The endeavor to achieve utopia, the best existence obtainable to humanity, is a response to the problems present in society. It is a way of dealing in the imagination with these problems, suggesting an ideal for society to strive towards. From Plato’s Republic on, however, utopia has had a characteristic shortcoming. Huxley observed that the inhabitants of Utopia are radically unlike human beings. Their creators spend all their ink and energy in discussing, not what actually happens, but what would happen if men and women were quite different from what they are and from what, throughout recorded history, they have always been (Kennedy 44).
The search for utopia continues strongly today, except in place of the traditional, constructive, positive utopias, we have what is almost a new literary strain-utopia in reverse, cacotopia, the worst of all possible worlds (Herzog 74). This anti-utopian society is one in which characters lead dehumanized lives because a utopian ideal has fallen apart or gone afoul of its original intent. The main characters in dystopian novels are often trapped in their lives and struggling to escape; these novels usually intend to criticize existing social conditions and political systems. While utopian literature portrays ideal worlds, dystopian literature depicts the flaws and failures of imaginative societies. Often these societies are related to utopias, and the dystopian writers have chosen to reveal shortcomings of those social systems previously considered ideal (Booker 10).
Many critics rank Aldous Huxely’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four as two model works of dystopian literature (Cushing 521). Both novels ...
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...ter with Wendy Cole, “What Ever Happened To Play?” in Time Magazine, April 28, 2001. Available http://www.time.com/time/education/printout/0,8816,107264,00.html.
Kluger, Jeffrey, “Next Up: Prozac,” in Time Magazine, Vol. 152, No. 22, November 30, 1998. Available
McMichael, Charles T., “Aldous Huxley’s ‘Island’: The Final Vision,” in Studies in the Literary Imagination. Vol. 1, No. 2, April, 1968.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1981.
Schellenberg, James, “Review of George Orwell’s 1984,” in George Orwell. New York: Penguin, 1984.
Anonymous, “Are We Living in an Orwellian World?” Available http://www.newspeak.com/Newspeak.htm.
von Hoffman, Nicholas, “Huxley Vindicated,” in The Spectator, Vol. 249, No. 8036, July 17, 1982.
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