We have all read and discussed 1984 in depth plenty of times; however, it is interesting to look at how it shaped us as a society. Joanne W.’s prezi, The Cultural Impact of 1984, does just this; specifically, it explores the effects 1984 had on our pop culture. She does this with a slideshow of direct examples from various sources, spread across movies, TV, music, advertising and art, comic books, video games, and books. The slideshow itself is made up of seven columns of varying heights, one dedicated to each of these categories. She includes pictures and a detailed explanation of how each of these works relate to 1984 to emphasize her point. An example of this would be how the logo of the Batman: Arkham City video game is like an inverted INGSOC logo and how the antagonist often gives propaganda speeches through big televised screens. In the end, she uses all these sources to argue that people look towards 1984 for inspiration and social guidance to deny the control and to embrace their individuality.
This prezi is a very efficient resource because it not only shows the effects of 1984 to help us understand how it affects our world, but also provides us with a plethora of dystopian worlds to explore. These worlds are mostly built on Orwellian totalitarianism, so they help us better understand how government control can affect us in different ways. Some examples are Equilibrium, 1985, Brazil, V for Vendetta, and Half-Life 2. Each of these works has its own backstory and reasons for the totalitarian government ruling; but they are all united under 1984’s legacy.
I personally want to use this source to show how 1984 has affected us as a society and to highlight how deep our opposition to these Orwellian conce
pts flows. The sheer amount of references in this presentation really shows us how much a dystopian work can affect the way we think of a concept such as government control.
W, Joanne. “The Cultural Impact of 1984.” Prezi.com, 20 Apr. 2015, prezi.com/97efdev5igwx/the-cultural-impact-of-1984/. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.
During the research process, I managed to come across an article that was published on January 27th by the New York Times. It is called “Uneasy About the Future, Readers Turn to Dystopian Classics”. This article should be a good resource for some of my peers who are interested in drawing parallels between real-life and fictional dystopias.
The article begins by talking about the recent Women’s March on Washington, which took place on January 21. Thousands upon thousands of people rallied in Washington to express their feelings about the recent presidential inauguration. According to the article, some of the protestors held up signs that expressed concerns about the United States becoming an actual dystopia. In protest primarily for women’s rights, some of these signs alluded to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.
The article argues that an increasing number of US citizens are growing uneasy about the current state of the country, and are turning to dystopian literature in response to find frightening similarities. This is evidenced by the sharp spike in book sales just after the election of Donald Trump. According to the article, books like 1984 by George Orwell and It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis gained popularity on several bestsellers’ lists. The author of the article makes use of statistics (logos) to indicate this trend.
For the next few paragraphs, the article incorporates brief snippets from several sources. These sources include reader reviews, interviews with English professors, news hosts, and novelists. By explaining the recent surge in sales and increasing interest in dystopian literature, they add credibility (ethos) to the article’s central argument.
The article also claims that “these [dystopian] stories offer moral clarity at a time when it can be difficult to keep up with… the firehouse of information and disinformation on social media” (Alter). In short, people do not know what to make of the news that is perpetuated by media outlets, and the conflicting news that is being perpetuated by the President himself.
This article could be used to enhance the argument that we are not far away from becoming a dystopia in real life. The fact that books like 1984 are seeing rises in readership is indicative of an eerie trend: that elements of a fictional dystopia have already manifested or are starting to manifest in the United States.
The article is also important to my own research project, since it reaffirms that many elements we see in dystopian literature (stratification based on race, gender, and economic status) are already reflected in society today and might only get worse.
Alter, Alexandra. “Uneasy About the Future, Readers Turn to Dystopian Classics”. The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 27 Jan. 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/business/media/dystopian-classics-1984-animal-farm-the-handmaids-tale.html?_r=0.
The best part of reading a dystopian novel is that it’s like stepping into an alternate future for our world. Novel to novel, that future changes, one more terrifying than the other, more plausible than the other. The direction we as a world and as a society are taking does not bode well for the coming generations. Global warming, overpopulation, pollution, and scarcity of food resources all promise a dystopia as the earth’s fate. If we do not act in time, any dystopian world built around these concepts can become our reality.
In When We Wake, 16-year-old Tegan Oglietti is an avid supporter of climate control, who gets shot at a protest, only to wake up one hundred years later in a dystopian Australia. Global warming has run rampant, sea levels are at an all-time high, the ozone layer has a gaping hole in it, so people live underground to avoid the sun’s glare, meat is expensive and rare because the cattle population had to be controlled, and human fecal matter is used as fertilizer. None of these are new concepts, this is our future unless we change the way we handle this problem. In the book, the borders and immigration rules are extremely strict, suggesting political stress between nations, possibly over this issue of global warming.
I wonder if our own society faces a future like this, where political pressure forces nations into not taking action, resulting in global warming reaching such heights. And more importantly I’m intrigued by how dystopian novels have influenced our own world. Did 1984 raise awareness to government control? Did Brave New World influence the way we think about biotechnology? Are books such as When We Wake educating the public about the dangers we face? And if yes, how? I’ve understood that literature is a reflection of our society and vice versa for a time now; however, I never considered how important dystopias could possibly be to avoiding the downfall of our world.
Healey, Karen. When We Wake. Auckland, N.Z., Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, 2015.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. London, Vintage Classic, 2014.
Orwell, George. 1984. Leicester, Charnwood, c1949, 1982.
Dystopian literature consists of many books that are very dissimilar but at the same time very alike; some examples include The Hunger Games, Gulliver’s Travels, 1984, or Matched. These books were all published in vastly different time periods yet they all depict a dystopian future with varying qualities. It would be interesting to determine if there were any parallels between the books and the time period in which they were published. The novels could be based on the atmosphere of that time, and the negative attributes of society are reflected in the dystopia.
Orwell’s 1984 was published in 1949, at the start of the Cold War. Orwell wrote the political novel to warn against totalitarianism and the upcoming rise of communism. He was concerned about the possibility of technology being used by the government to monitor the activities of its citizens; this concern is shown by the Party’s ultimate and unyielding control. The Party even manipulates history to be aligned with their needs, a characteristic found in today’s society with biased “historical” texts. Today, this book is still mildly popular and can still be relevant as a warning about the government and the future.
Whereas Matched and The Hunger Games appeal to a younger audience, they are still novels containing concern for an authoritarian government. The Capitol’s brainwashing propaganda, President Snow himself, certain attitude towards life partners in Matched, and censorship are just some similarities these books have with reality today.
Evidently, there are many more connections between historical and present events and the characters and plots of the dystopian books. Authors such as Orwell are using their novels to depict a dystopian future to caution society about negative qualities and to prevent catastrophes. Conducting more in depth research about specific novels and certain time periods will hopefully show how the reality affects the characters and
plots of dystopian books.
- Flaneur. “1984 – George Orwell.” 2013. JPEG file.
- SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on 1984.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2007. Accessed 18 Feb. 2017.
- Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2008. New York.
- Condie, Allie. Matched. Penguin Group, 2010, New York.
In dystopian novels, authors use propaganda in the dystopia to show how the citizens of the nation can be controlled. The leaders use propaganda to prove that they are in control of everything that goes on. When those who are in control of a dystopia (or think they are in control) use propaganda, they want to show the populace that they are the ones who call the shots and that they are the ones who are always right.
Propaganda is prevalent throughout the novel 1984, written by George Orwell, in which “Big Brother” always watches them. In this novel, the citizens watch telescreens, which seem to be omnipresent. They are told what to think, which further proves that this novel is a dystopia because the citizens’ feeling and thoughts are controlled, taking away freedom of speech. In 1984, the citizens cannot turn the telescreens off, so the propaganda coming from the screens is always being put into the citizens’ heads. The screens are always giving new information about rebels and what happens to them to try and scare the citizens into believing the government.
Not only do the words in the propaganda tell the citizens how to think, but they also play patriotic music to make what they say seem better for the nation. Even though the information being put on the screens isn’t necessarily right for Oceania, the government makes the citizens feel like it is. Since propaganda is such a major part of 1984, the citizens have no time to plot against the government or to think for themselves. If the citizens even react weird or dissatisfied with the propaganda on the screens, they could be labeled as troublemakers and get in serious trouble. The idea that “Big Brother is watching you” inflicts fear in the citizens, and it enables the dystopian government to control the citizens through propaganda on the screens (Orwell).
Orwell, George. 1984. New American Library, 1950.
Propaganda is arguably the most important element in dystopian literature. Propaganda, or biased media usually published with a specific agenda, is essential to the type of authoritarian government so often seen in dystopian novels. Since the beginning of time, people have gotten their information about the world from other people. As technology and social media have spread, this access to information has gotten quicker, but still many people remain informed by the words of others. Even in the world of “alternative facts” today, the idea that anyone can share news with anyone else has remained a central theme to democracy and freedom. The multitude of news sources today’s generation sees (FOX, CNN, twitter, etc.) ensures that many different opinions on a single topic can be shared. This in incredibly important because if only one source was reporting, many Americans (or other citizens of the free world) would only hear one side of the story. Imagine how different elections would be if debates weren’t live for the people to watch? If every sentence spoken by a candidate was carefully structured and only released by a single news source, people would have much different opinions. Thus, it is easy to see how he (or she) who controls the media can easily control a large group of people.
Propaganda is utilized in dystopias because it is easier to control a group of people that doesn’t know they’re being controlled. “Any” utilitarian government with the right resources can force people to work or force them to live in designated areas; but a government that controls the people’s media (and thus, their opinions) can make the people willingly take themselves to laborious work.
The chilling effects of propaganda are best seen in George Orwell’s novel, 1984. Even home is equipped with a telescreen (basically just a TV) which sounds cool at first, until you realize you can’t turn it off. Even in the “privacy” of one’s own home, the government and their messages cannot be escaped. A citizen of this dystopian setting is constantly bombarded with biased messages about amazing feats their government has achieved. While a citizen might be suspicious, since constant success seems unlikely, they have no other news source to check their facts against so they must have faith in their government. Every newspaper and handout is also only from the government as well. This, combined with the military music that often accompanies the boastful news, inspires patriotism in the citizens. Thus, they begin to trust and rely on their government and desire for rebellion is essentially extinguished.