There are a variety of ways in which Burgess and Huxley symbolise the notion of rebellion through their protagonists and submission through their eventual overpowering by the state. In both “Brave New World” and “A Clockwork Orange” the audience begin the book with a clear sense of rebellious characters exercising small individual freedoms against the backdrop of a repressive state which eventually deems their individuality unacceptable and crushes them. However, to say the similarities in the two books’ repressive states and rebellious characters proves that they explore the notions of rebellion and submission in the same way would be a massive oversimplification of two complicated books which both raise a multitude of ethical questions.
The submission of John to the stresses put on him by the World State in “Brave New World” is an event which the audience cannot help but sympathise with. It is clear that a state in which not only the authorities but the citizens are intolerant of difference has crushed John, a man who struggled greatly in an attempt to overcome a sense of being an outcast in the uncivilised world, only to move to the even more narrow-minded civilised world. It seems hard to imagine a reader not siding with John as his lifeless body is described with a powerful simile, spinning slowly like a compass point, “South-south-west, south-south-east, east…”. Indeed, the reference to John as, “Mr Savage!” immediately before his body is discovered perfectly underlines his dilemma: he was always an outsider in the uncivilised world and will never fit in in a civilised world where human behaviour is mapped out and controlled so tightly by the State. In many ways John acts as an audience surrogate, showing us how we would likely respond to being left in the World State, having been allowed to previously develop as freethinking individuals. It is, therefore, highly likely that the graphic description of John’s body was designed by Huxley to make the reader feel a very clear emotional response, particularly considering this final, very human use of language bookends the novel with its cold, analytical opening.
On the other hand, the eventual submission of Alex to the power of the state is a moral dilemma left unresolved by the author, who purposely avoids offering his own opinion on the matter. However, Burgess does use the interaction between a repressive society and one of its more rebellious individuals to ask an important question about the right to free will. Is it acceptable for the state to remove, or tamper with, an individual’s free will in order to protect others in society? Burgess leaves his thoughts on the matter unclear in the book and only commented on the issues raised 25 years later when he stated that if Alex, “chooses good, he must have the possibility of choosing evil instead; evil is a theological necessity,” demonstrating that he is against the, understandable yet morally questionable, actions of the state. Indeed throughout the book it seems obvious to the reader that “A Clockwork Orange’s” central character and narrator, Alex, is a deeply unpleasant person, yet when faced with the horrific Ludovico Technique designed to make him conform, which sees him feel he could, “sick up and at the same time not sick up, and began to feel like in distress,” the reader is left unsure as to whether this can truly be justified. Burgess, therefore, uses Alex to create a deeply troubling moral and ethical dilemma with the eventual submission of Alex, which Huxley does not with the death of John.
Indeed, Burgess spends much of “A Clockwork Orange” attempting to build up a sense of empathy for Alex, carefully setting up this moral dilemma with a constructed language which symbolises the protagonist’s rebellion. Alex and his friends’ invented language, Nadsat, is used by Burgess to draw the reader into the “ultraviolence” of the gang, giving the reader a sense of being complicit in their crimes. When Alex claims that, “we cracked into him lovely, grinning all over our litsos,” the juxtaposition of his blasé use of slang and the unprovoked act of violence which it is used to describe may act not to further shock the reader but actually to lessen the shock felt by the audience. In this way, Burgess uses language to manipulate what would otherwise be a fairly straightforward audience response of repulsion into something far more complicated. These violent acts of rebellion become almost mundane, with the reader becoming more of an accomplice than a bystander as a result of Burgess’s clever use of a constructed language which symbolises Alex’s rebellion. It is perhaps a remarkable irony that much of the inevitable backlash to this violent book was not as a result of its matter-of-fact depictions of rape and brutal violence, but as a result of its “objectionable language,” with this being the reasoning for its banning in numerous US high school libraries, demonstrating the great power of Burgess’s use of various types of language including, often thinly veiled, scatological language.
“Brave New World,” too, has, on numerous occasions, been banned and censored for its challenging of modern society. It is likely, though, that this negative reception from some corners of society has been seen by Huxley as validating his image of a society in which people are, “blankly uninterested in freedom of thought,” as he claims in his essay, “Brave New World Revisited”. Indeed, these attempts at censorship may make the book seem like an act of rebellion in itself, a key parallel between “Brave New World” and “A Clockwork Orange”.
Huxley, like Burgess, uses language to draw us into his dystopia and the rebellion of his protagonists, albeit in a more subtle way. The opening of the book throws the reader straight into the heart of the monotonous drudgery of the World State where even living things are described in a lifeless light, most notably, in the second paragraph of the novel with the metaphor, “some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh,” being used to describe scientists in a laboratory. Language is used consistently throughout this opening phase of the book to create a barren, miserable image of the World State and is perhaps best summed up by a phrase used by Huxley, “Wintriness responded to wintriness.” This drab, dystopian vision has been set up deliberately and carefully by Huxley’s language and imagery for a rebellious figure to challenge and come into conflict with.
Despite this, Bernard Marx, the first and most obviously rebellious character in “Brave New World” is not nearly as overt or shocking in his rebellion as Burgess’s protagonist, Alex. This is strange considering “Brave New World’s” vision of the future seems far worse than that of “A Clockwork Orange”, with far greater state interference in the personal lives of citizens and a far more entrenched, systematic method of repression. Perhaps, Huxley’s vision of rebellion in a dystopian future is fuelled more by the personal insecurities of its citizens than any sort of challenging of the system. Indeed, Bernard seems constantly aware of his difference in a world full of people who are the same. At the start of Chapter 2 it is said that he, “drew a deep breath and squared his shoulders, bracing himself to meet the dislike and disapproval which he was certain of finding within.” This is one of many places in the book where Bernard’s miserable nature and constant self-criticism seem to affect the way he interacts with the world around him. In “Brave New World Revisited,” Huxley notes that intellectuals’, “critical habit of mind makes them resistant to the kind of propaganda that works so well on the majority,” supporting the idea that Bernard’s status as an intellectual “Alpha” may have allowed him to see through the World State’s propaganda to a certain extent. On the other hand, Alex’s rebellion seems to be fuelled by a far less introspective nature and instead more external, sensory led thinking. Indeed, he is far more likely to talk about his search for the, “in-out in-out,” than reflect on his own strengths and considerable weaknesses as a person. Conversely, Bernard is largely seen to be against the sexual promiscuity of the World State and driven by his own internal desire for a stable, monogamous relationship with Lenina. It is completely clear, therefore, that though Bernard and Alex are both rebellious protagonists in a dystopian world, they rebel in completely different ways and for completely different reasons.
Furthermore, the submission of these characters is also notably different. Whilst Bernard Marx is simply removed from society, Alex is allowed to continue to exist within the society which he committed his crimes but only after undergoing the terrifying Ludovico Technique, designed to force him to conform to the behaviour of society around him. However, whilst Alex takes his brutal punishment still fighting, shouting, “turn it off, you grahzny bastards,” Bernard’s far lesser punishment sees him sink into a fit of despair, grovelling as, “the tears began to flow,” and his emotional state became a, “paroxysm of abjection.” We can see that the authors of these books have symbolised the notion of submission in their protagonists in as diverse a way as they have symbolised their rebellion, through the contrasting of Bernard’s pathetic whining with Alex’s, futile yet implacable, resistance. Indeed, even within the scene of “Brave New World” in which Bernard collapses with the distress of being banished to an island we see Helmholtz Watson excited at the idea of being banished as it will allow him to get on with his writing. This difference in the reactions of the two characters shows perhaps the single greatest example of human diversity in the book. In a world of homogeneous people where everyone responds to challenges in the same way – by taking Soma – Helmholtz’s resilience and Bernard’s despair display refreshing glimpses of natural human emotion and are, therefore, acts of rebellion in themselves.
This, ultimately, is the enduring image of “Brave New World” with adversity and submission creating an almost bittersweet effect on the reader. Whilst Helmholtz and Bernard will never be able to go back to their former lives, the audience has seen that through their rebellion, and inevitable submission to the all-powerful World State, they have gained a new freedom from a society of vacuous consumerism and mind-numbing drugs, to a more open, if less comfortable, world. The most devastating submission in the book is that of John, who unable to reconcile his conservative upbringing and desire for solitude with the enforced promiscuity and overbearing nature of the World State, commits suicide. However, it is not the World State itself which forces him to this point, but its citizens who harass and cajole him into complete despair. This is interesting and clearly contrasts with “A Clockwork Orange” in which the state crushes Alex, in a deliberate manner, so calculated that it has its own name: the “Ludovico Technique”. Infact, it is likely that Burgess purposely gave this its own name as a way of highlighting the way in which the State treats its citizens like an experiment and perhaps chose the name “Ludovico” as an oblique reference to Alex’s favourite composer Ludwig van Beethoven, in an attempt to link a futuristic story to the real world. However, it’s unclear whether the actions of the state in “A Clockwork Orange” are really those of a dystopian dictatorship. Is it really wrong to remove the free will of criminals in order to protect other, law-abiding citizens?
This leads us neatly to the strange paradox thrown up by both “A Clockwork Orange” and “Brave New World”. Whilst it is easy to say that those who rebel in both books are morally just in their rebellion against an oppressive state or at the very least that they are products of the state they live in, it is also easy to argue that their submission is actually not that terrible. After all, Mustapha Mond notes that Helmholtz and Bernard’s, “punishment is really a reward,” allowing them to live with other freethinkers and although Alex’s punishment leaves him a broken man, it also protects everyone around him, with Anthony Burgess noting in 1987 that the book, “was a sort of Christian allegory of free will,” and that its reviews were, “mostly facetious and uncomprehending.” For all the differences in the ways language, structure and various literary techniques are used to symbolise notions of rebellion and submission in these two books, their core ethical question remains the same: is submission to the state always, universally, unequivocally a bad thing?
*Word count without bibliography – 2091
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess (1962)
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (1932)
Brave New World Revisited – Aldous Huxley (1958)
The strange way in which time progresses and manipulates the inhabitants of Macondo is a key element of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s classic novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. Time is used not only to show changes within and around the Buendia family but to demonstrate the strange nature of the magical realist world which Marquez has created. The, often unsubtle, temporal distortion seen throughout the novel also helps to give the book a very clear sense of being within the style of postmodernism.
This demonstration of the magical realist genre is one of the most notable ways in which Marquez presents time in the novel. The clearest example of Marquez’s time based tricks comes in the form of Úrsula who lives to an unbelievably old age. With this small use of magical realism, Marquez is able to stitch together a story which takes place over an unusually long period of time and give it a single common thread: Úrsula Iguarán. Indeed, when Úrsula eventually dies it could be seen by the reader as a foreshadowing of Macondo’s impending doom.
This inference is bolstered by the fact that Macondo’s eventual destruction has been predicted from the very start of the book, unbeknownst to the reader. Melquiadez’s parchments, which are decoded by Aureliano Babilonia, make it clear that time is not occurring in a conventional linear manner within Macondo but is unfolding in a much more complicated way. This fact is suggested beautifully by Marquez with imagery describing Macondo as a, “city of mirrors.” This metaphor implies that time in Macondo may repeat itself and certainly does not unravel in the usual linear manner. Indeed, this may also represent the introspective nature of the Buendia family. Marquez’s use of the phrase, “city of mirrors” may be deliberately ambiguous, referencing either the repetitive nature of time in Macondo, the introspective nature its inhabitants or perhaps most likely, both. The author goes even further in this ambiguity in the final lines of the book as Aureliano Babilonia finally unravels Melquiades’s prophecy. The confusing style and unclear meaning of the language in these parchments emphasises the confused nature of time in Macondo and links to the fact that as the reader is finding out, time in Macondo is happening in a single moment, not unravelling chronologically.
However, Marquez has suggested this throughout the book, most notably through the Buendia family itself. The fact that the names of the members of the Buendia family have been picked from a very small list, often makes the book confusing, but this has been done deliberately by the author to suggest that time is repeating itself. The fact that all of the Aurelianos are introverted and intense and all of the Jose Arcadios are extroverts and physically imposing, suggests that the future is not a forward movement but spiralling back towards the past. Even the fact that when Jose Arcadio Segundo begins to become quiet and withdrawn, and his twin brother Aureliano Segundo becomes physically large and a hedonist, the rest of the Buendias suggest that they may have been switched at birth, suggests that other characters in the book have noticed the repetitions within the family.
On a smaller scale we can see this repetition over time in the form of Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s metal fish. At first the Colonel makes these fish to sell them on, but as he gets older he begins not to sell these fish but melt them down at the end of each day, only to create them again from scratch the next morning. This could easily be seen as an allegory for the way in which the same few names and traits seem to be endlessly recycled within the Buendia family. Cleverly, Marquez uses the basket of the Colonel’s fish as a microcosm of the Buendia family and even goes as far as to list out the repetitive way in which their creator spends his days making them. As the literary critic Mark Frisch notes, the Colonel only manages to find a “modicum of accommodation with this solitude,” through a repetitious lifestyle and says that on the day he breaks his repetitions and dies the Colonel, “is plagued by uncertainty and ambiguity once again”. This suggests that although the repetition of time in Macondo may be seen as imprisoning its inhabitants, it may also help them by providing a sense of security in its familiarity.
This view is, however, undermined by the final line of the book, “races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.” The use of the word, “condemned” suggests that the inhabitants of Macondo are imprisoned by time and the solitude that they spend their time on Earth in, and not, as Frisch suggests, comforted by its repetition. Of course, it could also be considered that this is yet another binary in the book, with the contradiction between the embracing of Macondo’s strange timeline and the feeling of being imprisoned by it, an ambiguity created deliberately by Marquez, a writer who has created deliberate points of confusion for the reader throughout the book.
One of the most notable examples of Marquez’s misdirection comes near the start of the book when he says that, “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” The fact that this suggests the boy, known only as Aureliano Buendia at this stage in the book, will become a colonel and will be shot by a firing squad is a clever, and misleading, implication. Whilst he does become a colonel, Aureliano is rescued before being shot by the firing squad. This is a clever use of the omniscient nature of Marquez’s third-person narration which allows him to skip across the entire timeline of Macondo and even give deliberately misleading suggestions about events which are to come in the book. This unusual and jumbled use of time is an important way in which Gabriel Garcia Marquez makes his book richer and gives it a more fragmented, postmodern style. It is clear, therefore, that time is not used purely in “One Hundred Years of Solitude” as a plot feature, but is also used to give the book its unusual structure.
However, Marquez is not afraid to be far less subtle in demonstrating the circular nature of time. On at least two occasions in the book Úrsula is shown to notice the way time repeats itself in Macondo, saying in an exasperated manner, “it’s as if time had turned around and we were back at the beginning,” and later, in reference to the railroad that is soon to be developed by Aureliano Triste, is said to have, “confirmed her impression that time was going in a circle”. This use of exposition by Gabriel Garcia Marquez leaves the reader in no doubt that time is behaving in an unusual way in the town. In this way, Úrsula is used by the author as an audience surrogate, slowly beginning to notice the peculiarity of Macondo’s timeline throughout the book, in parallel to the reader. Yet even when Marquez is using less subtle forms of narrative, he still maintains a subtle use of imagery, referring to time as a, “circle” in the latter quote and describing it almost as a journey in physical space in the former. In this way, Marquez is able to use exposition in a less obvious way, maintaining the flow and style of the narrative whilst delivering key points to the reader, something which is particularly important in a story as deliberately confusing as “One Hundred Years of Solitude”.
We can see, therefore, that time has a hugely important role in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel. Time is used both as a plot feature and a literary device, with temporal distortion rooting the book in a specific genre and style: postmodernism. Without the focus on this theme “One Hundred Years Of Solitude” would be missing a key element of what makes it a classic piece of 20th century literature. Indeed, the universal and easily identifiable theme of time is much of what gives the book its importance as a piece of literature, separating it from many other, less notable, books outside the literary canon.
“You Might Be Able To Get There From Here: Reconsidering Borges and the Postmodern”, Mark F. Frisch, 2004, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press
To What Extent do One Hundred Years of Solitude and Utopia represent different ideas about the structure of society?
I think this is a fine start – however I would like you to be more specific with the term ‘different ideas’.
Having finished reading “One Hundred Years Of Solitude” it is now fairly easy to see the Marxist interpretations that there could be of the novel.
However, on perhaps the most basic level, it could be argued that One Hundred Years of Solitude is not a Marxist novel because it does not show the community sliding inexorably towards communism as Marx suggested. Infact, the town of Macondo collapses without having installed a communist system, suggesting that Marx’s idea that the world will eventually see the workers triumph over their bosses is incorrect.
On the other hand, it could be argued that when the town is eventually wiped out by a huge gust of wind, it represents the way in which communism will wipe away the old system of capitalism according to Marxist theory. If this is the case, then Melquíades who prophesised not only the destruction of the town but the many generations of the Buendía family that would eventually lead to the town’s doom, may be viewed as a Karl Marx-like figure under this interpretation.
A strong opposing argument would be the fact that time seems to repeat itself in the book. Indeed, during the course of the book Ursula notes that, “time was not passing…it was turning in a circle.” This suggests that Macondo is not progressing towards becoming a more egalitarian society. Instead the mistakes of the past are being repeated. Although, Marx famously said that history repeats itself, “first as tragedy, then as farce,” it can be argued that this was a fairly flippant remark with the aim of belittling Napoleon I and his nephew Napoleon III, as it seems to be fairly contradictory to much of his other writings.
The personal journey of Aureliano Segundo is in many ways a microcosm of Marxist theory. He goes from being a complete hedonist who buys champagne to fill swimming pools and use bank notes to wallpaper houses, to a dying man desperately selling raffle tickets in order to pay for his daughter’s education. When he realises that he is dying of throat cancer it becomes clear to him that he must do whatever he can to help those around him. Firstly, he works with his concubine in order to raise money to keep his wife happy, but this is not done selfishly, because he feels that he needs to do so in order to continue with arrangements that suit him, but because he genuinely feels sorry for her. The book details how at times he would have only bread and water to eat and drink in order to save money to give to Fernanda, his wife. Secondly, he makes money by selling raffle tickets to help fund his daughter’s education, even when others in the town mock him for his desperation. This is perhaps the clearest demonstration of Marx’s principle of, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” anywhere in the book.
In addition to this, the fight of Colonel Aureliano Buendía displays the fight against the Church in a manner that Louis Althuisser would have been proud of. Althuisser viewed the religion as an ideological state apparatus and it appears that Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s Liberal Party agree. This is also a clear demonstration of ordinary people rising up to fight against those in control, in this case the Conservative Party.
The workers’ uprising led by Jose Arcadio Segundo and the subsequnet massacre that occurs also demonstrates Marxist theory. Firstly, the idea of workers rising up to tackle their bosses over poor wages and conditions is fairly central to Marxist theory. Secondly, the idea that the establishment will be prepared to use repressive state apparatuses (RSAs) in order to suppress expressions of this discontent, is clearly displayed here. Thirdly, this shows the Marxist idea that firms will put profits before people. Finally, it is worth noting that Benito Mussolini, a fascist dictator himself, is often quoted as having said that, “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.” This section of the book clearly displays an unhealthy fusion of the state and business as striking workers are gunned down by state soldiers and official government agencies work to cover the massacre up. Since Marxism is the ideological polar opposite of fascism, it can be argued very strongly that the fight of Jose Arcadio Segundo contains Marxist themes.
The fact Gabriel Garcia Marquez holds socialist view himself suggests that many of the left wing interpretations in the novel may be reasonable to make. However, it is hugely important to be cautious when analysing the book, as the author has claimed that, “Most critics don’t realise that a novel like One Hundred Years Of Solitude is a bit of a joke, full of signals to close friends; and so, with some pre-ordained right to pontificate they take on the responsibility of decoding the book and risk making terrible fools of themselves.”
“The secret of a good old age is simply an honourable pact with solitude.”
This is a fascinating book written in the style of “magic realism” that Gabriel García Marquez helped to popularize. This means the book is essentially a piece of realist fiction with small, intriguing magical elements. For example, one of the story’s central characters, Rebeca, remains alive after staying in a house without having been seen for half a century. How could she possibly have survived without going out for food? It is unclear, yet this mystery makes the story all the more intriguing, drawing the reader into the tale of the mysterious town of Macondo.
Another bizarre mystery of the story is how when another central character, Jose Arcadio, is shot dead his blood runs all the way from his house, down streets and round corners, to the house of his grandmother. The description of this tragedy beautifully incorporates elements of realism by discussing the many everyday scenes this trail of blood passes. For example, the blood, “went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta’s chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went out through the pantry and came out in the kitchen where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.” This juxtaposition of the everyday and the magical is perhaps the most striking example of the “magic realist” style in the entire book.
Elsewhere, Gabriel García Marquez’s description of the war is genuinely moving, as two characters the readers have known from childhood become monstrous and cold, having seen, and participated in, the horrors of war. However, the most moving moments of the book come from the central character of the first half of the novel, Jose Arcadio Buendia. Having founded the town of Macondo, he becomes obsessed with new inventions and eventually loses his mind. The final descriptions of this man, that the book’s audience have genuinely formed a connection with in only a hundred pages, is deeply moving, with the forlorn image of this once happy man tied to a tree, being “soaking wet and sad in the rain,” and unable to communicate with the world providing a sombre note with which to end the first half of the novel.
For me, it is this ability that Gabriel García Marquez has to fuse personal tragedy with magical elements and real life events such as the Colombian war between the liberals and conservatives, that makes “One Hundred Years of Solitude” such a good book.
I have just started reading “Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick, a classic of the sci-fi genre. Despite not being far into the book, there has already been a car crash, a kidnapping and the raising of colossal philosophical questions about the nature and importance of each individual human being’s free will – so, all in all, not a bad start!
What’s struck me most about the early part of the book has been the gap between the film version and the original Philip K. Dick story. Indeed, the very first lines of the book are about how Anderton is, “getting bald. Bald and fat and old.” I found this surprising, which was understandable, given that Tom Cruise played Anderton in the 2002 Steven Spielberg film based on the book. It appears, therefore, that the film was very loosely based on the original story, written in 1956. Actually, I’m quite pleased that I’ve already seen the Spielberg interpretation of the story as it has added an extra level of intrigue to my reading of this book. I wonder if the ending of the film, which was largely positive for the main characters, had been given the same Hollywood makeover as Anderton, the fat, balding, 50-something who ended up being portrayed by Tom Cruise.
Perhaps the ending has been sugar coated, perhaps it hasn’t. Either way, from the opening pages of the book, it seems its going to be fun finding out!
Hello and welcome to your personal online journal.
Edutronic has been created to enhance and enrich your learning at the London Nautical School. Its purpose is to provide you with an audience for your work (or work-in-progress) and you have the choice (by altering the ‘visibility’ of your posts) of whether your work on here is visible to the world, or only to your teacher.
Anything you post here in the public domain represents you and thus it’s important that you take care with that decision, but don’t be afraid to publish your work – as the feedback you may get from people at home, your peers and people from around the internet is only likely to enhance it.
Remember you can always access your class blog and all manner of resources through the Edutronic.net main website – and by all means check out the sites of your peers to see what they’re getting up to as well.
If you have any questions for me, an excellent way to get an answer is to create a new private post on this journal. I am notified of any new posts and will reply swiftly to any queries.
Make the most of, and enjoy this new freedom in your English learning.