Consider Why Visions of the Future are Common in Literature. Make Specific Reference to
Consider Why Visions of the Future are Common in Literature. Make Specific Reference to “The Chrysalids” and at Least One Other Text.
In this essay I will try to explain why visions of the future are so common in literature. To do this I will make reference to “The Chrysalids” by John Wyndham, “Brother In the Land” by Robert Swindell, “Z for Zachariah” by Robert C. O’Brien and also a television series called “Futurama”, created by Matt Groening. This essay consists of three main parts: an introduction, an explanation on why visions of the future are abundant and a conclusion. There are various reasons why visions of the future are commonly found in literature and other media, I will emphasize in what I believe are the four most important.
People are often dogmatic when it comes to their way of living or their beliefs and will not accept any form of criticism whatsoever. Not only will people not accept opinions on a particular matter, but it is also a risky and not socially accepted thing to do. For this reason writers cannot just write criticism and publish it. To avoid any type of conflict writers often base their novels or stories in a futuristic point of view to criticize actual society yet doing so indirectly. We can see this in “The Chrysalids” as the author criticizes two aspects of mankind: discrimination and our fear towards change and evolution. Discrimination is seen all throughout the novel as the norms take action against all deviations, human or inanimate, as small as they could be. “‘If anyone were to find out, they’d – they’d be terribly unkind to her…’ ‘because she has six toes?’” (Page 13). Although the novel criticizes discrimination, it also criticizes fear of evolution at the end of it. This is seen when the woman from Sealand describes David’s society: “the essential quality of life is living; the essential quality of living is change; change is evolution: and we are part of it… but the pattern scarcely varies wherever… an older species is trying to preserve itself” (Page 196).
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Not only does “The Chrysalids” criticize society, so does other novels, supporting my point on criticism throughout novels, even other media. “Brother in the Land” and “Z for Zachariah” both criticize people’s urge and necessity for control, as we can see in “Brother in the Land” through the actions taken by the commissioner to ensure his own personal well being and in “Z for Zachariah” through the actions of Mr. Loomis, as he wants to achieve total control of everything. We can also see criticism in short stories and television. “Examination Day” by Henry Slesar also criticizes humanity’s fear towards evolution as it is shown how the government will not accept people with a higher intelligence quotient than a standard level: “your son Richard M. Jordan… has completed the Government examination. We regret to inform you that his intelligence quotient has exceeded the Government regulation” (Line 12-13). Respecting television series, “Futurama” criticizes the whole of actual society through a futuristic point of view of a human who has been cryogenically frozen and wakes up 1000 years in the future.
Humanity fears change, the unknown. It fears evolution and consequently, the future. It is this fear of the upcoming future that often makes us only think about the negative possible scenarios of the future instead of the positive ones. Because of this fear people think that nothing good will come from change and thus want to preserve their actual way of living, therefore, by rejecting the future we are lead into writing dystopias instead of utopias, to show our beliefs on what the future may bring. We can see evidence of this fear and disagreement towards change from the lecture the woman from Sealand gives David and the group at the end of “The Chrysalids”: “sometime there will come a day when we ourselves shall have to give place to a new thing. Very certainly we shall struggle against the inevitable just as these remnants of the Old People do” (Page 195). We can also see that this is a commonly shared opinion as it is also seen in “Examination Day” as we see that the government does not accept having a high intelligence quotient, showing its disagreement towards evolution. We often hear older people saying who much have things changed in the last years and their disagreement towards it saying how things did not use to be such and such way in their time.
Another reason why visions of the future are common is because of what they want to show. We have already seen that writers place their stories in the future to write criticism without fear from prosecution but they often base their novels or stories in the future to show, according to their point of view, how humanity will be at that time if we continue as we are, in other words, to show the possible apocalyptic consequences of our present actions. This aspect is also related to the time in which the stories were written. For example: novels which were written during the course, or after the cold war (around the 1960s) were meant to show the possible outcome of a full-scale nuclear war, again, showing the consequences of it. The date in which the stories were written is an important factor to determine why visions of the future are common since it shows what the author was thinking about at that moment. This is because what the author was going through at that moment and what were his/her fears about it. In the same way as before, novel to come might be about the human genome and its misuse since it was an important and controversial discovery at the end of the 20th century. “The Sixth Day”, a movie about cloning is a perfect example of this since it shows the pessimistic point of view of what might happen if the technology to clone a human being was achieved. This movie is about how large corporations want to take control of everything by substituting people in important government and social places with identical clones. This shows how, when writing about the future we are trying to express what we believe will be the possible outcome of our actions, which in this case are tampering with the human genome.
As we have seen, the factors which make writers write about the future are that they either want to criticize something about actual society, they want to express their fears and opinions respecting it or they want to warn us of how our future will be like if we keep our corrupt and destructive ways of living. All these reasons are valid, yet there is a much more simple answer to this question. When we write about the past we must follow certain guidelines or else our stories or novels will be inaccurate causing them to be criticized. If we write about the present we must be careful not to exaggerate or our stories will be too fantastic. As you can see stories based either on the present or past have certain limitations or guidelines to follow. You might wonder what this has to do with there being bounteous future visions; the point is that when you write something about the future you have no limitation whatsoever. Writers want to write about fantastic and surreal events and what a better setting to do this than in the future since it is everything we want it to be, there are no parameters to follow and the author can deviate all he wants. No one can tell us what to write or not because it has not even happened. When writing about the future people must be opened minded because it talks about certain matters which we cannot tell if they are possible or completely surreal so the reader must have a level of open-mindness to the subject, only your imagination is the limit. We can see that John Wyndham uses this resource when he writes about how the eerie flying machine comes from the sky and lets out a sort of cobweb that kills everyone: “the white machine rested in the middle of the clearing. The device on top of it had ceased to revolve, and now that it was observable, seemed to be a sort of conical spiral… built up from some almost transparent material” (page 191).
There are a plethora of novels, movies and television series whose theme is about the future and humanity’s possible outcome in it. In synthesis we can say that visions of the future are abundant due to their varying purposes: criticism, forewarning or simply to express one’s fears of what is to come but also because of what the author wants to write about and what are the limits he is willing to break. We can also conclude that even though visions of the future are common in literature, they are also common in other types of format such as television series and movies. In my own personal opinion I believe all four purposes are equally important yet I tend more to believe that we see so much science fiction because we are intrigued by it, though our fear towards it leads us to believe only in the apocalyptic resolutions of it.