A society is essentially a community of people living together with there being a sort of order to everything. In novels, there can be two types of societies that can be present. The first is a utopian society which is defined by Merriam-webster.com as “a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions.”The second type of society is a dystopian society which is the complete opposite, in which there is an imaginary society where everything is unpleasant to humanity. In many novels, both of these could be present depending on the viewpoint which is taken. If looked at by the government and its brainwashed occupants, a society might be seen as a utopia. In the eyes of the reader who can relate it to their own life, it may seem like a dystopia. The actions of a government are what lead a society to either utopia or dystopia and without scrutiny, by the population, the government can do whatever it truly wants. In Fahrenheit 451 by Raymond Bradbury, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and 1984 by George Orwell there is a government that attempts to create a utopian society by censoring and limiting the knowledge of its citizens. These works of literature all show the importance of society beware of the government's censoring of knowledge, and the importance to step outside and reexamine to see if it is truly a utopian society, or if it is a disguised dystopia to the inhabitants. The censoring of knowledge is extremely dangerous for humankind, and when attempted on a population it is important for that population to resist it in every way possible, or the types of civilizations found in these three works could easily become a reality. Lastly, these stories all show how one can reexamine the society one lives in and see the truth behind it. Furthermore, they show what one must be able to do to escape it if necessary.
Fahrenheit 451 was written as the end of World War II was approaching, and the significance of the time was the actions of Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi party. In this time period, Hitler was working to complete the largest mind-control experiment ever. According to Edward Eller’s “Overview of Fahrenheit 451” Hitler was attempting this mind control experiment through the use of schools that were sponsored by the state, and a propaganda machine that was able to censor all ideas and information that could be in the public eye. In addition, not only was Hitler attempting an experiment like this, but the Soviet Union with Stalin was able to further censor the Soviet people by destroying books that they did not agree with and also creating new writings that contained positive state ideas. Also, the United States had a movement happening which was called the McCarthyism movement. Ramin Bahrani explains this movement as repression, and censorship of literature and arts. In the eyes of the American people, Ramin says that it was equivalent to a cloud of fear hanging over America. All three of these examples of censorship influenced Ray Bradbury when it came to writing this novel. Another quote from Bradbury that is found in Eller’s writing states, “ ‘that when Hitler burned a book I felt it as keenly, please forgive me, as his killing a human, for in the long sum of history they are one and the same flesh’ (Eller).” This quote expresses the passion that he put into this book and the way he viewed Hitler’s actions during WWII. Lastly, these examples prove that censorship is something that can easily happen. Most people, especially in America, feel as if there is no way for their government to censor them. However, it is not only possible for these governments to do so, there are examples of it actually happening in history.
In Fahrenheit 451, not only was the government able to censor the people from information, especially philosophical ideas, but they were also able to control what they were thinking. They were able to do this through the use of technology. In Edward Eller’s overview of the book, he uses Mildred, Montag's wife, as the perfect example of who the government wanted to create. He says “Mildred is the end product of this system. Mildred, as does most of the community, immerses herself in the media provided for her to consume. Whenever she is not at the TV, she plugs in her earphones, always soaking up the artificial stimulus and messages someone else feeds to her (Eller).” As Eller describes Mildred is glued to the screen and does not care about the fact she cannot read a book. She has no desire to obtain any information in a way besides it being fed to her through the screen and an earpiece. Mildred’s mind is controlled by the screen, and it has taken away from her ability to think for herself. Eller compares Mildred to an empty shell due to her inability to remember the most frequent things. According to Ramin Bahrani, this was another thing that Bradbury feared while he was writing this book, he feared that the ability to memorize things would fade. While this book was published in 1953, his fears seem to become more and more true. His fears are becoming true because, with the internet and search engines like google, there is no need to memorize the simplest things when technology can give them to someone within seconds. This adds to Bradbury’s warning because once the population loses the ability to memorize they become more susceptible to censorship. For example, as time moves forward if people stop memorizing history which shaped the world, who says anyone would be able to point out if history was changed? Looking at events that Bradbury was witnessing while writing the novel, like the Holocaust, why would the German government not do everything they could for people to forget, or never learn that the Holocaust happened? One last example that continues to be debated today is the Armenian genocide, if there is nobody who remembers it, or no books that prove it, then who says that it can not just disappear? The fears that Bradbury held while writing this book are fears that need to continue to be looked at today, to ensure that they do not become a full reality.
In this novel Mildred is not the only character who plugs into the screen and disconnects from reality, surprisingly, Mildred has considered normal and everyone in the book is like her except for a few. One may think that Mildred is just a character, however, it is very possible Bradbury modeled this character after what he saw as a modern-day person. He used this character to show how much people truly rely on technology to get their information and news. While this is not a completely bad thing, as Bradbury shows, it enables people to be manipulated by the creators, and writers of the programs being watched. This way of getting information could eventually lead to a society which is representing the one Montag lives in. However, one key difference could be that books are not banned, rather nobody wants to read one. This fall away from physical texts, like books, could be very dangerous. Ramin Bahrani states in his “Confessions of a Book Burner”, “When a printed book is in your possession, no one can track, alter or hack it (Bahrani). ” This quote shows the difference between books and technology and the importance books have. Unlike technology, books are far more complicated and nearly impossible to manipulate, because one click of a button can not send information or change information that is viewed by millions of people. In this novel, Bradbury is attempting to warn people of our times to be careful of what ways it is possible we are being censored and manipulated through the technology we use every day.
Montag is the one character who is able to completely understand the society he lived in, and was able to be freed from it. The only way that Montag was able to do this was by being exposed to and opened up to deeper thinking. Clarisse McClellan was a seventeen-year-old girl who Montag met and she questioned Montag which made him think harder about what he was doing when he destroyed the books. After a couple of unpleasant events for Montag such as his wife attempting suicide, and Clarisse's killed in a car accident he begins to step back from society. Eller states “The book people Montag discovers at the end of the novel show that you must abandon the system and get ‘outside’ the technological cocoon.” In the novel, Montag is eventually able to escape the scent of the mechanical hound and leaves the city eventually meeting up with a new group of people who have committed their lives to memorizing great works of literature. “ He felt as if he had left a stage behind and many actors. He felt as if he had left the great seance and all the murmuring ghosts. He was moving from an unreality that was frightening into a reality that was unreal because it was new (Bradbury 133).” The events in the story and this quote found in the books represent that it will not be easy to step outside a society that wants to keep everyone in. Once into a new reality, it will feel daunting, but this is just because it is brand new. However, it is also made clear in this book that the second one leaves, they will see that they were not alone the whole time as they thought. Rather, there will be many other people who have already taken a different look at their civilization and see its truth. Through this novel, Raymond Bradbury is trying to show the importance of being able to read and understand books, and not have to rely on technology. He expresses that it is good to abandon the system one is shoved into and escape the reality one has been given. While this escape may involve doing things that are difficult and unheard of, there will always be someone at the end with the same mindset.
This book written in one of the worst times the world has ever seen WWII is a warning for future generations. Raymond Bradbury uses his ability to tell a story to warn people about how technology is not necessarily bad, but books should always be the most important things that we have in our lives. Books can be passed down and accessed at any time, and anywhere in the world, one would like. He also expresses concern that people would lose the ability to memorize things when they put books down and start reading headlines instead of articles.
The novel The Giver by Lois Lowry was written in 1993. This novel begins by looking like a utopian society that is perfect in all aspects, although as one progresses through it becomes more and more clear that it is truly dystopian. This novel follows the main character Jonas, who is selected to become the receiver of memory. This discovery of truth forces Jonas to attempt to escape his reality.
The Giver is another novel that fits the theme of censorship by the government and the usefulness of the information. In The Giver, it becomes clear the importance of memory and how if one can’t control their own memory then they can be easily manipulated and controlled by an outside force. This is shown in the novel because there is only one person in society who can control their memory, and their job is to give this information to another person who is chosen and called the receiver. In Utopia, Jonas, who is the main character, is chosen to be the receiver. Other than Jonas there is no other person who has the ability to remember anything or truly think for themselves. Carter F. Hanson in his article “The Utopian function of memory in Lois Lowry’s The Giver” says the following. “The Giver warns against the dangers of cultural amnesia by depicting the suppression of historical memory as a tool of static totalitarian control and production of infantile citizens. (Hanson)” This quote expresses how the elders in the community use memory against their people by taking it away completely. Leaving it out of the hands of ordinary people and only putting it in the hands of one person takes away the need for history, thought and even decision-making. With no memory, and a structured plan by the higher classes no one has the authority or thought to question anything. These people just live their lives day by day doing the one task they know and were assigned. In this novel people don’t even make the decision to have children, they are just assigned two children, and then at the age of 12, those children are assigned a job. The purpose of a society like this is to take out all problems, and pain that occurs in a normal society. In this one specifically, the pain of war was something that elders thought was too much to bear. However, life becomes almost useless when put in this type of structural system.
In “Lois Lowry's The Giver” an article published by Lawrence J. Trudeau, he states “In Lois Lowry’s The Giver, society is portrayed that exists in the future. Moreover, the society in which the protagonist, Jonas, lives, is depicted in such fashion as to suggest it is the logical outcome of strong tendencies in our own present-day society.” This quote shows while this type of Utopia may not seem possible in real life, there are still elements that must be taken seriously. For example, while memory can not be completely wiped out of everyone, it can be manipulated. The most common example of memory that can be manipulated is history. In this case, memory is not something that we physically recall happening but is something that we learn. The way one views events in history can easily be changed or challenged based on the way it is taught, and which viewpoint it is taught at.
Along with structuring the citizens' lives the elders in the community do different things to ensure people stay within the rules of society. For example, as Carter Hanson puts it, “Family breakfast time includes the obligatory ‘Sharing of dreams’ and evening meals the ‘telling of feelings’ to diffuse any unwanted emotional buildup, …(Hanson)” Essentially, this quote is saying that each day, time is set aside for everyone to say whatever they could possibly be thinking just to ensure that one day nobody will burst due to holding in too much emotion. To ensure that nobody says anything too extreme, the citizens are monitored 24/7. This can be directly related to the modern world because where ever one may go there is more than likely at least one camera watching, making sure all rules are followed. This is accepted because it makes people feel safe, however, whoever is controlling the camera has taken away any sense of privacy one may have in public.
In Elyse Lord’s “Overview of The Giver”, she calls Jonas a hero. She says in her essay “…throughout the novel, he develops and refines his usual ability to perceive and to understand ideas that are outside his frame of reference. (Lord)” This quote expresses the importance to look outside of everyday life and take a different look at things. Without Jonas taking a baby who is about to be released or killed as it means in the novel, outside of the civilization then he would not have been able to fully understand what life truly is. If one doesn’t step back and take a different perspective one will not be able to notice things that are trying to be hidden from them or nature in its natural state. The lessons from this book can easily be used in everyone's life. This book teaches that the only thing one may know is the area around them where they feel comfortable, but as Jonas learns the farther out one goes the more he learns and is able to see. “Now he could see all of the colors; and he could keep them, too, so that the trees and grass and bushes stayed green in his vision. Gabriel's rosy cheeks stayed pink, even when he slept. And apples were always, always red. (Lowry)” This quote expresses that as Jonas went further out of his old reality he entered a space where he could see color, and this color is a representation of everything that was not provided to him and hidden from him before. While Jonas is abandoning his old way of life, he contemplates if he made the wrong decision to leave. “If he had stayed, he would have starved in other ways. He would have lived a life hungry for feelings, for color, for love. (Lowry)” In this quote, Lowry is explaining how Jonas’s decision is one that may have been difficult to make but was the right one. Lowry is saying that when Jonas was not informed and part of society, he did not have any desire for color or love. However, now that he knows what love and color are, he can not imagine a life without them. This is a point that Lowry makes to the readers, he is trying to say that people need to open up to the world and grasp the things that make them happy.
Lastly, this novel communicates the need for identity in the world. This book is an example of a society where there are no individuals, each person is a piece of the society because they do not make any choices for themselves. It shows that when there is no room for anyone to be different then the community will not possibly be the perfect place to live. When there is no room for anyone to form their own identity it is dangerous because people are not living, they are performing tasks for the people above them. When one can no longer look at themselves and know that they are able to make decisions where they are happy, they need to understand that a change is needed.
George Orwell was a man who was experienced in the Spanish Civil War. In John Rodden’s “Introduction or Orwell into the Twenty-First Century,” he says that Orwell was a proud anti-communist and he completely distrusted Communism totally. This can be seen in the novel because as Jeffrey Meyers points out in his “Spies in Nineteen Eighty-Four” the three different types of spies in 1984 are all based on things found in the Communist Soviet Union under Stalin. “ ‘You’re a traitor!’ Yelled the boy ‘You’re a thought criminal! You’re a Eurasian Spy! I’ll shoot you, I’ll vaporize you, I'll send you to the salt mines!’ (Orwell 23)” These words are said by a son who thinks his mom is going against the party. This is one type of spy found in the story and also in the Soviet Union. In Meyer's articles, he states “ When Stalin’s brother-in-law and his wife were arrested, ‘their eight-year-old son shouted at them as they were carried off, ‘You are enemies of the people I disavow you! (Meyers)” A direct correlation can be seen here between what Orwell wrote in the novel and what was seen in Russia. The other two types of spies are the thought police, and the government watching over everything. This relationship between Soviet Russia and 1984 is not coincidental, this was Orwells warning about how Communism needs to be looked at as what it really is, and people need to not be hypnotized about what it is in theory.
Another similarity between 1984 and modern-day societies is the telescreens. At the time of writing this Orwell probably never thought that these telescreens would be almost accepted in the future. These are accepted through the use of video cameras, which are almost everywhere in public. These cameras are put in place to protect the citizens, however, at the same time, it is taken away any privacy someone may have in public. When in public everyone is being watched at all times, while this can be beneficial for the safety of people, Orwell warns that it could possibly be used for many different reasons.
The novel 1984 by George Orwell is one where the theme of manipulation and censorship by the government, or party as referred to in the book, is clearly visible. This book is also Orwell’s warning of the dangers of a where the current government is so powerful it does whatever it wants and does not let anyone else compete against it. This book follows the story of Winston Smith who works in the Ministry of Truth. Winston eventually falls in love with a girl name Julia, and they rebel against the party and meet in a secret room they rented. However, eventually, the party catches on to what they are doing and captures them, torturing them until they come to love Big Brother.
Right from the start of this book, one can tell that the society these characters live in is one that is manipulated and censored by the party. This novel explains that Winston works in the ministry of Truth, where his job is to rewrite speeches or destroy articles that hurt Big Brother. One example used in the book is Big Brother making a speech and saying they were going to attack somewhere in the north when in reality they attacked in the south. Winston’s job here was to change the speech to reflect what had actually happened. In addition, when he did it, there would be no proof of the original so nobody would ever be able to question the rewritten history. The novel describes another section of the Ministry of Truth:
The largest section of the Records Department, far larger than the one in which Winston worked, consisted simply of the person whose duty it was to track down and collect all copies go books, newspapers, and other documents that had been superseded and were due for destruction. A number of Times which might, because of changes in political alignment, or mistaken prophecies uttered by Big Brother, have been rewritten a dozen times still stood on the field bearing its original date, and no other copies existed to contradict it. (Orwell 41)
This quote emphasizes what exactly the Big Brother party is doing to its population. They are shaping their population to put all trust in the party and ensuring that nobody knows the truth about what is happening in the war. The ability to rewrite the country's history allows it to make it seem like they stronger than they actually are and have more ability to predict and understand the future than they actually are able to. The censorship which is found in this novel leaves its community completely blind, and unaware of actual events that take place, and that is extremely dangerous for every single person in the society.
Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and The Giver all have themes of government censorship, and the need to come to terms with and truly identify the truth behind the society one lives in. In each story, the authors in various different ways attempt to warn their readers about different events that seem could never happen become a reality. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury gives a warning about the need to continue to read books and learn through what is read. He warns about the dangers of technology and how one can never let it overtake the power of books. In The Giver, Lowry warns about how reality as we see it may not be as great as we think. In his novel, he shows that with a little rebellion, a new world could open up, and in turn, happiness can be seen. 1984, Orwell writes in his complete rejection of communism and the events that unfolded in the Soviet Union. The central theme in all of these warnings is the need to censor what the population is able to see and learn. These fantasies, as most people see them as are not possible when the inhabitants of society are informed, and understand true facts about the present day, but also history. All of the societies in this novel are looked at as utopian in the eyes of the government, however, from the viewpoint of the reader who sees the truth, these citizens are living in a dystopia. These books all warn that in every community it is necessary to step outside comfortable boundaries in order to see the truth and ensure that one is living with true happiness.