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Fiction Authors

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Post  MBAstudent on Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:01 am

For more than half a century science fiction writers have thrilled and
challenged readers with visions of the future and future worlds. These
authors offered an insight into what they expected man, society, and life
to be like at some future time. One such author, Ray Bradbury, utilized
this concept in his work, Fahrenheit 451, a futuristic look at a man and
his role in society. Bradbury utilizes the luxuries of life in America
today, in addition to various occupations and technological advances, to
show what life could be like if the future takes a drastic turn for the
worse. He turns man's best friend, the dog, against man, changes the role
of public servants and changes the value of a person.

Aldous Huxley also uses the concept of society out of control in his
science fiction novel Brave New World. Written late in his career, Brave
New World also deals with man in a changed society. Huxley asks his readers
to look at the role of science and literature in the future world, scared
that it may be rendered useless and discarded. Unlike Bradbury, Huxley
includes in his book a group of people unaffected by the changes in society,
a group that still has religious beliefs and marriage, things no longer
part of the changed society, to compare and contrast today's culture with
his proposed futuristic culture.

But one theme that both Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 use in common is
the theme of individual discovery by refusing to accept a passive approach
to life, and refusing to conform. In addition, the refusal of various
methods of escape from reality is shown to be a path to discovery. In Brave
New World, the main characters of Bernard Marx and the "Savage" boy John
both come to realize the faults with their own cultures. In Fahrenheit 451
Guy Montag begins to discover that things could be better in his society
but, sue to some uncontrollable events, his discover happens much faster
than it would have. He is forced out on his own, away from society, to live
with others like himself who think differently that the society does.

Marx, from the civilized culture, seriously questions the lack of history
that his society has. He also wonders as to the lack of books, banned
because they were old and did not encourage the new culture. By visiting a
reservation, home of an "uncivilized" culture of savages, he is able to see
first hand something of what life and society use to be like. Afterwards he
returns and attempts to incorporate some of what he saw into his work as an
advertising agent. As a result with this contrast with the other culture,
Marx discovers more about himself as well. He is able to see more clearly
the things that had always set him on edge: the promiscuity, the domination
of the government and the lifelessness in which he lived. (Allen) John,
often referred to as "the Savage" because he was able to leave the
reservation with Marx to go to London to live with him, also has a hard
time adjusting to the drastic changes. The son of two members of the modern
society but born and raised on the reservation, John learned from his
mother the values and the customs of the "civilized" world while living in
a culture that had much different values and practices. Though his mother
talked of the promiscuity that she had practiced before she was left on the
reservation (she was accidentally left there while on vacation, much as
Marx was) and did still practice it, John was raised, thanks to the people
around him, with the belief that these actions were wrong. Seeing his
mother act in a manner that obviously reflected different values greatly
affected and hurt John, especially when he returned with Marx to London.
John loved his mother, but he, a hybrid of the two cultures, was stuck in
the middle. (May)

These concepts, human reaction to changes in their culture and questioning
of these changes, are evident throughout the book. Huxley's characters
either conform to society's demands for uniformity or rebel and begin a
process of discovery; there are no people in the middle. By doing so,
Huxley makes his own views of man and society evident. He shows that those
who conform to the "brave new world" become less human, but those who
actively question the new values of society discover truth about the
society, about themselves, and about people in general. An example of this
is Huxley's views of drugs as an escape. The conforming members of society
used widely a drug called soma, which induces hallucinations and escapes
from the conscious world for two to eight hour periods. Those very few who
didn't, John included, mainly did not because they thought the drug either
unclean or an easy escape, one not needed in a society aiming at making
life very simple. By refusing to "go along" in this escape from reality,
John is ultimately able to break from society and define his own destiny.

In Fahrenheit 451 Guy Montag, the main character, is able to see through
the government and the official policies of his society. He does so by
gradually beginning to question certain aspect of society which most simply
accept as fact. Montag's job as a fireman serves as a setting to show how
many people passively accept the absurdity of their society. Instead of
rushing to put out fires, as firemen today do, Montag rushes to start fires,
burning the books and homes of people reported to have books. This was
considered by most people to be a respectable profession. But on different
occasions Montag took a book out of burning homes and would from time to
time read them. From this, he begins to to question the values of his
society. Montag's marriage also serves a setting to contrast passive
acceptance versus questioning of society's values. His marriage is not the
happy kind that couples today experience but more like a coexistence. He
and his wife live together and he supports her, though he apparently
neither loves her a great deal or expects her to love him.

This relationship and living arrangement, with its lack of love, is
Bradbury's way of showing what life could be like if people not only stop
communicating but stop thinking and choosing, thus loosing control over
their lives. Montag and his wife continue to live together though people in
that situation today would not hesitate to terminate such a relationship.
Montag's wife apparently accepts this relationship because it is normal for
the society in which she lives. (Wolfheim)

Like Brave New World_characters escaping from reality through the use of
soma, Montag's wife, and many other characters, escape through watching a
sophisticated form of television. This television system covers three of
the walls of the Montag's TV room (they can't afford to buy the screen to
cover the fourth wall), has a control unit that allows the watchers to
interact with the characters on the program and another unit that inserts
Mrs. Montag's name into specific places, thus creating the image they the
characters are actually conversing with them. Montag's wife, having only a
few friends and ones she rarely sees, spends much of her day in this room,
watching a program called "The Family", a government sponsored program that
shows the viewers what life at home should be like.

The problem with this is that Montag's wife takes the program as a
substitute for reality. She is almost addicted to the program, much as
people were with soma in Brave New World. Bradbury uses this television and
it's programs as a way of showing the escape he is worried people will look
for in the future. Without actively questioning society's values, he is
concerned that people will look for ways to idly spend their time. But like
Marx, Montag chooses not to take part in this addiction. By abstaining, he
can see the affects it's use has on the people around him, much as Marx and
more importantly John the Savage saw in their culture. Both authors try to
show that with life made easier by strong government control and a lack of
personal involvement people will no longer spend their time thinking,
questioning or developing their own ideas.

Through these various diversions from normal behavior in society, Marx,
John the Savage and Guy Montag are able to see the truths behind the
societies they live in and are able to learn about themselves. And though
their discoveries meant that their lives would be changed forever, the
authors succeeded in showing that the key to humanity lies in thinking and
questioning. These men found themselves through their own discoveries, much
as Bradbury and Huxley hope others will do.


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