Fahrenheit 451 & Gattaca Comparative Study - Historical Context

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Throughout time Science Fiction writers have produced their work, using the concept of dystopia as a method to express their outlook and opinion on the issues within their existing societies, in which they are writing from. The writer delivers a message to the audience, educating them about the current contextual concerns and the possibility of the dystopias that are developed as a result. This is demonstrated in the novel Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury and the film Gattaca, directed by Andrew Niccol. Both of these composers illustrate their fears for the fate of their society through the structural and language features of their texts. Ray Bradbury explores the value of using knowledge and independent thinking rather than blindly following the ‘rules’, without a second thought or question. Andrew Niccol uses the reality of scientific methods, addressing the responder of the direction society is heading in and the fatal result of the future if we were to mess with the balance of nature. Like all texts, Fahrenheit 451 is a product of its time. It was published in the early 1950s, during a time recovering from World War II and facing the Cold War, which caused key contextual concerns of this period. During the McCarthy era, the rise of the mass media contributed to the themes and ideas explored by Bradbury’s dystopian fiction novel. These ideas include the danger of censorship, knowledge vs. ignorance and the role of technology which are explored in a world where people are so busy that they do not stop to think or notice beauty or to really communicate with the people around them. This is a world where the media feeds the minds of numbed masses whose highest goal is happiness; a goal that persistently eludes them. Although Gattaca was created many years afterwards, Andrew Niccol’s futuristic film also explores the contextual concerns within his present society; the twenty-first century. Niccol looks at the role of science and technology and the concerns that can come from being too dependent upon these. Gattaca provides us with a dystopic vision of the not-too-distant future if we are to continue to strive for perfection. He challenges our concept on what it is to be an individual human being and what extent we are willing to go to before our morals and ethics are forgotten. This is shown in the film through ideas such as destiny vs. free will, systematic discrimination and the role of nature and technology. A key concern that Bradbury has about the future that is directly related to context is the danger of censorship. The Nazi book burnings in Germany in 1933 had been widely publicised after World War II. These book burnings became a major symbol of the repression that followed in Nazi Germany. The importance of literature and the freedom to read and write was a central concern of liberal-minded people during the 1950s, and this thought was common to Bradbury. In Fahrenheit 451, society has evolved to such and extreme that literature is illegal to possess. No longer can books be read, not only because they might offend someone, but because books raise questions that often lead to revolutions and even anarchy. A major example of censorship is book burning, which with Bradbury’s use of symbolism reinforces the ideas of anti-censorship. Fire is used symbolically to identify the issues of censorship and represents the destruction of books, people and society. Censorship in the world consists of book burning, manipulative parlor families, and the intolerance of those who attempt to be an individual. Bradbury’s use of symbolism reinforces the ideas of anti-censorship. Fire is used symbol of censorship as it represents the destruction of books, of people, and of society, however is used to cover up all things that the firemen’s propaganda does not enforce. The first sentence of the novel introduces the role of fire saying "It was a pleasure to burn. It was a pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and...
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