What books about a future mind-control totalitarian state are there besides 1984?
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Of the many novels that resemble George Orwell’s 1984 (such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange), one book that seems especially similar is Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury’s novel resembles Orwell’s in a number of ways, including the following:
- Each novel features a central character who suffers as a result of his efforts to oppose the tyranny of his society. In 1984, the protagonist is Winston Smith. In Fahrenheit 451, it is Guy Montag.
- In both novels, there is an emphasis on destroying anything (especially reading material) that might allow citizens to have access to accurate history and past culture.
- The protagonists of both books find “soul mates” in young women who either share or help foster the protagonists’ dissident values.
- The protagonists of both books live, to a certain degree, in a state of fear and anxiety.
- Both protagonists must operate in great secrecy lest their dissident ideas be discovered.
- In both books, the totalitarian regimes try to make everyone as uniform as possible. Individuality is by no means encouraged.
- In both books, war or the threat of war is a constant theme.
- Both protagonists would like to overthrow the present system.
- Both protagonists find some peace in the countryside.
- In both books, the regimes have developed seemingly inescapable ways of manipulating public opinion.
- In both books, sexual intimacy is distrusted by the regimes in power because it can be seen as the expression of individuality.
- In both books, television plays a major role in controlling the population. Thus, in 1984 Orwell describes the “telescreens” that prevent privacy:
. . . a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.
In Bradbury’s book, televisions have grown hugely in size, as can be seen in the reference to “the fourwall televisor.” Montag’s wife is addicted to her television shows.
However, significant differences also exist between the two works. Such differences include the following:
- At the opening of 1984, Smith is unmarried and has no romantic relationship. At the opening of Bradbury’s novel, Montag is already married, but his marriage is anything but fulfilling.
- Orwell’s novel ends in bleak pessimism, but Bradbury’s book ends on a note of hope.
- Many of the people in 1984 live in gruesome poverty, whereas creature comforts are common in Fahrenheit 451 and help suppress dissent.
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