Futuristic novels reflect elements of society today, professors say

The world is somewhat obsessed by the dystopian sensation The Hunger Games but is the idea of a government-sanctioned televised death match something to fear? Perhaps it’s time to reflect on other dystopian texts as the anniversary of the essential dystopian novel Brave New World quietly passed.

First published in February 1932, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World depicts The World State, a homogenous world government, in 2540 A.D. Resources are plentiful because the government forbids the global population from exceeding 2 billion.

Rather than governing through brute force, the population is kept docile by increasing availability of material goods, drugs and sex.

In an interesting article published on The Ranger, the relevance of dystopian novels is discussed. Dr. Thomas Billimek, psychology and sociology chair, said the novel depicts human behavior accurately in that people tend to respond positively to “the carrot,” or incentive, rather than “the stick,” which represents force. “There’s complacency when the carrot is present,” Billimek said. “When needs are being met, one tends to forget about anything other than that.”

In the novel, individuality is discouraged. The slogan “everyone belongs to everyone else” is repeated throughout, signifying conformity to societal norms. Billimek said at the time the novel was published, the world was witnessing the rise of communism and fascism in Europe. “The value of the individual was made subservient to the good of the state,” he said.

Dystopian novels often function as cautionary tales, taking unsavory elements of society to a logical end to create a vision of future society.

English Professor Jane Focht-Hansen said she is more concerned with the world becoming more like the one depicted in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The novel describes the Republic of Gilead, a theocratic regime that has overthrown the U.S. government where men unabashedly oppress women, through the eyes of a handmaid whose only purpose is to bear children. Almost all women are homebound, and forbidden from reading or making decisions.

Focht-Hansen likened this to the political debate surrounding birth control and abortion.

Read the rest here.

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