Wednesday, January 11, 2006

we, the lunatics, and the two Smiths

I would like to briefly comment on the dystopia presented in Orwell's 1984 and its relationship to Heinlein's utopia from Stranger in a Strange Land. Winston Smith's world -- the world of 1984 -- is a world where the Party has determined how man should live his or her life. In this cold and lonesome world, man has been taught to suppress his or her emotions/instincts/desires, cast doubt on their senses, and love their patron -- Big Brother. Characteristic of this dystopia is the mechanical progression of every man's daily life; the irrational and unpredictable elements of modern human life have deemed as crimes. It is important to note that the world of 1984, as presented in the first half of the book, is the dystopia while the hypothetical world of hope and freedom that exists in Winston's mind is the utopia. Orwell presents a world where many people are aware of some shadow lurking in the background -- something wrong with the current way of life -- but they are simply too weak to do anything about it on their own.

The world of Michael Valentine Smith -- the Man from Mars -- is so magical that is transcends the word utopia. By introducing elements from science fiction, Heilnein carefully presents the reader with a world of unfettered emotion, a world introduced to humanity by the man from Mars. In Stranger from a Strange Land, the utopian state is induced by Smith's way of life and embodied by the inhabitants of the Nest (read the book to find out more about this). This utopia (by introducing elements from fiction, Heinlein makes this an extravagantly exaggerated utopia) can be compared to the human way of life the way it was before Michael Valentine Smith arrived. All that is prohibited in the world of Big Brother is encouraged in the world of Michael Valentine Smith. By presenting such a utopian way of life, perhaps Heinlein wanted us to focus on the world the way it was before it was touched by Michael Valentine Smith. Although Heinlein portrays the future as very similar to the modern world as of 2006, it nevertheless portrays it as a sort of dystopia. The big difference between the world of Stranger in a Strange Land (before the Man from Mars came) and the world of 1984 is that Oceania's denizens are somewhat aware of their predicament while the citizens of Heinlein's world only become aware of their situation after their savior comes.

Just how different is the world of 2006 compared to the world of 1984? Does one have to be aware of their predicament for the predicament to truly exist?