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Utopian literature through the time of World War II - Essay Example

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This research is being carried out to evaluate and present the utopian literature through World War II. Utopian literature is by and large characterized by the ideas of war and peace as much as capitalism and communism in juxtaposition…
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Utopian literature through the time of World War II
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Download file to see previous pages This research will begin with the definition of utopia, by the very sense of the word, is the fantasy of a non-existent society and it could not have crept into literature as far it did without the help of its pivotal device called ‘science fiction’, which, in the words of Darko Suvin, is characterized by ‘cognitive estrangement’. Understandably, the literature produced through the period of World War II and after was more dystopian in nature than utopian, considering the pessimism generated (by the events in the contemporary world) among intellectuals giving rise to the portrayal of degraded societies as in H. G. Wells’s “The Time Machine“. Often, the pessimism manifested in the title itself like Chad Walsh’s From Utopia to Nightmare (1962), “New Maps of Hell“ by Kingsley Amis and “The Future as Nightmare: H. G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians“ (1967) by Mark Hillegas. Utopian literature, its suggestive nature notwithstanding, is interesting only because it reflects mankind’s worst fears at a crucial point in history and not because it contains anything that has the potential to make the world a better place. The dystopian predictions of doom by a host of writers, from John Brunner to Margaret Atwood, never came true. It is worth recalling here, however, that Ray Bradbury’s apprehension (that television would kill books) in his 1953 iconographic work “Fahrenheit 451“, was not entirely misplaced....
It points out how knowledge can be harmful unless it is combined with wisdom by the example of a scientist who “studies the composition of atom from a disinterested desire for knowledge and incidentally places it in the hands of powerful lunatics” (Yardi 103). Interestingly, Lost Horizon written by James Hilton in 1933 prophesies a devastating war that engulfs most parts of the world in less than a decade. In the classic, Hilton envisions a utopian civilization with Oriental character in a remote monastery, Shangri-La, in the Himalayas where wonderful people live. The faith of the Shangri-La monks is a combination of the features of Christianity and Buddhism, the motto being ‘everything in moderation’: the rule is moderately strict, only moderate obedience is expected and people are moderately sober, moderately chaste and moderately honest. The book, for most part, is a deep meditation on noble ideas like pacifism and philosophy, instead of being a mere adventure story. Shangri-La people teach us that exhaustion of passions is the key to the beginning of wisdom and that the most impossible things in life become possible if we believe in them. Nevil Shute’s On the Beach (1957) portrays a massive nuclear war and the resulting radioactive dust marking the end of the world. Another post-apocalyptic masterpiece The Day of the Triffids (1951) by John Wyndham, with its ever-present threat of walking plants and blinding comets, is more like a horror novel than mere science fiction. Without any mention of nuclear warfare, this book still deserves to be labeled apocalyptic for its story is centered on rebuilding the society after a devastating ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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