Dehumanisation is often integral to dystopian novels, consider some of the ways in which this issue is presented by Huxley in Brave New World (1932) and by Orwell in 1984 (1949)

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Dehumanisation is often integral to dystopian novels, consider some of the ways in which this issue is presented by Huxley in ‘Brave New World’ (1932) and by Orwell in 1984 (1949)

The visionary dystopian novels, ‘1984’ and ‘Brave New World depict dehumanising societies dominated by ruthless totalitarianism. The futuristic, radical and allegorical fantasies have different settings: ‘Stalin’s Russia blends with bomb-scarred post-war Britain’ also recognisable through Oceania and ‘the sanitised elysium’ of Seventh century AF. Both science fiction novels are cautionary, didactic and proleptic describing closed controlled societies radically repressing man’s human spirit. Their chillingly dehumanising realities portray insidious propaganda, revised histories, ‘no use for old things here’ states Mond, whilst communal rituals and regulated sexual relationships ensure total obedience to oppressive regimes. Without total allegiance to omniscient Big Brother, ‘It’s rats in the eyes for you’1 or the gentler ‘exile to Iceland’1 for Huxley’s non-conformists: the poetically-minded Helmhotz is banished to the Falklands, for his ‘limited creative dissent’ For Sherborne, Huxley’s parody of Well’s, Men Like Gods challenges the overconsumption and consumerism of the United States.

1984, a political prolemic, perhaps generated by Orwell’s final illness and the Cold War denies individual freedom: in a bleak, ironic and apocalyptic scenario where ‘Individuality has become obsolete and personality a crime’only the economically and socially deprived proles ‘stayed human’. Both male protagonists are atypical, alienated and anti-heroic despite rebelling against the absolute prevailing order. The third-person narrative explores Winston Smith’s personal perspective, more detached than a first-person bildungsroman. Winston Smith’s name paradoxically combines ‘an Everyman identity’with the iconic wartime leader, Winston Churchill. A suffering ‘wounded protagonist’3, Winston coughs chronically: a ‘varicose ulcer’ symbolises his ‘mental and physical malnourishment’5; his physical inadequacy threatens   his consciousness.  

Thus characterisation conveys dehumanisation. Winston and John are not one-dimensional; their behaviour and relationships connote humanity. Conversely Huxley’s ‘flat characterisation’4 of the disfigured Bernard limits his depiction. Bernard’s paradoxical ‘I am and I wish I wasn’t’3 manifests hypocrisy echoing John’s conflicts. Denied self-determination and surrounded by artificially, John acknowledged ‘nothing I feel is real’, possibly paralleling subordinated Caliban from The Tempest, Huxley’s Shakespearean source play. Isolated in the Reservation, the World State and confronted by mixed cultures, intertextuality releases John’s emotions. Free-indirect discourse reveals the protagonists humanity: Winston, has ‘vivid, beautiful hallucinations…’ transferring his martyred feelings through simile onto Julia. ‘He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian’6. Incongruously he vacillates, wanting, ‘to encircle’ Julia’s ‘sweet supple waist,’6 simultaneously repulsed by ‘the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity’6. Likewise John, overwhelmed by Lenina, uses repetition in the third person, ‘How beautiful she was! How beautiful’3. John equally scorns Linda’s promiscuity and Lenina’s precocity epitomised in her rhyming jingle ‘hug me till you drug me honey’6. John, a flawed hero, as Winston, identifies with women empathising with Lear’s bestial imagery, ‘down from the waist they are Centaurs, though women all above’3. Conformist Lenina is a foil to the mutinous John. Conversely in Chapter 8, John’s stream of consciousness, ‘he was empty… cold… rather sick… giddy’3 creates detachment, contrasted with intertextuality from Hamlet’s characterisation of Claudius where the triad of polysyllabic adjectives ‘remorseless, treacherous, lecherous…’ 3 channels John’s scorn towards Pope.  

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Margaret Atwood’s description of Western society: ‘vapid consumers, idle pleasure seekers and programmed conformists’2 is dehumanisingly analogous to Brave New World. John rebelliously rejects Mond’s vacuous ‘comfort’ claiming the ‘right to be unhappy’3 and independently lists human experiences through abstract nouns: ‘dirt, diseases, free-will, fear, blood, sweat and tears’3, demonstrating independence discouraged by the Controller who rejects the ‘too self-consciously individual… everyone who’s anyone’3. Bernard obstinately tells Lenina, ‘I’d rather be myself… myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly’3 reinforcing individuality. Lenina’s epigrammatic ‘a gramme is always better than a damn!’3 satirically reinforced by internal rhyme, revealing her conditioning. John’s metaphor ‘I ate ...

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