Philip K. Dick – “The Minority Report” Unseen Commentary
The science fiction short story “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick explores how autocratic societies lead to individuality being suppressed, with power replacing personality as the main defining quality of any identity. This is all particularly evident in the passage where Anderton makes his way to Kaplan at the rally for a greeting before murdering him. Through the wide use of metaphorical language and other carefully chosen descriptors such as adjectives and adverbs, Dick conveys how autocratic power suffocates a population of free will and imposes extreme influence on the people. Since there is no presence of any kind of personality or individuality, the very thing exercising the suppression – power – also comes to define any identity. With this in mind, Dick suggests that power can be a threat in that it will inevitably become deeply ingrained into the heart of humanity, creating a seemingly lifeless and pointless form of society that exists for nothing but the wishes of those who wield the power.
Dick expresses the strength of the oppression in taking away free will and individuality that autocratic power exercises on people through his description of the watching audience. The “dense mob” of people is “packed tightly together”, as though they lack any will of their own and were squeezed together under power. Together with the adjective “rigid”, Dick enhances the image and feeling of oppression present as this particular combination of descriptors can be connoted to the arrangement of particles within a solid; solid particles have very strong forces of attraction between them and are not free to move, just like how the people are denied personal freedom – anyone who deviates away from this uniform system is therefore jarringly different and abnormal. Again, like particles, the arrangement and system of the people is neat, but lifeless. The fact that it is the “sense that something spectacular” – a sense implanted by the Army – that “held [the people] rigid” shows how they have lost individuality in the face of power and how it is ironically power too that holds them together; without power, they seemingly lack purpose and direction. So low have they sunk under the suppression of power that they have become nothing more than a “solid presence”; with the adjective “solid”, aside from describing lack of free will, Dick conveys the uniform manner power created for people to fall into. Representative too of this combined identity but even more effective than “mob” is the use of the noun “presence”, which further expresses the loss of identity and individuality. Here, the audience is not even described as a body of people but as a mere feeling that something is existing there, much like how they themselves are; they exist physically, but are good as gone emotionally – all of Dick’s word choices in describing them give them no personality whatsoever, as if they could be objects. Even the Army officials, who at least hold some degree of power, have fallen under the absolute power of the ruling authorities; like the audience, they are a “tight knot”, as though manipulated and knotted together by the authorities, again without any hint of individuality present. Through all this, Dick shows us the capabilities of power to be oppressive, causing varieties of human personalities to melt down into one combined identity. Power can be dangerous in that it can take away freedom and threaten individuality for both those who wield it and those who suffer oppression in the face of it.
Dick then explores how power is the sole quality that defines and sets people apart in an autocratic society where individuality does not exist, with his description of Kaplan. He consistently uses symbols of power to describe Kaplan, with many of these symbols being objects of clothing. Kaplan, who initially wore “the vest, […] the conservative business suit”, is in this...
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