Due to the political mindset of the United States around the 1950’s, dystopian novels have erupted in popularity.
Two of the couple dystopian novels to have become famous were George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, classic examples of the genre. Although there is a display of contrasting ideas that make each intriguing novel stand out, they still have much in common, especially due to the time they were published. The characteristics of a dystopian novel are shown through the society that the people lived in, especially from the state that the U.S in the 1950’s were in, but at a more drastic level.
The two main characters from these novels discover major problems in their societies and try to fix them. Orwell and Bradbury apprise against utopia through the portrayal of their protagonist as being a part of a society in which the individual is non-existent, comes into contact with influences that cause their rebellions, and eventually come into contact with some upper hand of the government. Therefore, Winston and Montag’s character development demonstrate the many similarities and differences between the two dystopian novels in the way they live their meaningless, government controlled life, the pleasure they receive from carrying out their job, their unsuccessful marriage to meeting a life changing woman, and their rebellion that leads them to their ultimate change as a character. The unsettling environment gave way to the main concern of the protagonists brought up in 1984 and Fahrenheit 451; government efforts to shape the day-to-day lives of citizens in order to fit their hidden political agendas. This theme is a significant similarity that the two novels share, where the main characters lead meaningless lives under complete control and constant restriction. In 1984, George Orwell creates a disturbing dystopian future that Winston Smith, unfortunately, lives in. A technology advanced society where the province of Airstrip One is governed by a political party known as INGSOC.
In this future, independent thought is seen as a severe criminal offense. Citizens who willingly partake in this form of individualism are persecuted for being guilty of committing illegal thoughts, infamously known as thoughtcrime. This is supposedly carried out and justified to be in the name of the ‘greater good’ of the people. The notorious quote, “Big Brother is watching you” (Orwell 3), is a constant warning that appears on posters throughout Oceania.
Big Brother is used to represent an all knowing authoritative ruler that invades the privacy of its citizens in order to eradicate individuality completely. “Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was later, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing” (Orwell 6).
The simplest of movements and emotions are prohibited, essentially meaning there is no way to express oneself. Under these exact circumstances that Winston lives in, life is completely meaningless and bland. Tactics of fear and intimidation are inflicted on the citizens of Oceania. Telescreens and other forms of technology limit what an individual can do in their own home and individuals cannot express individuality at all. With this, Winston is more than unhappy and struggles to live in this society.