golding uses heavy symbolism to illustrate the parallels that the boys “new” society is not much different than the one they belonged to in civilization.
Before the boys arrive the Island can be seen like the Garden of Eden however this is soon destroyed through the corruption they create. This links to the scar on the Island which is manmade thus symbolises the damaging encroachment of humans in paradise. The conch which is founded by Piggy and Ralph and is used to reinforce order and authority, only the person holding the conch may talk and everybody else has to listen. Jack smashes the conch which metaphorical of him breaking away from the civilised society they have established into a world of violence and savagery.
Piggy’s glasses symbolise understanding and clarity however when the lenses become cracked (also at the hands of Jack) this marks the boys losing sight of what they need to do and a further breakdown in the civilization. The boy’s only connection with civilisation and hope of ever returning to it is the signal fire which the longer the boys remain on the Island the less important it becomes which demonstrates their loss of moral values and interest in authority. When the fire rages out of control it is metaphorical of the boy’s loss of control or perhaps society’s influence on them.
The title which Golding chose “Lord of the Flies” is significant as it contributes highly to the interpretation of the novel. There is reference to the Hebrew name Beelzebub which means “God of the flies” this is synonymous with Satan as he was the Devils right hand man. This religious reference Golding uses to illustrate an interesting Freudian concept about the ID which is what governs an individual’s survival and Golding indicates it is the internal psyche of the inherit evil of human nature which leads to the frightening events on the Island and not external supernatural forces.
The Beast which is used as a tool of fear on the Island personifies the savagery and evil of mankind that Golding is trying to highlight. Another religious reference which is evident throughout is Simon being seen as a Christ like figure he is the only person who understands the truth of human nature but he is slain as he attempts to share it. This is a criticism of society on Golding’s behalf as if somebody speaks out and blames events on the government they are put in prison or executed.
It is therefore questioning if we ever have freedom of speech even in modern society and it is employing everybody to look within themselves because as we are all human we are products of society which makes us corrupted thus this is why we will never have a utopian society as humans are corrupt to the core. This assumption is confirmed by Golding himself “the boys try to construct a civilization but it breaks down in terror because the boys are sufferering from the terrible disease of being human”.
It is therefore clear that Golding’s hypothesis about humanity is pessimistic and I don’t believe in this novel he has attempted to shape a outlook on a future society. With his attitude towards human kind he would not concern himself with trying to shape the future as it would be pointless as the inherit evil of human nature he depicts is unchangeable. Much is the same with Orwell however he does not place so much blame on individuals but is more critical of governments. Thus both authors do not concern themselves with influencing the future of society as both make it clear that they never think an ideal society is achievable.

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