I’m a huge fan of Victorian literature. You know: ladies in big puffy dresses taking tea on the lawn with kindly gentlemen. “Oh, sir. You are too generous. Just a bit of sugar will do, thank you.” Okay. I know that the Victorians weren’t exactly as perfect as Jane Austen would have us believe. After all, we’re all cut from the same pattern. But in Jane’s world, chaos finds a way to reconcile itself to order. I’m going to admit it: I like Victorian literature for the fantasy that it provides me.
Fast-forward a century. Add a couple of decades or so. Welcome to a new era. In the face of an ever-changing world, men like George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Ray Bradbury hit the scene. Erase tea on the pristine lawn. Those days are gone. Welcome to whiskey in the stark-white interior.
Books like 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 beg us to say goodbye to the Victorian utopia. Welcome to the dystopia. Welcome to the age of moral despotism. Let me explain.
As a teacher, I’ve learned something very important. Books shouldn’t simply take us away into lands of fantasy and delight; they should transport us into the realm of the dreadful. For one person, the world of delight might look nothing like the Victorian novel that soothes me into peaceful fancy. There are other options. Books with dragons, books with cowboys, deep-sea adventures, historical, biography, philosophy, and theology: we all have a different idea of the perfect sweetener for our cup of book tea.
But tea shouldn’t always be sweet. Sometimes bitter flavors leave the longest impression. I can scarcely identify my five favorite sips of tea; but I can certainly remember the worst. Dystopian literature acts as a reminder of what NOT to do; it reminds us of who NOT to be. 강남풀싸롱
Dystopia or Utopia: once in a while, we have to drink the bitter cup of admonition. I’m fascinated by the warnings given by Orwell, Huxley and Bradbury. Do their warnings make their literature unreadable? Absolutely NOT; these aren’t horror stories. But to say they’re not exactly feel-good novels would be putting it rather nicely.
How does this tea-sipping girl traverse the maze of whiskey-drinking chaos? I do it by reminding myself of authorial intent. I’m reminded of the dangers of moral despotism when I read dystopian literature. Like a good logic student, I will define my ambiguous terms. Moral despotism is tyrannical enforcement of state-ordained moral law. Or at least that’s how I’m going to define it for this argument. I can do what I want, because I’m the tyrant of my own article. Welcome to the white room.
I think the great dystopian authors simply wanted us to know the white room exists. If we’re sitting outside on the lawn all day, we won’t see the dangers. Orwell admonishes us against the threat of communism. Okay, that argument seems to be proven valid. But is it his only warning? Wasn’t it bigger than the communistic threat? In 1984 and Animal Farm, Orwell reminds us that we should never follow leadership blindly. When we do, we risk forfeiting our very souls. We risk saying goodbye to ourselves.
Then there’s Aldous Huxley: a personal favorite. He’s kind of sneaky. I wouldn’t expect to find him quite so likeable. But Brave New World holds a special place on my shelf. In reverence to the innovative Henry Ford, the inhabitants of a futuristic England remind the reader: “History is Bunk.” It’s useless. Over. It doesn’t mean anything. Forget yesterday. Tomorrow doesn’t matter. There is no such thing as the individual, and feelings don’t matter. In fact, emotions are a spectacle. By the way… quit reading books. It’s just better to not think at all. Thinking leads to independent thought. And we can’t have that.
Ray Bradbury echoes his predecessors in Fahrenheit 451. In an upside down world, knowledge becomes dangerous. Philosophy and religion become crimes against the state. It’s best to just stare at the “talking walls.” Thinking is subversive. Mind-numbing entertainment is the key to catatonic happiness. Reading Books? That’s the worst crime of all. Reading leads to thinking. Very, very dangerous, indeed.