The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism

By M. Keith Booker | Go to book overview

nevertheless maintains that it is necessary to confront the past in order to avoid being overwhelmed by it, which is far different from the attempts of Huxley's World Controllers to escape the past altogether. And Nietzsche's argument that the ability to escape the domination of the past is ultimately humanizing largely opposes Huxley's own project in Brave New World of demonstrating that a loss of connection with the past and with history in general is dehumanizing.

Huxley's book presents a chilling picture of a future that has become more and more conceivable in the ensuing decades. Advances in fields like industrial engineering, genetics, medicine, psychology, computers, and communications have all combined to make the society of Brave New World seem technically possible.12 Indeed, much of the importance and continuing topicality of Huxley's book lies in the general accuracy of many of his projections of the future. Later bourgeois dystopias, written after many of Huxley's predictions were beginning to come true, continued to draw upon Brave New World as an important resource, thereby enacting the kind of connection with the past (albeit the recent past) that Huxley recommends in the book. Meanwhile, the many similarities between Huxley's book and primarily Communist dystopias like We indicate some of the most important similarities in the problems faced by bourgeois and Communist societies.


NOTES
1.
On the other hand, Huxley's later Island, a more positive utopian vision than Brave New World, depicts drugs known as the "Moksha medicine" that lead to mystical enlightenment and spiritual growth. As Clark points out, Island was (not surprisingly) a sort of "Bible" of the sixties drug culture (112).
2.
One might compare the suggestion by Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor that humanity wants not freedom, but happiness. Beauchamp argues that Zamyatin's Benefactor, Orwell's Big Brother, and Huxley's World Controllers are all incarnations of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor ( "Of Man's"287).
3.
The term "oceanic feeling," as Freud notes, actually comes from Romain Rolland. Freud himself predictably attributes this desire for merger to a desire to recover an infantile fantasy of fusion between the ego and the outside world ( Civilization16).
4.
One might compare here George Lucas's dystopian film THX 1138, which obviously owes a great deal to Brave New World. In the society of Lucas's film all citizens are legally required to remain on

-66-

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The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction: Utopia, Dystopia, and Social Critique 1
  • Notes 22
  • 1 - Zamyatin's We: Anticipating Stalin 25
  • Notes 44
  • 2 - Huxley's Brave New World: The Early Bourgeois Dystopia 47
  • Notes 66
  • 3 - Orwell's 1984: The Totalitarian Dystopia after Stalin 69
  • Notes 89
  • 4 - The Bourgeois Dystopia After World War II 91
  • Notes 112
  • 5 - Postmodernism with a Russian Accent: The Contemporary Communist Dystopia 115
  • Notes 138
  • 6 - Skepticism Squared: Western Postmodernist Dystopias 141
  • Notes 170
  • Postscript: Literature and Dystopia 173
  • Works Cited 179
  • Index 193
  • About the Author 199
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