Dystopian societies

Topics: Nineteen Eighty-Four, Totalitarianism, Dystopia Pages: 5 (1831 words) Published: October 6, 2013
Good morning and welcome to this year’s Senior English conference. We are going to be focussing on Critical Literacy by discussing the influence that composers have to frame the viewer’s visions through the texts they present. Today I will be analysing who has the power to control or form fears and beliefs based on how we see our future. This analysis will be made through the use of two dystopian texts, George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and the film Minority Report directed by Steven Spielberg. It takes the responder’s interest on current events, cultural assumptions, values, attitudes and beliefs of the time as well as the composer’s perspective to influence the responder’s views of a fearful future. The fears the composer has portrayed in the dystopian text is unable to exist without the responder’s fear in the issue itself and this fear can be affected by many aspects including the time in which the responder reads the text, the responders background, wealth or their lifestyle.

A dystopian society is a fictional society that is the antithesis of utopia. It is usually brought about as a result of human action or inaction, whether from mere stupidity or human evil. Dystopian societies often exhibit traits such as a utopian society with one fatal flaw, a nation-state ruled by upper-class, worship for a state figurehead or a deliberately engineered breakdown of family ties. Over the past century many texts have been produced to outline a dystopian future and these texts are often composed as a warning about an issue or fear of the time. Examples of feared dystopias over time include totalitarian governments in the 1930’s to 1940’s, nuclear war during the Cold War, a technology explosion in the 1980’s, superstate surveillance in the 1990’s. “People shouldn’t fear their government; a government should fear its people.”

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four presents a fear of a totalitarian state in which the main character Winston Smith lives in. Orwell describes the year 1984 as a dystopian society where the citizens of Oceania are separated into three distinct and isolated classes – the Inner Party, the Outer Party and the Proles. Technology advances, including telescreens and microphones, have been placed in every Party member’s household as well as public areas. These advances are controlled to benefit the system and exploit greater control over the party members, not to increase their quality of life. Along with the loss of individualism and privacy, sexual relations are prohibited except for reproduction and then artificial insemination is encouraged. Orwell explains this world on page 77 chapter 7 as being, “a world of steel and concrete of monstrous marching and terrifying weapons – a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts, wearing the same clothes and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting – three hundred million people all with the same face.” This segment of the novel illustrates the loss of individualism and freedom that this society encourages.

George Orwell exercises a sense of power over every aspect of the citizen’s lives through the use of four governmental ministries which have complete control over the party members lives. These ministries include the Ministry of Truth, the Ministry of Love, the Ministry of Peace and the Ministry of Plenty. Each ministry is responsible for controlling certain areas in the society. The Ministry of Love controls identification, arrest and torture. The Ministry of Plenty is responsible for rationing and controlling food and goods. The Ministry of Peace conducts Oceania’s perpetual war. The Ministry of Truth controls the telescreens programs that continuously watch the party members and is responsible for rectifying and rewriting historical records and newspaper articles to make them conform to Big Brother’s most recent declarations. A higher power is...
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