Comparing Dystopian Distress In Brave New World, Player Piano, And The Giver

2400 words - 10 pages

Dystopian Distress in Brave New World, Player Piano, and The Giver  

    Novels of the same subject matter may have decidedly unique ways of expressing the authors' ideas. Yet, dystopian narratives such as "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley, "Player Piano" by Kurt Vonnegut, and "The Giver" by Lois Lowry share many similarities in how the novels end. Throughout the genre of dystopian literature, each story has common ambiguous patterns that leave the reader unsure as to specific details at the conclusion. Oftentimes, this effect is achieved by leaving gaps in information, or presenting two different possibilities by which the tale could close. Even more enigmatic is a complete lack of conclusion all together; that is, the book concludes so abruptly that the reader is left to infer from her own thoughts and opinions what really happened to the main characters and the rest of society.

One pattern commonly expressed in the end of dystopian novels is a situation in which foreshadowing throughout the novel gives tantalizing hints of what might be; usually, conclusion clues seem to imply a continual downfall of society. These stories portray a supposed utopian society in which one character, usually the protagonist, rebels against his commnuity and what it stands for, often times to bring about a specific change. One man or woman dares to be different.

Three such examples that incorporate strong hints of premonitory information are "Brave New World", "Player Piano", and "Anthem". The novels often begin by introducing aspects of the corrupt society. For instance, in Aldous Huxley's account of a futuristic society, the world is made up of cloned castes of individuals, their entire futures determined at the point of their laboratory conceptions (Huxley 18). While this alone does not mean that this particular world is base or amoral, other significant details contribute to the image to set the stage, such as the fact that the whole society is urged to take a legal drug called soma to ease their minds, inducing calming and pleasurable feelings (Huxley 112).

Similar patterns of conclusive clues leading up to the novels’ end are present in Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano. However, where Huxley’s society was corrupted by sex, drugs, and brainwashed clones, Vonnegut’s world is fully reliant upon machines and their engineers (288). Again, this does not sound as if it is the worst thing that could happen, but Vonnegut goes on to express that everything is run by an automated machine; clothes veritably wash themselves (141), steely gray boxes compete with top engineers in checker tournaments (52), and gargantuan computers run the entire country, hidden behind the smiling face of an idiot president (105-106). Upon consideration, one might believe these advances to be a great benefit to mankind—many would probably love never having to do the laundry again—but the point is that even with all these machines, man still doesn't know what to do with himself...

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