Theme Study on Critical Science-Fiction

Theme Study on Critical (Science)-Fiction


The topic of my special topic is Critical (Science) Fiction, science in brackets, because only 1984 and Brave New World have scientifical fiction in them. I have read Animal Farm and 1984, both by George Orwell and in addition to these two books I have read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. 1984 and Brave New World are Science Fiction books, Slaughterhouse Five is a mixture between war and science-fiction and Animal Farm is fiction. The five questions which I am going to answer are as follows:

-        What do Brave New World and 1984 have in common?

-        How do critics differ in each book?

-        What makes Slaughterhouse Five different?

-        By what were the books inspired?

-        Is it worth reading these books?

Animal Farm:

Animal Farm is a book about a farm somewhere in England, where the Animals have taken over the control. They want to build up a new, a better society where all animals are equal, because before the Animal revolution they were treated were badly. They set up this new society, but after some time they are not equal anymore. Some animals, especially the pigs are better than the others. Napoleon the leader of the pigs, after he has thrown out Snowball, gives the pigs more and more privileges and the pigs become human-like, sleep in the human beds, eat human food, but not to become human was one fundamental law at the beginning, where the animals set up the society.


Nineteen-eightyfour plays in the same year, so it is an outlook on society in the future, because it was written in the 30ties. In 1984 society has changed. There are only three superpowers anymore, Oceania, Eurasia and East Asia. These powers are in constant war with each other. Either it is Oceania against Eurasia or Oceania and East Asia against Eurasia and so on. One party dominates Oceania and Big Brother is the head of the party. There are three social classes, the inner party members, the outer party members and the proles. The protagonist Winston Smith is outer party member, has a normal life but is discontent with the party, because his life is controlled by it. So he adopts revolutionist ideas by a traitor called Goldstein. He then falls in love with a girl called Julia and they meet sometime to have sex and talk about Goldsteins ideas. In the end they are caught by the thought police, because they have comitted thought crime. They are tortured and in the end they are killed.

Brave New World:

Brave New World is another Science Fiction book. In this book we have a civilisation far in the future. This civilisation has several classes, the Alphas, the Betas, the Gammas, the Deltas and the Epsilons. In each of these classes there is an internal ranking too, for example Alpha double plus or Beta Minus. The people are not born by parents anymore, but they are breed and conditioned, it is also determined before which class you are going to be in. This means that conditioning is different with every class. These social classes have different jobs, the Alphas are the rulers and intellectuals and as further down you are in the class system the worst is your job and life. The classes are all dressed with one color, so the Deltas all wear khaki for example. Bernhard Marx is an Alpha plus working in a conditioning centre in London.  One day he decides to pass his vacations in a reservations for savages, which are people that are "uncivilzed", that means they live like we live nowadays. There he meets Linda and John two former civilized, but expelled people. He brings them back to civilisation and Linda soon dies of an overdose of soma, a modern drug designed to keep people happy. John is alone in this unknown world and he does not feel very well. He cannot cope with the world, where people have sexual intercourse whenever they want and with other partners everyday. He finds a tower for him where he then lives like an eremit. Bernhard Marx is sent to the Falkland Islands, because he brought back the savage.

Slaughterhouse Five:

Slaughterhouse Five is a novel about a war participant in the Second World War. The special thing about Billy Pilgrim is, that he jumps in time from one place to another. One time he is in Dresden, where he survived the fire bombing, one time he is in Illium, a town where he works as an optometrist and one time he is on Tralfamadore, a planet far away from Earth where he is kept in a Zoo by the Tralfamadorians. Pilgrim tells the story where he gets caught by the Germans and where he is brought to Dresden for imprisonment, but Pilgrim also tells us his whole life story, where there is actually no beginning and no end, because he can jump from time to time. The main theme is the war story, a second one is his family life and his life on Tralfamadore.

What do the books have in commmon?


These books are all Fiction books, that have a common theme, told in other stories. This theme is the critizism on society, like in Animal Farm and Slaughterhouse Five and a critical future outlook on civilisations. Eventough 1984 has passed and all these things described in the book did not happen, it was a horrorvision for the people at the time it was written and still if you read it you can fear the things to happen. Also with Brave New World, these things could once become true for all of us and even if visions in the book are good, because in Brave New World everybody is happy and there are no diseases anymore, there are certain things that are not desirable. In Animal Farm there is the criticism that society can never be equal, even animals cannot and in Slaughterhouse Five the criticism is about war. So all these books are based on the theme of a critical look at society in the past and in the future.

How do critics differ in each book?

Eventough all these books have the same theme, there is a difference on how the books criticise society. In 1984 we have the criticism on a society that is sureveilling each other and that does not trust anybody any more, a totalitarian society. People are not allowed to think different because this would be though crime then. Also there is the division trough different classes like the Proles and the Inner and Outer party members. There is an organisation that tries to throw the party of the throne, but this organisation is chased by the tought police, so there is no freedom of speech or even thinking anymore. children are taught to even betray their own parents if they commit thought crime and the whole country concentrates on waging a war. Also evidence of the past is erased or changed so that people cannot read about a world, different than theirs. If one tries to escape the system he is tortured until he believes in Big Brother again and then executed with no more thoughts than for Big Brother in mind.

In Brave New World we have another future outlook, the society there is not equal, there are different social classes, but everybody should be happy with his or her role in society and troughout the whole book there is no attempt of a revolt against the existing system. This is in some way not possible, because people receive soma and they are happy with it. The criticism is that the society is not equal and that you cannot get out of your predestined role. You are born into one caste and you will stay there until you die. This is like in India, where you also cannot or could not escape from your caste. Also the conditioning is a critical point, because people are really designed to fit into their role. Deltas are conditioned to not like certain things and so are Epsilons, but Alphas are conditioned to like everything, also Alphas can do everything they like, Betas maybe can do some things, but the lower castes are there for working and serving the communtiy, mainly the upper classes. One very interesting aspect of criticism in Brave New World is the sexual life of the people. The Alphas have different partners nearly every day, they see sex as pure fun and not for the thing of making babies. Love, between partners but as well as between Mother and child are not valuable anymore, because conditioning is the way how people are educated. Love has died out in this society, but everybody is happy, except for John Savage.

Animal Farm is quite similar to 1984, a system where the animals have sworn that they would be equal forever, but there are always some people that are more equal than others in this case it's the pigs that take over control of the farm, even if all animals work hard to establish a good system, the pigs are the only ones that profit from this system in the end. This is a criticism on humans as well, because it says that humanity can never be equal because some people will always abuse the hard working people.

Last but not least, Slaughterhouse Five. In this novel criticism is hidden, but you can filter it out. A city likle Dresden, where there was no war industry, was bombed to ruins with fire bombs. Dresden was the biggest massacre ever committed by human beings. This is the criticism, that an innocent city was detroyed because of a war waged by others that were secure. The leaders did not suffer from the bombardement they were safe in their bunkers, but the people suffered from the bombs and 135 000 people died because of an useless war. Also there is criticism concerning the Allied Nations, because as said before, the massacre was useless and there was no reason for this bombardement. The Allies did not talk about this massacre very often, they wanted to forget it, because it was one of the few things they were criticised for after the war.

What makes Slaughterhouse Five different?

Slaughterhouse Five is different to the other books, because it is an anti-war novel mixed with science-fiction. The protagonist Billy Pilgrim travels from time to time easily making the book jumpy with many different actions taking place. One time he is in World War II, then he jumps to his childhood and from there he jumps to the time of his wife's death. He can do this, because he was inspired by the Tralfamadorians. They kidnapped him and showed him, that time is relative and that all actions for them happen at the same time. They told him, that earthlings don't have the sense to realize this and so they live from minute to minute, but if he wanted to he could perform this time-jumping as well. So he did and he could see important moments of his life over and over again, even he knew in advance how he was going to die and he did not try to prevent it because he couldn't prevent it. This is a very interesting aspect in Slaughterhouse Five, that actually makes the book attractive. Another very interesting aspect of the book is the subtitle: "The Childrens Crusade", because the books is set in the last few months of World War II, where there were mostly children and old men responsible for the security in Germany, because the stronger and experienced men were needed to fight at the front. This was an aspect of the war, where very many people qafter the war disagreed with, because it was a big psychological problem for the young adults to receive a weapon and to go search for allies in Germany. It was also a big danger for them.

By what were the books inspired?

You can clearly see in the four books, by which they were inspired by.

First in 1984 the idea of communism is strong, due to the fact that everybody should theoretically be equal. This is not the case and the book criticises a totalitarian system, where one man rules, Big Brother, who sets up ridiculous rules for the humans, which they have to obey. This book was also somehow inspired by the fear of communism in Europe and the world at that time, because this book is a critical vision of the future where there is a communist-like state imagined and in communism everybody should be equal, but this cannot and never will be the case. This is the message coming through while reading the book, but also a critical look on a totalitarian system. This inspiration is clearly visible in Orwells life as well. His stint with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma introduced him to the shameful activities of the British in the Far East. For a few years after his return to Europe, he spent his time investigating the lives of the urban poor, emerging with a vague distrust of machine-age capitalist society. This bloomed into a firm adherence to Socialism in 1936, when Orwell was sent by his publisher to the industrial north of England, where he encountered for the first time 'ordinary working class people.'   The author's experiences in Spain engendered a lifelong horrified fixation on totalitarianism and a profound abhorrence for Stalinist Communism, both of which emerged in 1984.

Animal Farm also by George Orwell is a satire on the Russian Revolution and Marxism. The animals on the farm are not happy with their situation, because they are exploited by their leader, he beats them up and treats the very badly. Old Mayor, a very old an wise pig symbolizes the revolutionist ideas and leaders of that time. After his death and after the revolution other younger pigs take over, these are Snowball and Napoleon. They have new ideas, but they have to convince the other animals, which symbolize the russian peasants, to accept them and to accept the fact, that they are free from Mr. Jones(the Tsar) now. The animals are sceptical because they were fed by Mr. Jones. But somehow the pigs manage to persuade them and the revolution is done. After the revolution, the division between the classes becomes visible when the pigs exclude themselves from work. The struggle between Napoleon and Snowball can be seean as the fight over Russia by the Menschevists and the Bolschevists, the whites who are the more intellectual ones and the reds who are the economical and totalitarian ones. Like in reality the whiotes lose the struggle against the reds and Napoleon can establish a government that gives him all the privileges he wants. The pigs then change the rules and commandemts which forbade the animals to become like humans, the pigs do and establish a republic to cover their totalitarian regime. All this is very close to the Russian Revolution, where the idea of the revolution was strong before, but after carried out ore and more changed into a rule of the few.

  In Brave New World, Huxley contrives to exploit the anxieties of his bourgeois audience about both Soviet Communism and Fordist American capitalism. He taps into, and then feeds, our revulsion at Pavlovian-style behavioural conditioning and eugenics. Worse, it is suggested that the price of universal happiness will be the sacrifice of the most hallowed shibboleths of our culture: 'motherhood', 'home', 'family', 'freedom', even 'love'. The exchange yields an insipid happiness that's unworthy of the name. Its evocation arouses our unease and distaste.  In BNW, happiness derives from consuming mass-produced goods, sports such as Obstacle Golf and Centrifugual Bumble-puppy, promiscuous sex, 'the feelies', and most famously of all, a supposedly perfect pleasure-drug, soma.

Last but not least Slaughterhouse Five.
It  is  a  very  personal  novel  which  draws  upon
Vonnegut's  own experience  in World  War Two.  He was an advance
scout  with the  106th Infantry  Division, a  prisoner of war and
a witness to  the fire-bombing of Dresden  on 13th February 1945.
135,000 people died in the ruins  of Dresden, which means that it
was the greatest man-caused massacre  of all times (71,379 people
were killed by the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.)
      Vonnegut manages to  tell the reader many things  and it is
hard to  decide, what exactly  is the main  theme. It is  a novel
about  war, about  the cruelty  and violence  done in  war, about
people and their nature, their selfishness, about love, humanity,
regeneration, motion, and death. 
Is it worth reading these books?
As it was hard for me to find a fifth question and as I have covered all aspects of the books now, I want to give a short personal evaluation of the books.
It is definitely worth reading these books, because they all reveal a new aspect of society to you. While reading these books you are encouraged to think what went wrong with the society presented in the books. If this are the animals in Animal Farm, or the classes in Brave New World, you are always thinking about the books after you have read them. In addition to these thinking processes that you undergo while reading the books they are best entertainment as well, because the stories told are very alive and entertaining. Slaughterhouse Five is hard to read, but definitely worth reading. BNW, 1984 and Animal Farm are easy to read, entertaining, critical and not only for people who like (Science)-Fiction.
Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World
Orwell, George: 1984
Orwell, George: Animal Farm
Vonnegut, Kurt:Slaughterhouse Five or "The Childrens Crusade"

Haupt | Fügen Sie Referat | Kontakt | Impressum | Datenschutz

Neu artikel