Hi everyone! Today I’m turning the blog over to a reviewer who has some great thoughts on three popular dystopian classics and how they are still relevant in today’s society. I personally love these books and think she has some great points. This was originally hosted on Saarah’s site, which I’ll link to at the bottom. Go check out her socials after reading!
Classics have all the power and are all the rage even now
A word after a word after a word is power.’
For many readers, The Handmaid’s Tale (2010) and Margaret Atwood’s creation of Gilead remains a dystopian society they still think about. It terrifies, when one thinks about the world globally, how close we are to having such a society on a smaller scale.
I would say one of the only things preventing its birth is our awareness of our rights and of the freedoms afforded to us. But this book is valuable for more than being an extremely radical, futuristic, social commentary. Even without its realism and its poignant themes – even if it were out-of-touch – this book provokes thought and discussion. The persistent question of ‘What if?’ remains at the forefront.
Some aspects of the society Atwood creates, readers will naturally recognise; women regarded as the property of their fathers, or their husbands; women not accepted in the workforce; political conversations about birth-control, surrogacy, abortion (conversations we’re still having!). Atwood introduces these and takes them to the extreme: a woman’s only purpose is to breed. Christian fundamentalism overtakes the political system – a regime introduced that kills its dissenters. Love has no place in such a repressive state, there is no room for such luxuries.
This was a book steeped in truth, sinister (but disturbingly, possible) imaginings. The Handmaid’s Tale serves as a chilling wake-up call. It has the POWER to spark debate. The ‘Historical Notes’ at the end epitomise today’s indifference. We are sometimes too cautious to pass moral judgement on policies, regimes, and attitudes. We, instead, wait for figureheads to emerge for us to rally behind. We too often pause for direction and don’t allow space for our own heroics.
Then, there’s Fahrenheit 451 which can be described as quietly radical when all it really advocates is a more conscious existence. Ray Bradbury would not approve of technology’s strong grip on us: mindless scrolling, and that for some of us it replaces real life, social interactions. Censorship and the propagation of radical ideas entering into the mainstream and being forced into people’s consciousness – that would be for many people, a scary experience. In Fahrenheit 451, all books are burned by firemen who start the fires rather than take them out. Ideas aren’t wanted, and television has everyone’s attention.
“We’ll pass the books on to our children, by word of mouth, and let our children wait, in turn, on the other people. A lot will be lost that way, of course. But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them. It can’t last.”
The book is creative and imaginative. It has intense power in that it presents what could potentially be a real-world crisis. The simple idea that in the pursuit of not causing offence, or really any kind of feeling, we go too far in the other direction: indifference. The television and how it was described by Bradbury is something that is memorable and genius. And the suppression of ideas, taken to the extreme, would certainly make for a feared reality. Fahrenheit 451 is a brilliantly thought-provoking story, that can be a true force for progress when it comes to one’s personal use of technology. A lot of people are heavily immersed in tech, discussing it, innovating it, dedicating their time to it and, consequently, neglect their real worlds. Fahrenheit 451 forces the reader to self-reflect and to open oneself to feeling rather than emotionless numbness. Ignorance or defeat is not an option.
It’s on this last note that The Giver by Lois Lowry (1994) captures the reader’s imagination. Lowry creates a utopian world in which people shut off feelings and have their collective memories wiped. Everyone except a young boy, the elected Receiver of Memory. The Giver gives away his memories to the boy, memories of things which no longer exist. The good and the darker: devastating horrors and painful stories. Everyone else lives in blissful ignorance and conformity: they don’t store memories or open themselves to feelings. Their worlds have no colour, no sharpness and are devoid of pain and the guilt which comes from actions such as infant euthanasia; the people merely exist. The Receiver of Memory takes the moral responsibility and is the one who guides them based on all his knowledge. All the while he lives a solitary existence, he can’t speak of the memories because the people would not understand.
The power of the story is in how Lowry masterfully wrote a story that we can all understand: the young generation inherits their parents and grandparents’ memories and stories. They live with their parents and grandparents’ mistakes, failures and defeats. Historians, law makers, prosecutors and world leaders, each inherit a part of the world’s story, while the masses can live and forget.
Ultimately, these books are among those which spark discussion and seek to open our eyes. They demand attention, they ask that we change our ways. That we become revolutionaries when the time comes. From Margaret Atwood and Ray Bradbury’s dystopia and Lois Lowry’s creation of a seemingly perfect world, we can understand how powerful literature is.
Written by recognised book reviewer, Saarah Nisaa.
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This article was originally posted on https://smple.io/members/saarah-n