The Totalitarian Control of a Three-Year Old: a Contextual Analysis

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Jerome Bixby’s ‘It’s a Good Life’ is a short story following an unusually gifted, three-year-old boy named Anthony Fremont. In spite of his age, Anthony has the capacity to transform other people or objects into anything he wishes, think new things into being, teleport himself and others where he wishes, read the minds of people and animals and even revive the dead. If either citizens or animals of the area do not comply with Anthony’s capricious whim, grim consequences occur, often Anthony placing his victims into cornfields to their grave or ‘vaporized’ into largely soulless bodies, as the case of Amy Fremont. Bixby’s allows Anthony to gain a heightened power and authority over the small Ohio town because the townspeople regard him in with a toxic mix of tremendous terror through his cult of personality and adoration through appeasement. Indeed, one can interpret that Jerome Bixby imbues Anthony to be totalitarian tyrant, having the set of characteristics of totalitarianism: omniscient, omnipotent, oppressive and often narcissistic. To supplement one’s understanding of the reasons behind Anthony’s clout, Stephen Spender’s ‘Nations in Goose Step: The Age of Totalitarianism’ will be associated, contrasted and addressed, as one can argue that the central idea of both Spender and Bixby’s work is the “ambition to totalize to bring all aspects of life under the supervision of a central authority” (Spender, 216).

In the passage selected, Bixby’s story is at its climax, and speaks to Anthony’s cult of personality the townspeople sense that Anthony has nurtured. We understand that the cult of personality is defined as an idealized, heroic, and, at times god-like public image. The reader see this development as Dan Hollis is given a surprise birthday party, and in the celebration of the event, Hollis becomes intoxicated and plays a Perry Como record. Anthony despises any kind of singing, even without being present in the room. Hollis realizes his mistake of playing...
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