Utopian and Dystopian Fiction

What is Utopia? According to The Random House Dictionary, utopia is a place or state of political or social perfection based upon the novel of Utopia by Thomas More. Philosophers, writers of all sorts of novels and movies are constantly trying to imagine and conceive plans for an idyllic state of today. The irony of utopia is that it means ‘no place, good place’ implying that utopia is an idealistic place that can never happen in reality. Then, what is dystopia? Thefreedictionary. com’s definition for dystopia is an imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad.

But when all the writers think about their utopian places, just as many dystopian elements will come about as a “perfect” society just cannot happen. Thomas More wrote a book, Utopia in the 1500’s, in the time of Renaissance and Humanism, where he could express his views on society being governed by King Henry VIII. George Orwell also wrote a book Nineteen Eighty-Four or more commonly known as 1984, in the 1950’s, a time after WWII where it had devastating effects on the world. It also brought to the rise of dictators such as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin who all had different totalitarian regimes but political differences.

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A movie was also created in 2005 directed by Michael Bay, The Island, which is set in the near distant future to warn us about the future of human society and loss of individual expression in conformist societies. These three texts have been written to express the authors view on a utopian world, all which have significance to the society it was planned for. These texts make us to question what a real utopia would look like and how everyone would work in it but it will criticise the current society. However, it also presents hope for the future and how we may better serve one another in this world.

Firstly, we see that uniformity and conformity is evident in all three texts as the main characters are not presented with anything different than to what is already there. Uniformity is a condition which everything is regular and nothing changes, and this affects the way people act towards society and how they will behave, which is evident in Utopia, 1984, and The Island. More has written Utopia in two books. Book One is largely a dialogue between three men, Raphael Hythloday, Peter Gilles and Thomas More.

It is a representation of criticism of the social, economic and political conditions of More’s time during the early 1500’s on the eve of Reformation when Henry VII was in power. Hythloday is having a conversation with Gilles and More about his travels but ends up debating the corruptness of the government and the failures of the English society. This book ends by considering a society, Utopia, which is much ahead socially, economically and politically. Book Two as primarily about Hythloday explaining to More and Gilles about the laws, traditions, government and general lifestyle of the Utopia.

It begins by defining the geographical elements of Utopia in order to make it appear like an actual place. He then explores the political, religions, economical and social aspects for people living in this Utopian society. Hythloday aims to show how their European society can improve and learn from this Utopian society for the future. In Utopia, you can see that the both parts of the book are written in a way that is almost a guideline for people to abide to. This shows the conformity people have when living in this Utopian world where your voice is not heard as there are rules which state the way you live.

Families help populate this utopian society but even through this, they have to follow a strict policy to make sure that towns do not “become overpopulated” (slide 4). The uniformity of only being able to own “a single piece of clothing” for every two years instills that all the Utopians are equal and is symbolic of the fond sameness – there’s no such thing as change (slide 1). Utopia can be considered significant as it is More’s way of indicating that he wants a better world that was influenced by the tyrannic England.

It is More’s way of trying to get the English to get out their comfort areas into being more individual rather than sacrificing that to be the same as everyone else. 1984 is a dystopian novel written by George Orwell in 1949 that reflects on the strict control of the communist governments and what it defines to be human. It was set in the not too distant future so that they could make changes. It is a story which largely surrounds a man name Winston Smith and the coworker who he has an affair with, Julia. It is set in Oceania, one of the three countries in the world.

This town is made up of three types of people – people in the Inner Party (upper class), people of the Outer Party (the middle-lower class) and the proles which is taken from proletarian, who are seen as ‘sub-human’. They are constantly being watched by a man only known as Big Brother who monitors them through telescreens which is constantly displaying propaganda for the party against Goldstein. Winston is a member of the Outer Party and his job is to rewrite history so that it makes the world appear to be getting better with the Party always being right.

Winston hates the Party and Big Brother and believes that man named O’Brien will help him who actually works for the party and finally tortures Winston until he is broken and has to forfeit his love for Julia. Everything in Winston’s world has to conform to what the Big Brother approves to be right, nothing can be out of line, and it has to abide to all the regulations that are made. Even the buildings “seemed to be in no colour” so that it didn’t promote anything exciting for the residents to look forward to except for “the posters that were plastered everywhere” (slide 1).

This is setting up the atmosphere of where Winston is living in and how everything is caught up within the world. 1984 was a popular novel at the time as it was able to create a futuristic and fictional world to reflect on compared to one that existed in the time. It was to cause people to question their own society and to show connections between the two which enables to warn people about what could happen to their society if they continued like this. It was trying to pull out all the faults of a society with a Big Brother in control and that if it continued to be so uniform, many more dystopian elements will fall apart.

Just like the other two texts, The Island also has uniformity and conformity present throughout the film. It is a film directed by Michael Bay which presents and interesting questions on cloning, human life and what it means to be human. It is an action packed film with a deeper meaning that is to ultimately cause the public to question the morals and ethics of cloning. Lincoln Six Echo is the main character who questions all this conformity and why it has to be like it is.

After having a vivid nightmare, Lincoln goes to do his accustomed morning routine until he complains about always having to wear the same coloured uniform every day, “if you get another chance, I’d like another colour”. This is point where the movie screen gets divided into squares, with Lincoln’s screen being in the direct centre. This technique wants us to focus on Lincoln and his concern for that time when he notifies for a “missing left shoe” (slide 5). This is like the surveillance in 1984 as these act like the telescreens that are constantly playing propaganda material.

Lincoln’s sarcasm and true desire is beginning to show as his wish of questioning everything is coming through. This means that Lincoln wants answers, he is not satisfied with the information he is being given. At the beginning, Lincoln doesn’t understand why everything has to be so structured and formal, as in they know nothing of the “contaminated” world beyond the facility, until he meets the Doctor again to talk about his progress. When the Doctor asks Merrick what is wrong, he keeps bringing up “why…” which shows Lincoln’s real desire and individual expression.

The Doctor tries to explain to Lincoln that he has made a choice in staying at the facility, to make sure it continues to operate and to help repopulate the world once they’re able to repopulate the world. This implies that there will be no more strict rules, no more conformity, no more of having to wear the same clothes as everyone else and that everyone will have their own freedom. Uniformity is evident in all three texts as it shows us the strict control and conformity between the created societies and how it has to be perfect.

But in this, we realise that there are many dystopian ways that come from a created utopian society. Secondly, the “God figure” enforcing an illusion is evident in both 1984 and The Island, in how both societies are made to look towards one personal figure who is in control of everything. In 1984, the people living in London are looked after by a “Big Brother” who has the surveillance over the whole city – what everyone does, what everyone says and how everyone acts. He has a group of devoted Thought Police who are out to spy on all the subversive behavior of all the resident’s living in the city.

All around the city, posters displayed “Big Brother is watching you” (slide 5)(slide 7) and all the slogans that say “War is peace, Freedom is slavery and Ignorance is Strength”. These are the official slogans of the Party which are inscribed in massive letters on the Ministry of Truth. Because these are introduced early in the novel, this allows the reader to be introduced to the idea of doublethink. By weakening the independence and strength of an individual’s mind, it forces then to live in constant state of propaganda and the induced fear.

This allows for the concept of surveillance, the loss of private space and the loss for individuality with telescreens that scrutinise your every move, constantly pumping propaganda into your mind. All this was broken when the roundness of the glass paperweight was crushed by the Thought Police crashing in. “The fragment of coral… rolled across the mat” shows the shattered paperweight which Winston dreamed of sharing his love Julia (slide 6). After this incident, Winston and Julian are separated to profess their love for Big Brother and the Party.

The Island is a movie set in 2019, in a post-modern world after an atomic world “contamination”, where they are now trying to establish a new colonisation in a place where the contamination didn’t hit, The Island. The clones live in an underground facility in Arizona where they are being watched by Doctor Merrick and his crew, who are dressed in black clothing. Both these texts share the main theme of a “God figure” who is meant to look after everyone under their care. In The Island, Lincoln Six Echo is the first clone in the facility to ever raise questions about his existence and wanting answers to all of them.

One day, after having the same nightmare, he is asked to see Doctor Merrick, the head of the Merrick Institute and the one who is the “God” of the facility, who asks Lincoln to “tell me about your dream” (slide 7), but Lincoln’s reply “It’s always the same dream… I drown”. At this point, the camera is switching between the two characters but as Lincoln begins to explain the real questions, it starts to focus on him more and bring a close up shot of him. This is where the director wants us to focus, on what Lincoln has to say right now with all the issues that seem to be happening to him and his way of expressing what he knows.

This notifies Merrick that Echo is not only just a vegetable clone, which he claims them to be when he explains to his clients, but one who has feelings and senses of a real human. It is an illusion to the Garden of Eden where it is has implications of Utopia. This is seen by the light and dark side of the table with Lincoln sitting in the light with his white clothing and Merrick in the dark, in his black suit. But when Lincoln and Jordan escape from the facility, the only way possible of knowing whether there was actually ever a contamination is when Lincoln smashes the illusion.

He throws a glass bottle against the stone and exclaims that “there was no contamination, it was a lie” (slide 6). This breaks all the things that Lincoln and Jordan have told and taught at the Merrick facility. This is a point in time where Lincoln’s “Renovatio” or rebirth to the reality (slide 8). The shattering of the glass, in this case, breaks all the rules of there ever being a contamination. At this point, they both realise that they were caught within a world of lies which they have finally been able to get out of. As you can see, in both these texts, there is a demiurge looking after everyone who is trying to brainwash them ith information so that they cannot question their existence. But in both texts, this is broken by the shattering of an illusion which defeats the demiurge’s role of brainwashing them which makes the character realise they were led astray from the real purpose of what their real existence was actually for. Ultimately, all threes texts were written for a purpose during its time. It gives us a better insight of what a utopian world would look like and how we could better aspire for hope. Thomas More wrote Utopia as a need for a better world that was influenced by tyrannic England. 984, written by George Orwell, warns us of the type of government that could’ve ruled if things weren’t changed. The movie The Island, directed by Michael Bay was meant to warn us about the future of human society and how individuals will lose their own expression and have to conform to society. These were all warnings that could have lead to destruction and have individualism oppressed which would’ve stopped human relationships. From this, we can see that a utopia has dystopian elements and in a dystopian world, there are utopian elements. “Medicine for one person can be poison for another”.

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