Dystopian for the Here and Now

Dystopian for the Here and Now

With Trump becoming the President-elect and then President, 1984 has surged to the top of the bestseller list along with Fahrenheit 451 and other dystopian novels. This is no coincidence as literature is a reflection of the feelings of the times. Not just what is being written, but also what is being read. Most of these books have one thing in common, a government in control of the people, not the people in control of the government. This common theme shows what people are afraid of happening. I believe that one of the most important things to do in response to this fear is to educate ourselves. Read about what we are afraid of, so we can recognize it and learn from the mistakes of others. Even though these stories are mere fiction, that does not mean they lose value in our society. 1984 shows that a movement starts with the small people and to not let the government take away our humanity. Fahrenheit 451 shows the importance of free knowledge, being able to create it and spread it. Being There shows what we need to be resisting, the fake image that is projected at us from all sides. There are many books that can show us how to resist. I have listed some that are teaching me below (and why). Another important aspect of educating ourselves is to learn about the people that are being attacked. This means reading diverse books with authors and characters who are People of Color, differently-abled, LGBTQ+ and more. As the books I have listed below show, lack of education and truth is what allows these Dystopian worlds to become realities.

1984 by George Orwell

This book shows a utopia where the government is in control, they have control over the people, economically and militaristically, but they also have control over the people’s minds and thoughts. Through the use of the language, Newspeak, the Party is not only censoring what they say, they are limiting their minds and their thoughts. So that they are not aware of what they do not have. Of all the scary acts of the Party, this one stood out the most. Because there is no way to resist if we do not know we need to resist. This novel also had a contrast between the generations, there was someone who grew up within the grasp of the Party and someone who had grown up before the Party existed and then learned to live within it. The younger person, Julia, she knows that she does not like it, but she does not know what she wants different and has no desire to change it, because she has no other reality. The older one, Winston Smith, he grew up before it, he sees the differences and he knows he wants to break free. He is just lost on how he wants to do it. Both these people have something in common, they are not happy with the society that they live in, but their ages create a gap in what they want to do about it. This is something that I can see happening with our world in the people that grew up with Obama as their President versus the people that are growing up with Trump as their President.

Being There by Jerzy Kosinski

This novel is very important as the comparison between Donald Trump and the main character, Chance Gardiner is very revealing about our society and the media. Chance and Trump are both very similar. They both watch TV, they dress to appear wealthy and they talk in simple statements. They both had very fast ascents towards political power. The only difference is that Chance is fictitious and Trump is actually the President of the United States. But what makes Chance appealing is also what makes Trump appealing (to some people). They both use simple language, and people hear what they want to hear from it as their words are very open to interpretation. They both also only know what the television tells them, thus making them seem like a common person that everyone can relate and connect to. But this novel is meant to be satire, showing how the media and merely a good image can make someone a politician, this novel reveals the uncanny reality that appearances might be more than actual words. Chance appears wealthy and even though he cannot even read, people believe he is a world renowned economist. It is also because he appears that way. This novel asks us to check ourselves and how we interpret our information and the world around us. How much does ones image really matter? What role does the media and television play in creating these images? I think this is an important novel in showing us how Trump came to so much power so fast.

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

This is a satirical book, it is about Hitler reappearing in the 21st century, and even though people have continually spoken out against him since World War II, he becomes very popular through his YouTube channel and then TV show. Hitler is being serious, but everyone believes it is satire, this gives Hitler power and changes the mentality of people. They do not realize that they have become Nazi’s. This is very important to understand in the Trump administration, as many people do not believe that Trump is going to do what he says. But we need to take people at their word, if we really want to understand their motives. This book provides a modern day contrast between Trump and Hitler.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This book is very important when talking about preserving knowledge, books and the truth. This books shows the value in knowledge and the importance of preserving and continuing collecting data and educating people. When I was reading the book, I was slow to realize the significance of the censorship of knowledge and the lack of books. But the last scene really stood out to me and has inspired me to continue reading, writing and learning. This book is a call to action in searching and preserving the truth.