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Fiction authors

Fiction Authors

For more than half a century science fiction writers have

thrilled and challenged readers with visions of the future and

future worlds. These authors offered an insight into what they

expected man, society, and life to be like at some future time.

One such author, Ray Bradbury, utilized this concept in his work,

Fahrenheit 451, a futuristic look at a man and his role in

society. Bradbury utilizes the luxuries of life in America today,

in addition to various occupations and technological advances, to

show what life could be like if the future takes a drastic turn

for the worse. He turns man's best friend, the dog, against man,

changes the role of public servants and changes the value of a

person.

Aldous Huxley also uses the concept of society out of control in

his science fiction novel Brave New World. Written late in his

career, Brave New World also deals with man in a changed society.

Huxley asks his readers to look at the role of science and

literature in the future world, scared that it may be rendered

useless and discarded. Unlike Bradbury, Huxley includes in his

book a group of people unaffected by the changes in society, a

group that still has religious beliefs and marriage, things no

longer part of the changed society, to compare and contrast

today's culture with his proposed futuristic culture.

But one theme that both Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 use in

common is the theme of individual discovery by refusing to accept

a passive approach to life, and refusing to conform. In addition,

the refusal of various methods of escape from reality is shown to

be a path to discovery. In Brave New World, the main characters

of Bernard Marx and the "Savage" boy John both come to realize

the faults with their own cultures. In Fahrenheit 451 Guy Montag

begins to discover that things could be better in his society

but, sue to some uncontrollable events, his discover happens much

faster than it would have. He is forced out on his own, away from

society, to live with others like himself who think differently

that the society does.

Marx, from the civilized culture, seriously questions the lack of

history that his society has. He also wonders as to the lack of

books, banned because they were old and did not encourage the new

culture. By visiting a reservation, home of an "uncivilized"

culture of savages, he is able to see first hand something of

what life and society use to be like. Afterwards he returns and

attempts to incorporate some of what he saw into his work as an

advertising agent. As a result with this contrast with the other

culture, Marx discovers more about himself as well. He is able to

see more clearly the things that had always set him on edge: the

promiscuity, the domination of the government and the

lifelessness in which he lived. (Allen) John, often referred to

as "the Savage" because he was able to leave the reservation with

Marx to go to London to live with him, also has a hard time

adjusting to the drastic changes. The son of two members of the

modern society but born and raised on the reservation, John

learned from his mother the values and the customs of the

"civilized" world while living in a culture that had much

different values and practices. Though his mother talked of the

promiscuity that she had practiced before she was left on the

reservation (she was accidentally left there while on vacation,

much as Marx was) and did still practice it, John was raised,

thanks to the people around him, with the belief that these

actions were wrong. Seeing his mother act in a manner that

obviously reflected different values greatly affected and hurt

John, especially when he returned with Marx to London. John loved

his mother, but he, a hybrid of the two cultures, was stuck in

the middle. (May)

These concepts, human reaction to changes in their culture and

questioning of these changes, are evident throughout the book.

Huxley's characters either conform to society's demands for

uniformity or rebel and begin a process of discovery; there are

no people in the middle. By doing so, Huxley makes his own views

of man and society evident. He shows that those who conform to

the "brave new world" become less human, but those who actively

question the new values of society discover truth about the

society, about themselves, and about people in general. An

example of this is Huxley's views of drugs as an escape. The

conforming members of society used widely a drug called soma,

which induces hallucinations and escapes from the conscious world

for two to eight hour periods. Those very few who didn't, John

included, mainly did not because they thought the drug either

unclean or an easy escape, one not needed in a society aiming at

making life very simple. By refusing to "go along" in this escape

from reality, John is ultimately able to break from society and

define his own destiny.

In Fahrenheit 451 Guy Montag, the main character, is able to see

through the government and the official policies of his society.

He does so by gradually beginning to question certain aspect of

society which most simply accept as fact. Montag's job as a

fireman serves as a setting to show how many people passively

accept the absurdity of their society. Instead of rushing to put

out fires, as firemen today do, Montag rushes to start fires,

burning the books and homes of people reported to have books.

This was considered by most people to be a respectable

profession. But on different occasions Montag took a book out of

burning homes and would from time to time read them. From this,

he begins to to question the values of his society.

Montag's marriage also serves a setting to contrast passive

acceptance versus questioning of society's values. His marriage

is not the happy kind that couples today experience but more like

a coexistence. He and his wife live together and he supports her,

though he apparently neither loves her a great deal or expects

her to love him.

This relationship and living arrangement, with its lack of love,

is Bradbury's way of showing what life could be like if people

not only stop communicating but stop thinking and choosing, thus

loosing control over their lives. Montag and his wife continue to

live together though people in that situation today would not

hesitate to terminate such a relationship. Montag's wife

apparently accepts this relationship because it is normal for the

society in which she lives. (Wolfheim)

Like Brave New World_characters escaping from reality through the

use of soma, Montag's wife, and many other characters, escape

through watching a sophisticated form of television. This

television system covers three of the walls of the Montag's TV

room (they can't afford to buy the screen to cover the fourth

wall), has a control unit that allows the watchers to interact

with the characters on the program and another unit that inserts

Mrs. Montag's name into specific places, thus creating the image

they the characters are actually conversing with them. Montag's

wife, having only a few friends and ones she rarely sees, spends

much of her day in this room, watching a program called "The

Family", a government sponsored program that shows the viewers

what life at home should be like.

The problem with this is that Montag's wife takes the program as

a substitute for reality. She is almost addicted to the program,

much as people were with soma in Brave New World. Bradbury uses

this television and it's programs as a way of showing the escape

he is worried people will look for in the future. Without

actively questioning society's values, he is concerned that

people will look for ways to idly spend their time.

But like Marx, Montag chooses not to take part in this addiction.

By abstaining, he can see the affects it's use has on the people

around him, much as Marx and more importantly John the Savage saw

in their culture. Both authors try to show that with life made

easier by strong government control and a lack of personal

involvement people will no longer spend their time thinking,

questioning or developing their own ideas.

Through these various diversions from normal behavior in society,

Marx, John the Savage and Guy Montag are able to see the truths

behind the societies they live in and are able to learn about

themselves. And though their discoveries meant that their lives

would be changed forever, the authors succeeded in showing that

the key to humanity lies in thinking and questioning. These men

found themselves through their own discoveries, much as Bradbury

and Huxley hope others will do.

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