Dystopia's in the Opening Passages of "1984" and "The Handmaid's Tale"

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Both worlds of The Handmaid's Tale and 1984 are governed by a party or group which strictly monitor most aspects of the lives of its civilians. This imposing form of government is generally described as totalitarian and is heavily present throughout both novels. The "Dystopian" genre is named so due to its opposition to the rather more common idea of "utopia", a world of impracticable perfection in which a common goal of peace is pivotal.

The novels fall under this category of Dystopia and, from the very beginning of 1984 and from the opening chapters of The Handmaid's Tale this is instantly evident. Both subtle and unsubtle, the signs indicating a strict government are present and it is easy to see how closely monitored the general public are.

In even the first page of 1984 the reader is met by an ominous intrusion into the life of Winston Smith by the mention of the electrical current being shut off during daylight hours. This seems odd in itself, seeing that Winston is a free citizen of Oceania and the fact that there was no electricity as part of a collective economy drive indicates a domineering government intruding even into the electricity levels of the city.

Just a paragraph later we are introduced to the main party leader "Big Brother" in the form of a poster stating,

"BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU."

Written in capital letters in the book itself, this is obviously a key slogan for the government in power and one which instils fear if taken literally, which of course is the way in which it is intended. The idea that the party is always watching, even inside people's homes depicts totalitarianism in one of its highest forms, more so than even the Nazi regime managed to achieve.

Similarly in The Handmaid's T...

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... describes normalities to us as luxuries. Having her own money is merely a dream and here we can see how much the society has been changed and how large groups of people in Gilead (including all women) are denied the right to earn and keep their own money.

"money, money I had earned myself. I think about having such control."

Thinking back to the days before Gilead, it is clear that the current situation is a lot different to then for Offred. She has lost all personal freedom and is a modern sexual slave to the Commanders, men of high office in either the Gileadian government or the business sector. This is a perfect depiction of the totalitarian state that Gilead is in. Denied of the personal liberties we take for granted in a democratic society, Offred has to live under the rules of a higher authority and is controlled eve down to the minute aspects of living.

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