The visionary dystopian novels, ‘1984’ and ‘Brave New World depict dehumanising societies dominated by ruthless totalitarianism. The futuristic, radical and allegorical fantasies have different settings: ‘Stalin’s Russia blends with bomb-scarred post-war Britain’ also recognisable through Oceania and ‘the sanitised elysium’ of Seventh century AF. Both science fiction novels are cautionary, didactic and proleptic describing closed controlled societies radically repressing man’s human spirit.
Their chillingly dehumanising realities portray insidious propaganda, revised histories, ‘no use for old things here’ states Mond, whilst communal rituals and regulated sexual relationships ensure total obedience to oppressive regimes. Without total allegiance to omniscient Big Brother, ‘It’s rats in the eyes for you’1 or the gentler ‘exile to Iceland’1 for Huxley’s non-conformists: the poetically-minded Helmhotz is banished to the Falklands, for his ‘limited creative dissent’ For Sherborne, Huxley’s parody of Well’s, Men Like Gods challenges the overconsumption and consumerism of the United States. 984, a political prolemic, perhaps generated by Orwell’s final illness and the Cold War denies individual freedom: in a bleak, ironic and apocalyptic scenario where ‘Individuality has become obsolete and personality a crime’only the economically and socially deprived proles ‘stayed human’. Both male protagonists are atypical, alienated and anti-heroic despite rebelling against the absolute prevailing order. The third-person narrative explores Winston Smith’s personal perspective, more detached than a first-person bildungsroman.Winston Smith’s name paradoxically combines ‘an Everyman identity’with the iconic wartime leader, Winston Churchill.
A suffering ‘wounded protagonist’3, Winston coughs chronically: a ‘varicose ulcer’ symbolises his ‘mental and physical malnourishment’5; his physical inadequacy threatens his consciousness. Thus characterisation conveys dehumanisation. Winston and John are not one-dimensional; their behaviour and relationships connote humanity. Conversely Huxley’s ‘flat characterisation’4 of the disfigured Bernard limits his depiction.
Bernard’s paradoxical ‘I am and I wish I wasn’t’3 manifests hypocrisy echoing John’s conflicts. Denied self-determination and surrounded by artificially, John acknowledged ‘nothing I feel is real’, possibly paralleling subordinated Caliban from The Tempest, Huxley’s Shakespearean source play. Isolated in the Reservation, the World State and confronted by mixed cultures, intertextuality releases John’s emotions. Free-indirect discourse reveals the protagonists humanity: Winston, has ‘vivid, beautiful hallucinations…’ transferring his martyred feelings through simile onto Julia. He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian’6.
Incongruously he vacillates, wanting, ‘to encircle’ Julia’s ‘sweet supple waist,’6 simultaneously repulsed by ‘the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity’6. Likewise John, overwhelmed by Lenina, uses repetition in the third person, ‘How beautiful she was! How beautiful’3. John equally scorns Linda’s promiscuity and Lenina’s precocity epitomised in her rhyming jingle ‘hug me till you drug me honey’6.John, a flawed hero, as Winston, identifies with women empathising with Lear’s bestial imagery, ‘down from the waist they are Centaurs, though women all above’3. Conformist Lenina is a foil to the mutinous John.
Conversely in Chapter 8, John’s stream of consciousness, ‘he was empty… cold… rather sick… giddy’3 creates detachment, contrasted with intertextuality from Hamlet’s characterisation of Claudius where the triad of polysyllabic adjectives ‘remorseless, treacherous, lecherous…’ 3 channels John’s scorn towards Pope.Margaret Atwood’s description of Western society: ‘vapid consumers, idle pleasure seekers and programmed conformists’2 is dehumanisingly analogous to Brave New World. John rebelliously rejects Mond’s vacuous ‘comfort’ claiming the ‘right to be unhappy’3 and independently lists human experiences through abstract nouns: ‘dirt, diseases, free-will, fear, blood, sweat and tears’3, demonstrating independence discouraged by the Controller who rejects the ‘too self-consciously individual… everyone who’s anyone’3. Bernard obstinately tells Lenina, ‘I’d rather be myself… myself and nasty.
Not somebody else, however jolly’3 reinforcing individuality. Lenina’s epigrammatic ‘a gramme is always better than a damn! ’3 satirically reinforced by internal rhyme, revealing her conditioning. John’s metaphor ‘I ate civilisation’3 subverts his humanity, ironically reinforced by the rhetorical repetition of his emotional outburst; ‘I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger… freedom… goodness… sin. ’3 John’s suicide, a paradoxical victory of self-violence over conformist pre-destination through conditioning highlights expendable people recycled for phosphorous as ‘socially useful’3 automatons.
John chooses self-determination over a ‘tidy and controlled Soma dream’3 whereas the dehumanised Linda, ‘floated away,’3 strengthened by syntactic parallelism, ‘out of space, out of time, out of the prison of her memories, her habits, her aged and bloated body. ’3 The alliterative phrase ‘bloated body’3 denotes repulsion. The opportunistic and unscrupulous Controller objectively analogises ‘you cannot pour upper-class champagne surrogate into lower-caste bottles’3. For Sherborne, Huxley shows disrespect towards social class, disability and poverty with his animalistic descriptions of Reservation inhabitants.Prejudicial social labelling of Epsilon-Minus Semi-Morons erodes self-worth.
Winston’s diary, possibly reflecting Descartes’ dictum, puto ergo sum shows rebellion against entrapment: ‘locked loneliness’6 is reinforced by metaphorical and alliterative personification. Re-educated, Winston’s tragic role reversal is ultimately symbolised in an epiphany moment: ‘he had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother. ’6 Ironically ‘the long-hoped-for bullet’6 guarantees the dehumanised Winston’s death. Topical allusions reinforce dehumanisation.Orwell described Huxley’s World State as ‘a brilliant caricature of the present’.
5 Internet surveillance infringes civil liberties. Orwell’s satire exposes dehumanisation through stereotyping. Charismatic but cruelly omnipotent Big Brother stereotypically replaces God; the ideological telescreen dominates Winston’s flat, comparable with ‘internet-connected smart televisions’ potentially transmitting private conversations: ‘Winston Smith was eyeing his voice-activated Samsung television warily’. BBC One’s Room 101 reverses Orwell’s harrowing chamber through guests’ pet hates.
The Controller’s comparison with innuendo ‘as dangerous as it is beneficent’3 justifies the Bokanovsky Process, systematically denying embryos human identity and free will exemplified by the perfunctory, automated ‘standard men and women in uniform batches’,3 rhythmically and syllabically stressed. Current stem cell research and proposed three-person IVF legislation juxtaposes ethics and eugenics, The Times’ uses mechanistic imagery: ‘Huxley’s wholesale eugenics… babies are mass-produced with the same cold efficiency as cars. Brave New World’s inhabitants are technologically engineered denied creativity, individuality and imagination’. 10] Huxley’s word play parodies scientific terminology, combining Maurice Bokhanowski, a French minister of commerce juxtaposed with Ivan Bokanowsky, a Russian revolutionary.
Both authors satirise religion portraying dehumanisation. The Two Minutes Hate violently parodies a religious service in a ‘deliberate drowning of consciousness’,6 a collective brainwashing; emphasised by alliteration and water imagery. A worshipper blasphemously addresses Big Brother as ‘My Saviour’6. Conversely ironic religious perversion is suggested by Emmanuel Goldstein ‘Enemy of the People’6 although ‘Emmanuel’ means Messiah.
Goldstein’s democratic beliefs, ‘freedom of speech… the press… assembly’6 are subverted into inhuman euphemisms through the compound nouns ‘Doublethink’, ‘Thoughtcrime’ and the ironically cruel and antithetical slogan ‘Freedom is Slavery’6. Orwell’s twisted concepts, described as ‘norm-breaking’ by Crystal, replaced original thought, distorting conventional human principles. In Orwell’s 1946 essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ he wrote, ‘if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought’7 because English should represent ‘an instrument for expressing and not for concealing and preventing thought’. The dehumanised language of Ingsoc and Newspeak could derive from Orwell’s essay ‘Inside the Whale’ depicting Catholicism’s attractive religious force and the seemingly Utopian values of Communism through its ‘worldwide organisation, rigid discipline, power and prestige’5. Oceania’s language demonstrates linguistic manipulation: ‘the prevailing philosophy in Eurasia is Neo Bolshevism… in Eastasia… Death-worship… better rendered as Obliteration of the Self’6.
Huxley caricatured religious rituals with the ‘great synthetic voice’ of the Solidarity Service, a travesty of Christianity, recommending therapeutic pleasures for ‘a rich and living peace’3. The psychedelic imagery of ‘the warm and richly coloured soma’3 - Latinate for intoxicating drink - epitomised social control by a prophylactic numbing of feelings. The sanctity of Saint Martin’s church, transformed into ‘a propaganda museum… depicting enemy atrocities’3 is also parodied. Contextual symbolism, pathetic fallacy and recurrent motifs of dust, insects, death and weather imagery emphasise dehumanisation.The genus loci of Brave New World is symbolically described: ‘a squat grey building, of only thirty-four storeys’, the adverb ‘only’ creating litotes. Orwell’s disturbing context of Airstrip One: ‘clocks striking thirteen’6 depicts an alternative reality.
Orwell’s contradictory Ministry of Love contained Room 101 where Winston’s humanity is annihilated; O’Brien hyperbolically reminds the acquiescent tortured Winston through harsh tone and a triad of strong verbs ‘something was killed in your breast, burnt out, cauterised out’6.Initially Winston encounters the ‘vile wind… a swirl of gritty dust’6: onomatopoeia recreates the Biblical text ‘dust to dust’ recalling death. Dust could symbolise ubiquitous Party penetration. Mrs. Parsons, with ‘dust in the creases of her face’6: is terrorised by her sadistic children - indoctrinated Spies - reneging on their parents, as ‘ungovernable little savages’6 betraying maternal bonds. Oceania’s fragmented familial relationships deny ‘private emotions’6.
Conversely John was compassionately loyal to Linda his ‘viviparous mother’3.O’Brien figuratively tells Winston ‘we are the walking dead’6, as ‘handfuls of dust and splinters of bone’6 callously disregarding humanity. T. H Huxley’s utopias were ‘incompatible with human nature… more suited to insects’4: Lenina negatively lists ‘maggots, locusts, aphids and ants’3 reducing humans to pests. John, ironically, dreads ‘contamination by the filth of civilised life’3 criticising by oxymoron. O’Brien conditionally condemns the submissive Winston as ‘a bag of filth… if you are human that is humanity’6.
Orwell’s ‘Such, such were the Joys’ recalled ‘arbitrary authority’ at St.Cyprians, causing a ‘deep unalterable worthlessness’12. Simile shows Huxley’s compromised Hatchery babies ‘pale as death’; their lives are mechanistically controlled in a living death. The inhuman Conditioning Centre is bleakly evoked through repetition, personification and pathetic fallacy, being ‘cold’, ‘light… frozen dead, a ghost’, ‘wintriness responded to wintriness’ and workers’ hands are ‘gloved like corpse-coloured rubber’3. The alliterative hyphenated adjective has deathly innuendo. However, for Winston meeting Julia, Orwell lyrically personifies ‘dappled light and shade… pools of gold… the air seemed to kiss one’s skin’6.
The weather metaphor reinforces their passion. The infinitives’ triad ‘anything to rot, to weaken, to undermine’6 reflects Winston’s perversity, ignoring Julia’s possible duplicity as a Thought-Police member. After betrayal, Winston recalls meeting Julia on a ‘biting day… earth like iron’ proleptic of her corruption and the tele-screens’ balanced but distorted jeers ‘I sold you and you sold me’6. Symbolically, Winston links the euphoric and metaphorical Golden Country with maternal dreams but tragedy ‘belonged to the ancient time… of privacy, love and friendship’6 contrasted with the dehumanising present of ‘fear, hatred and pain’6.
In part three, Winston sits ‘amongst enormous, glorious sun-lit ruins… talking of peaceful things’6; his humanity transcends his final gin-soaked personality. O’Brien and Mond, dictatorial and powerful are inhumanly and calculatingly manipulative. Mond has a ‘good humoured intelligence’3 with calm rational arguments. O’Brien, ‘more villainous than Mustapha Mond’7 is an egotistical indoctrinated inquisitor, variously characterised as a ‘doctor… teacher… priest’7.
An authoritarian demagogue, he moves Winston from ‘torture to tutorial’6, reinforcing state power by admonitory modal verbs, ‘you will work… will be caught… will confess… will die’6.O’Brien a distorted religious fanatic, states the heretic ‘is washed clean’ ‘we convert… capture his inner-mind, reshape him’6, O’Brien’s corrupted, deviant speech is syntactically balanced reinforcing inhumanity through repeated adverbs: ‘never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves’6 because ‘reality exists… not in the individual mind… only in the mind of the Party, collective and immortal’6 denying intrinsic humanity.Sherborne hypothesises homosexuality between O’Brien and Winston, who ‘did not want to be loved so much as to be understood’7 paradoxically stimulated by the Brotherhood and Room 101. The rat torture, graphically described through assonance, ‘foul musty odour of the brutes’6 reduced Winston to a ‘screaming animal… a black panic’6.
DJ Taylor documents Orwell’s horror with vermin through experiences in Burma, the Spanish Civil War and on Jura, noting Orwell’s exposure of ‘human vulnerability in the face of vicious animal intelligence’12 in 1984. 984 and Brave New World’s dehumanising dystopias juxtapose the Greek ‘eu-topos… good place’ and ‘ou-topos… no place’. 2 The Arab Spring’s aspiring democratic rebellions ironically resulted in ideological autocracies, undermining human rights, barbarously exemplified by ISIS in Syria. In January 2013 Philip Collins wrote ‘Orwell endures because his nightmare do too’: the adjective ‘Orwellian’ implies dehumanisation. Both Huxley and Orwell satirically depict dehumanisation through subversive characterisation, vivid imagery and innovative manipulation of language, overturning our preconceptions of man’s essential dignity.