Elements Of The Author's World Present In Utopian Fiction

2443 words - 10 pages

In Samuel Butler's Erewhon, a traveler finds a land that is not totally unlike his own society, but he soon discovers that they have a very different culture from his. By using the failings of Erewhonian society, the author draws the reader's attention to flaws of his own society. This device is used in other works studied this semester, by creating a world that is not completely different from the author's own in an effort to make society realize its faults. Thomas More's Utopia is similar to Erewhon because it makes commentary on certain social issues of his time, disguised as a story about a different culture. George Orwell's 1984 and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale were also written based on the societies in which the author's lived, but these stories take place in the same society at a different time, so they serve more as cautionary tales than social commentary.

Erewhon satirizes many aspects of Victorian English society, including elements of religion, social injustice, and education. It is neither a utopia nor a dystopia, but rather a normal life for the Erewhonians, as they are not altogether unhappy, and a foreign place which the narrator discovers to be somewhat similar to his home country, but also opposite in many ways. By creating similarities between Erewhon and Victorian England, the flaws in English society which are commented upon in Erewhon become more apparent.

Butler recognizes the flaws in England's present educational system in the chapters on Erewhon's Colleges of Unreason. He gives the name hypothetics to the main feature in their system of study. They believe that preparing students for any possible or impossible situation will prepare him for actual events of his life, and how to effectively deal with them. Butler acknowledges the deficiencies in the educational system of his home by inventing a school that is a reflection on his own experiences on Cambridge, where much of the knowledge learned is not useful, and where students do not get a chance to actually apply their knowledge (Bisenz 10). From this it becomes apparent that knowledge should be useful, and the acquisition of such language should be carried out in an effective manner. In other words, performance and practice prevailing over pure theory (Bisenz 18). They are also taught a hypothetical language which does not have any use in the real world, but is nevertheless taught to all students. This is a parody against the enforced study of Greek and Latin in England, and the "Victorian cultural appropriation of ancient Greek to undergrid ideologies of class difference and colonial conquest" (Whitmarsh 67).

Butler calls attention to the religious hypocrisy shown by people of his own society in some Erewhonian practices. The narrator states "in spite of all the to-day they make about their idols, and the temples they build, and the priests and priestesses whom they support, I could never think that their professed religion was more...

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