Back To Course1984 Study Guide
9 chapters | 78 lessons
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Written less than two decades apart, Brave New World and 1984 present very different views about what a runaway technocratic future would look like. They both reflect their author's vision of what a dystopia might look like. A dystopia can be thought of as a society that is designed as a utopia, but functions as the opposite (i.e. something far more terrifying).
In both of these novels, many of the social designs we hold most dear are abolished. The concept of family as we know it is largely greeted with abhorrence. Instead, social institutions revolve largely around the state. Additionally, societies have perhaps become too dependent on what advanced technology has to offer. In any event, a central theme in both works is the importance of control.
In both books, a key method of control is caste. However, there's a catch. There are five major castes in Brave New World, with people conditioned from birth to feel that they can be happy only in their own castes. A Beta, the second-highest caste, may feel that Alphas have to think too hard to have fun, while Gammas have to work too hard. Meanwhile, caste in 1984 is dependent on one's position in the Party. The uninformed masses outside the Party, the Proles, are free to live lives that are little better than those of drones. Meanwhile, Outer Party members are constantly pitted against what the reader would consider to be normal behavior in hopes of gaining access to the luxurious life of the Inner Party. Of course, that opportunity at life in the Inner Party never happens.
Brave New World may be a sex addict's dream. That's a pretty strong statement, but there is an overwhelming emphasis on sources of pleasure that are largely considered taboo in today's society. See someone you think is attractive? Forget our society's rules about modesty and consent, you can sleep with whomever you want. In fact, you'd be considered weird to not want to sleep with just about everyone. While we as a society try to keep sex behind closed doors, Brave New World uses consequence-free coitus to control the masses.
But what if you're just having a bad day? The answer is simple: pop a soma, which is basically Brave New World's version of party drugs. Having a really bad one? Take two. While we still debate heavily the merits of recreational drugs, Brave New World readily accepts their place as a control mechanism. After all, a soma a day keeps the revolt away.
The people of Oceania in 1984 would have probably appreciated a soma or two. Whereas World Controllers in Brave New World would simply encourage more sex and drugs if the people were unhappy, those things are strictly forbidden in Oceania. Instead, there's only the constant knowledge and fear that the people are being watched and that someone is always happy to see someone else's slow and painful destruction in the inner organs of the Party headquarters. Ultimately, it turns out that the Party has more complete control than anyone could imagine.
Winston Smith and Julia find themselves tortured in 1984 by the Ministry of Love for their desire to destroy the Party. That is, in fact, typical of how Oceania handles its dissidents; by attempting to break them and, if possible, rebuild them in a mold more conducive to the goals of the society.
Meanwhile, Brave New World takes a completely different approach. Rather than break people, they simply send them away to Iceland. That sounds miserable to the indoctrinated people of Brave New World, but as Mustapha Mond, the World Controller for England, points out, it's really not so bad. After all, they will be isolated from the rest of society but largely free to live out life with people just as quirky as they are. In short, it provides a society for all those who reject the society of sex and soma.
Let's review what we've learned about the differences between Brave New World and 1984. First, the main similarity: they are novels that deal with the idea of a dystopia, which can be thought of as a society that's designed as a utopia, but functions as the opposite (i.e. something far more terrifying).
Psychology is used to great degrees in both 1984 and Brave New World to control the population. In the former, it's used to create great fear among the population of Oceania, especially with the fear of torture by the Inner Party. Meanwhile, in Brave New World, human pleasure is seen as the easiest way to control everyone with the use of soma, Brave New World's version of a party drug, and consequence-free sex. In both societies, a class-driven mentality helps to keep the masses at bay, while dissidents are dealt with in ways that complement the fear- or pleasure-centric natures of each culture.
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Back To Course1984 Study Guide
9 chapters | 78 lessons