1984 and Oryx and Crake Essay
1984 and Oryx and Crake
Some people say that religion key in building a stable person and society. Discuss the role religion has in the books 1984 and Oryx and Crake.
Religion has been the main way in which societies have been formed for thousands of years. Laws, morals and society are basely modelled on it. In both 1984 and Oryx and Crake, the future (or in the case of 1984, the future of the past) is represented as dystopias; a society based on hatred which destroys the human spirit or a society which eventually led to the destruction of itself, leaving only the main character and a small group of new beings.
In 1984, Winston Smith is the main character who rebels against society. He believes that human spirit will prevail, shown when he says to O’Brien;
“I know you will fail. There is something in the universe – I don’t know, some spirit, some principle – that you will never overcome… The spirit of Man”
This is a very religious idea; that good will always prevail over evil and that the soul lives on after the body has died. Coincidentally, this is in some relation to one of the parties’ beliefs – which human people die but the body goes on forever. The dictatorship style of the Big Brother society is somewhat like that of a religious sect, or perhaps cult, where beliefs are not, using the process of doublethink, and all members must have absolute love for Big Brother. This is another trait that Winston does not have as other party members do;
“Tell me, what are your true feelings towards Bog Brother?”
“I hate him.”
“You hate him. Good. Then the time has come for you to take the last step. You must love Big Brother. It is not enough to obey him, you must love him.”
Here Big Brother is a God-like figure. No-one knows if he actually exists, but when asked, the answer is just “he exists”.
In Oryx and Crake, religion is a large part of the Crakers’ lives. Although Snowman told them stories of their creation which he made up, they still believe them, and even start rituals of their own, such as talking to Oryx. Crake believed he had gotten rid of religion, describing the belief in God as a “cluster of neurons”. However, the human race had been destroyed, and the Crakers lived in harmony believing in the stories Snowman told them.
In 1984, the hero of the story is Winston, because he rebels against the oppression of the party. In some ways he could be described a religious-type figure; rebelling against society to protect what he believed in. He feels that life is meant to be more than what he experiences. Snowman is also given this kind of title; he is the prophet of Oryx and Crake and the Crakers look up to him to tell them about their ‘Gods’. At some times he is seen as a biblical figure, such as the first man, with Crake being the person who created the Crakers and Snowman (not Jimmy). Both Winston and Snowman are not very good as role models though, as although Winston is rebelling against what he thinks is wrong, he is only with Julia because she is corrupt, and he gets pleasure from her;
“Anything that hinted at corruption always filled him with a wild hope. Who knew, perhaps the Party was rotten under the surface, its cult of strenuousness and self-denial simply a sham concealing iniquity.”
Winston holds onto this in the hope that perhaps this corruption can somehow break down the party.
Snowman too uses the Crakers’ belief in him to get things that he wants, such as when he tells them that they must catch him a fish a week, even though they so not like too. Although this is simply a way that he can survive. From the Craker’s point of view, he is the only way in which they can connect with their Gods, so they do worship him to a degree. He is their link with the story of creation;
“I’m your past. I’m your ancestor, come from the land of the dead.”
However, this is not the past that they imagine. Snowman is in some ways saving them from the evils of the past, and creating a new past for them which will help hold their society together. It also raises the question of whether man created God, or God created man, for here Snowman created the God figures of Oryx and Crake, which was nothing like the actual people.
In 1984, the fact that it is a totalitarian state could also be some comment on the religion of today – that you are told what to believe and are expected to without any evidence. One of the slogans used by the party and Winston at the end is;
“God is power.”
To some extent this is true, as God can be described as ‘all powerful’. But in the book the power is not to be used as anything good. O’Brien says to Winston;
“Power is not a means. It is an end.”
This perhaps could be from the saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely, for the party wants to simply crush any human spirit out of people, to have complete control over them. And here, this is the only way that they can maintain a stable society;
“Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is inflicting pain and humiliation.”
Although extreme, it is this ‘religious type’ of belief that keeps things stable and keeps the party in power.
On the other hand, to say that no religion results in a society that destroys itself is also something like what happens in Oryx and Crake. From what we are told about the society that Jimmy and Crake lived in before, there is no mention that either of them are religious, or there are any other religions mentioned, and the society was destroyed, by people playing ‘God’ and having power over things that they should not have had.
From this, it seems that both the themes of religion and power are in both books, and also in both it is portrayed that they are linked to quite a large extent. Although power is seen as corrupting, there is some power needed to form religion, and society, in order to keep it stable, whether it is for the better or the worse.