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Dystopian literature often serves as a warning or prediction of the future, how society would look if it was ruled by a totalitarian government, in the form of fiction. It reveals the true nature of oppression, exploring how the ruling elite uses its power set the status quo, and how society does not question it. Examples of an oppressive society include Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, where corruption and abuse of power twist the once ideal society into one that forces its members to conform through the use of fear and propaganda.
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and George Orwell’s Animal Farm both explore a dystopian society, although slightly different, are inescapably related to each other and have a continuous dialogue between the two according to Kristeva’s idea of intertextuality. Each text offers a different perspective on an oppressive autocratic regime.
Society in Fahrenheit 451 has a government that uses knowledge as a tool to control, books and other sources of knowledge are destroyed; by keeping the people in a state of ignorance there is no possibility of rebellion or an uprising.
The authorities do not want any sense of individuality and will remove any minorities that could be a possible threat to disrupting the status quo. This job is carried out by firemen like Montag and the mechanical hound, an automated weapon that attacks any nonconformists. “You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn’t that right?”.
The saying “ignorance is bliss” can be applied to the people in this fictional humanity; they are brainwashed and dumbed down to the point where they are unable to think for themselves or feel any emotion and are taught to believe they are happy. Montag is a typical conformist that comes to the realization that he is not actually happy after meeting Clarisse who questions his own personal identity. “He was not happy. He was not happy. He said the words to himself. He recognized this as the true state of affairs. He wore happiness like a mask…”. Throughout the rest of the novel, Montag goes on a journey of self-discovery and witnesses the fall of the totalitarian society.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a satirical representation and response to the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalin. The novel explores oppression through corruption and the abuse of power, as well as other techniques to control such as fear and assassination. The story takes place in Manor Farm, owned by a farmer Mr. Jones, who is described as neglectful, abusive, and indulgent. Eventually, the animals of the farm overthrow Mr. Jones and together, under Old Major’s noble vision, work towards the perfect society. Mr. Jones, their oppressor, may be eliminated, but the political power that he possessed had not. This creates a power vacuum and is quickly possessed by the pigs instead of distributed equally. When the animals are fighting against a common enemy, they are united. But after all, foes are defeated, the only enemy left is themselves.
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