Until They Become Conscious They Will Never Rebel: Dystopia Intro and Notes


Commissar Nikolai Yezhov with Stalin

George Orwell’s 1984 is, I would claim, THE seminal work of dystopia.   Ever hear of the phrase “big brother”?  How about thoughtcrime, or doublethink?  –All from 1984.  You know how we can’t do anything these days without someone recording it or putting it on social media?  You know all that data mining Wikileaks exposed?  Orwell called it.  Ever hear of a government falsifying reports and sugarcoating history?  Orwell called it: “Who controls the present controls the past; who controls the past controls the future” (Orwell, 1984)


Hey, where’d he go? #unperson

Or how about the fact that nations are always at war and always talking about another war, meanwhile the masses become xenophobic towards those peoples?  Orwell called that too.   What if we speak out?  Exiled.  Brainwashed.  Vaporized.  #Stalin

Beyond all the political commentary, however, there’s a great story in it too — love, sex, friendship, betrayal — truly one of the best books ever written.

The second option is Margaret Atwood’s dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale (which we were totally reading before it was cool, but now, thanks to Hulu, The Women’s March, and chauvinistic supreme court confirmation hearings, and more confirmations . . . it’s  super popular!) In The Handmaid’s Tale a totalitarian regime takes over America under the false guise of religion.  The problem: infertility.  The solution: a literal interpretation of the Rachel and Leah story in which potentially fertile females are employed as concubines, though termed handmaids.   There is a bit of a feminist edge, though Atwood does not embrace that term as it means so many different things to so many different people and can muddy the waters.  Instead, Atwood chooses to focus on the fact that she based everything in The Handmaid’s Tale on actual events in history . . .  and much of it has also happened since The Handmaid’s Tale’s original publication in 1986.

Click through the break for handouts, notes, and more . . .
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