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In critic Neil Postman’s passage on the dystopian novels of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, he speaks of the relation of each novel to today’s society. He wishes to answer the question of which 20th-century novel, Huxley’s Brave New World or Orwell’s 1984, is more like our present day. 1984’s society consists of characteristics like being deprived of information, the truth being concealed from the people, and being a captive culture, conversely, BNW’s society has too much information, drowned out truths, and a trivial culture.
Postman concludes from points like these that Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, is more relevant to today’s society than that of Orwell’s. My assertion on this question is the same as Postman’s. I agree that the world inside Brave New World is more like today’s society than 1984 is.
In the society of 1984, the people are deprived of information, no matter how basic. This is evident when Winston brings to light how the Party chooses facts and what they want their people to be educated with.
Winston ponders, “He thought it must have been at some time in the Sixties… there was no knowing how much of this legend was true and how much invented… It was not true, for example, as was exclaimed in the Party history books, that the Party invented airplanes… But you could prove nothing. There was never any evidence.’ (33). The people of this society are deprived of knowing the real truth about anything because of the controlling power the Party holds.
If the Party does not like a simple fact, they can choose to alter it to fit their preference. These societal characteristics do not relate to today’s society because in this day in age, it is practically impossible to deprive people of information. With today’s technology and people’s need for knowledge makes it nearly impossible for people to not have all the facts they wish to have. It seems everyday there are corrupt politicians getting exposed for dishonest acts.
These investigations could never be a reality in the society of 1984 because the government makes it impossible for people to revolt. They cannot without consequence, show discontent for the society they are a prisoner to. To add to this point, Winston also concludes, “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control,’ they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink.’’ (32).
This quote adds to the argument that the citizens in 1984 are deprived of information. In this quote, Winston is saying that the Party controls the past and future and everything in between. To accommodate their own need for control, the party chooses to deprive the people of Oceania of the truth so they do not know anything regarding the real truth because it could possibly make the Party look less godlike than they were taught to believe. In Brave New World, however, this is not the case. The society of Brave New World that is portrayed is that of a self-absorbed one. Its people can have information at their fingertips if they wished for it and are under few enforced laws and are not deprived of information. The people of BNW’s society are narcissistic because the lack of supervision they were under. This society mirrors today’s society better than 1984’s because everyone in our society has access to any information they could wish for. There are countless ways to obtain information. Some people this day in age also feel entitled because of the fact that they know so much, similar to the characters of Brave New World.
Similarly, the society in 1984 conceals the truth in every way. If the party is proved wrong in any way about a certain topic, they change the story so they can be correct on record. Even if the topic is trivial they will go to great measures to be correct. In 1984, Winston’s job was to change things like documents and articles to match a statement or a fact that the Party wanted to prove. He was made to burn the first copy of the texts because they proved falsehood on the Partys side. You can see the acts of rectification of texts in this quote by Winston, “The messages he had received referred to articles or news items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to alter, or as the official phrase had it, to rectify…it was therefore necessary to rewrite a paragraph of Big Brother’s speech in such a way as to make him predict the thing that had actually happened.” (35).
In this quote, Winston explains how he had to alter or rewrite something on a document that was no longer true in Big Brothers eyes and write it to now favor Big brother and keep him on his pedestal. This manipulation could never happen in today’s society because people in this current society crave the truth and believe they are rightfully entitled to it. If someone today feels lied to by anyone, especially a figure as powerful as Big Brother, they would boycott and demand the truth. In 1984’s society this is opposite. They learn not to question these lies and believe all that Big Brother reports. To add to their disregard for the whole truth, they grow to completely accept all alterations and don’t even notice it anymore. This is evident when Julia forgets that Oceania was ever not at war with Eurasia. Winston expresses his shock at this by this by saying, “It was true that she regarded the whole war as a sham; but apparently she had not even noticed that the name of the enemy had changed. ‘I thought we’d always been at war with Eurasia,’ she said vaguely. It frightened him a little.” (127).
Julia had grown so used to the Party’s ever-changing story she had ceased to notice the subtle and quiet changes being made constantly. The changing of stories and accounts could not happen in today’s society. Every piece of text ever written and released is owned by people all over and the information from those texts now live in the reader’s mind. Additionally, this does not relate to our society because people are raised to be able to tell when they are being taken advantage of and lied to. Present day society is more like Huxley’s society, that truth is not concealed but rather the truth is drowned out and deemed irrelevant because people forget about pressing topics constantly and move on to new ones. In both societies of Brave New World and today, the truth is cared about but is then forgotten, rather than simply not cared about at all like in 1984.
Finally, the society of 1984 is a captive culture as compared to Brave New World which is a trivial culture. The people of 1984 care solely about pleasing and serving the Party and Big Brother. They are raised to not devote their time and energy to anything besides it and if they do it can be seem as conspiring against the Party. For example sex wasn’t encouraged because it took energy out of the citizens that could be used to serve Big Brother. Another example of 1984 being a captive society is the two minutes of hate that all Party members were made to participate in. You can see that their society is a captive one when Winston observes, “The horrible thing about the two minutes hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretense was always unnecessary” (16).
In this quote Winston expresses his dislikeness of the two minutes of hate because no one needed a reason to join, but rather they felt compelled to. This proves a captive culture is evident because they are fixated on specific things like the two minutes of hate that are very important to their society, rather than simple trivial things. Their society does not believe in trivial pleasures therefore their culture is captive. A captive culture would not work in today’s society due to people’s need for simple pleasures. Personal tastes are also widely encouraged and celebrated now.
Today’s society is very much a trivial one due to these facts. A captive culture would also not be successful in today’s society due to the fact that there are so many ways people in the present day can find their own personal pleasure rather than finding pleasure through serving a societal expectation like in 1984. It is also apparent that 1984 hosts a captive culture in this quote where Winston questions their obsession with Goldstein, “But what was strange was that although Goldstein was hated and despised by everybody, although everyday, and a thousand times a day, on platforms…his influence never seemed to grow less. Always there were fresh dupes waiting to be seduced by him.” (15). Winston is questioning that even though everyone in Oceania hates the traitor Goldstein, he was somewhat praised although negatively, because of how caught up they are on him. They are captive to Goldstein and still give him a voice to keep the people in this society on edge.
The Party makes them feel like they need something to hate so they can all carry the same beliefs and therefore stay a captive culture. In Huxley’s Brave New World their society is a trivial one due to the fact that their society did not enforce many rules so the people did simple things like orgie porgies, feelies and soma to satisfy their own tastes. This could not have happened in 1984 because the society forces the people to obey the Party. Brave New World’s trivial society is like ours because people in the current society people are distracted with things like drugs and parties, like in Brave New World. Both societies enforce distractions and people in those societies will do anything to fulfil their trivial needs.
In conclusion, Brave New World, the work of Aldous Huxley, is more relevant to today’s society than George Orwell’s 1984. Huxley’s predictions for the future hit more accurately than Orwells did. Huxley predicted our self absorbed tendencies, the future irrelevant truth, and our trivial culture through his novel.
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