“Religion plays a key role in dystopian fiction.” With reference to The Children of Men and Brave New World, how far do you agree with this statement?
Sixty years separate the publication of the dystopias The Children of Men and Brave New World, but both authors express their depictions of a future world in which religion is drastically changed, and not for the better. Religion and spirituality serve a number of purposes in the two novels, most notably to illustrate the difference between our society and their dystopian society, and also to show the importance of faith in overcoming the difficulties which human beings face. The plot of The Children of Men centres around the struggle of a dissident group to help one of their number give birth to a child in a society suffering from mass infertility and a tyrannical leader. The idea of religion features prominently in the novel, and a religious reading of this tale echoes that of the nativity tale and the birth of Christ: that the hope for society is a child born to an unwed mother in a shack, reflecting the birth of Jesus in a stable. The religious elements of this novel are far more prevalent than in Brave New World, but both novels use the changes to the society’s faith as a means of illustrating quite how warped and horrifying the dystopian society is. While religion as we know it is an idea repressed in The Children of Men by the despot warden, Xan Lypiatt, early on in the novel the dissident group meets Theo Faron in an isolated church, immediately linking them with the notion that spirituality could provide the hope for the seemingly doomed society. However it is clear that their struggle will be an extremely difficult one as the “religion” of the year 2021 is a truly haunting one for the reader. Due to the lack of babies being born, kittens are christened in their place; dolls are wheeled about in prams and buried in consecrated ground when they are broken. Churches are now mostly abandoned or used for animal sacrifices and Black Masses, while ageing people who can no longer “contribute to the well-being of society” either take their own life with a suicidal drug called Quietus or are drugged and sent to sea to be drowned. The most revered people on Earth are the “Omegas” who are the most recently born humans, but they are only interested in their own well-being. As Theodore points out in the first chapter, “If from infancy you treat children as gods, they are liable in adulthood to act like devils.” Clearly, faith in God as the reader knows it no longer exists in the majority of society, but the dissidents provide a small shade of hope. In Brave New World, religion is also frighteningly perverted. God and the Ten Commandments were replaced by Ford, a pioneer of technology, and a mind-altering drug called soma, which is described by Mustapha Mond as “Christianity without tears”. Even the traditional Christian symbol, the cross, became a deformed T, which represents the T-Model invented by the praised Lord Ford. Utterances such as “Oh Ford!” are common, and Huxley is parodying the ridiculousness of the worship of machines and technology, referencing the similarity between the words “Ford” and “Lord”. Also, instead of visiting church, the whole community is told to attend Solidarity Services, where twelve members end up having a soma orgy. This orgy is nothing more than a replacement of the communal feeling which people in our society experience in church. Even the number of the participants isn't randomly chosen: Jesus, God’s son, had twelve apostles surrounding him as well. Furthermore, the prayers of traditional religions have been changed into sayings that are used in hypnopaedia, or sleep teaching, in the Brave New World. Also, sex is an important aspect of the lifestyle in the utopian world. While traditional religions disregard sex without the goal of creating new life, sex based on pure hedonism is a basic element of the World State. So despite the clear...
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