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Utopia vs. Dystopia

Oct 08, 1999 996 Words
Utopia Vs. Dystopia

Each person has their own vision of utopia. Utopia means an ideal state, a paradise, a land of enchantment. It has been a central part of the history of ideas in Western Civilization. Philosophers and writers continue to imagine and conceive plans for an ideal state even today. They use models of ideal government to express their ideas on contemporary issues and political conditions. Man has never of comparing the real and ideal, actuality and dream, and the stark facts of human condition and hypothetical versions of optimum life and government.

In the nineteenth century, man believed in the perfectibility of mankind and in the real possibility of an ultimate utopia, a time when man could all live together in peace. However, the events of the twentieth century have weakened that belief. Both cold and hot wars have followed each other in succession. Revolutions and civil wars have taken place and totalitarianism has become a fact that can hardly be ignored. Therefore, the modern age has become a time in which more anti-utopias have been envisioned than ever before.

A lot of authors have expressed their views on utopia in their novels. Some have done it by creating their own perfect world, while others have chosen a different path. They have selected to voice their opinions in anti-utopian novels, or dystopia. An anti-utopia is simply the reverse of a utopian novel. The aim of both novels is basically the same. Both have as their objective the improvement of society. The anti-utopian novel, however, instead of presenting an ideal society toward which all men should strive, it basically presents a highly defined, completely hideous society. This type of novel warns that if the tendencies of the real world are not corrected before it’s too late, the hideous world suggested will become a reality. George Orwell is one of those authors who has chosen to express his views in an anti-utopian way. Both his books, 1984, and Animal Farm clearly depict the world as it may become if something is not changed. 1984 was written in 1948. When it was first published, there was a great deal of criticism. Some saw it as a prophecy of what was bound to happen to the world; others took it as basically a comment on contemporary studies; still others looked upon the book as a symptom of the author’s sick mind. However, Orwell seems to have meant the novel to be a criticism of life in the twentieth century. Orwell came up with the title simply by reversing the last two numbers of the year it was written. It is instead, a warning that unless the world changes its course, man will lose his most human attributes. The philosophy of 1984 is “War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength”.

When Orwell’s Animal Farm first appeared in 1945, it was taken entirely as a satire of the history of the Soviet Union and the attitudes and the actions of various Western nations. However, when one looks at Animal Farm more deeply, it may be seen that Orwell is criticising all aspects of life. For example, when the animals take over Manor Farm, they name their philosophical system Animalism. This can be compared to Communism. Animal Farm as a whole is a satire upon the totalitarian state.
The Republic by Plato was written sometime after 399BC. It a book with an idealistic view. Plato expresses some of his ideas on Aristocracy, Democracy and Dictatorship, philosophy and poetry, and in the conclusion, a discussion of immortality and the rewards of justice. The philosophical basis of Republic is that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Plato extended this beyond the individual to the state. His definition of justice and the use of it to create an entire government and society does not correspond with current philosophies, but his ideas continue to coerce us and arouse thought in us about the most essential questions of life. This book connect politics with philosophy and compares life with speculation. It has deep irony and humour. Plato thought that the basis of an ideal state was justice and reason, so there fore citizens of that society must be educated in a certain way to achieve these goals. Each citizen should be developed according to his or her capacities. Therefore because of natural ability and intelligence, some people would be higher up in society than others. The leader of this ideal state would be a Philosopher-King; an ideal ruler who was an epitome of intellectual and philosophical aristocracy. Plato believed that if people adopted this system, his dream of an ideal state would come true.

Voltaire’s Candide was written in 1758. It’s main philosophy was “There is no effect without a cause. All things are necessarily connected and arranged for the best.” The main character, Candide, experiences a lot of tragedy in his life. However, throughout the whole novel, he remains optimistic about everything. His tutor, Dr. Pangloss has taught him that everything that happens is meant to be. At the end of the book, Dr. Pangloss says to Candide: “There is a chain of events in the best of all possible worlds; for if you had not been turned out of a beautiful mansion at the turn of a jackboot for the love of Lady Cunegonde, and if you had not been involved in the Inquisition, and had not wandered over America on foot, and had not struck the Baron with your sword, and lost all those sheep you brought from Eldorado, you would not be here eating candied fruit and pistachio nuts.” No matter what happens in this book, Candide always finds a way to be happy. That’s the ultimate utopia, to be happy no matter what happens to you.

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