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To Succeed One Must First Dream

1381 words - 6 pages

Set in the late 19th and early 21th century, Looking Backwards is a utopian novel discussing the advantages of socialism, a political philosophy that many disenchanted intellectuals of the 19th century believed in. Edward Bellamy, the author, is included in that class of intellectuals. By being transported to the "modern day," Julian West, the protagonist, is able to contrast the two societies he has lived in: the capitalistic 19th century and the utopian, socialist 20th century.
Julian West, a member of the aristocratic class in Boston, lives an enchanted life among societies most wealthy members. He doesn't have to work much at all, and he is due to be married to Boston socialite Edith Bartlett. Because his mansion is in a newly de-gentrified neighborhood, he is building a new house. The engaged couple is waiting for the house to be finished to get married because it would be unbecoming for them to live surrounded by such filth. Striking laborers have forced them to delay construction on their house and therefore their marriage. The strikes are used be Bellamy to reveal social discontent with the old system. West resigns himself to the view that the poor must keep pulling the car of wealthy people to the top of human progress and that maybe one day a few could join the car. In essence, many of the wealthy, including Julian, have a social darwinist view on the 19th American class system. As far as he was concerned, his and the rest of the upper class's top priority was to hold on to their wealth. On May 29th, after spending Decoration Day with Edith's family, he tells his servant, Sawyer, to go fetch Dr. Pillsbury, his hypnotist, so he could go to bed as he was a terrible insomniac. This reveals that, even with his mounds of money, he does not live a perfect life. He has to sleep in an underground cement coffin-room of sorts, so he can be isolated from the lights and noises of 19th century industrial Boston. Dr. Pillsbury comes and puts him to sleep, but little does he know what will happen next.
When he awakes, he is in a confused stupor. He sees strangers and is told the date is September 10, 2000. Dumbfounded, Julian thinks his friends are playing a joke on him, but Dr. Leete, one the "strangers," confirms that he is really in 2000. To convince Julian, Dr. Leete shows him a glimpse of modern-day Boston. Mr. West is amazed at the grandiosity and cleanliness of the new Boston. Wondering how modern-day Boston came to be, Julian asks Dr. Leete why, and he explains that the government has consolidated all industries into one industrial army. With the consolidation, social harmony and equality ensued. The reason for the momentous change in society was that, "They [19th century poor] believed that the great corporations were preparing for them the yoke of a baser servitude than had ever been imposed on the race, servitude not to men but to soulless machines incapable of any motive but insatiable greed. (Page 30/180)" ...

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