Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Here we go...

I am cheap.

The reason that I avoid purchasing materials for my classroom is the same reason I avoid credit cards - I know how very, very easy it would be to continue past the point of sense. To a lesser extent, it is a matter of setting a challenge for myself - given these limits, what can I accomplish with what I do have?

I scavenge pens and pencils from the floor before leaving each day. I rifle discarded notebooks for usable paper. The computers in my room are hand-me-downs from the "real" computer labs.

But I have personally bought a classroom set of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World - even though it is not on our school's list of approved texts - in the hope that one day I will be able to teach it.


Dystopian stories in general raise questions which are central to those who are just about to take the first steps into society as adults: what are my responsibilities to other members of society? to myself? what are their responsibilities to me?

This tension between individuality and community shows up in many of the day-to-day choices we face. Who pays on a date? How do you say "no" gracefully? How much should you spend on a birthday present for a relative? Whose responsibility is it to do the dishes, and what happens if/when that person shirks?

[AN: As I read this to the Hunk for review, he is pouting. Hmmm. I wonder why. *impish grin*]

I am fortunate enough to be able to choose among classic and current works, such as 1984, Hunger Games, Fahrenheit 451, Uglies, and Anthem. But I strongly believe that Brave New World is the most important of these works because its society is internally maintained rather than externally controlled.

If people desire security and comfort, and choose to achieve it through submission and conformity, and someone comes along and somehow forces democracy upon them - are they truly free if freedom was not their choice?

[AN: Are these paragraphs too short? 'Real' essays seem to have longer ones.]

I am not entirely sure why this story enthralls me so much, but I think it's because of the conflict - the dissonance - between the subject matter and the tone. It explores a society in which everyone is safe and happy and (apparently) free, but right from the beginning, with the "squat gray building" the description is clearly negative.

In most dystopian texts, it's easy to spot the villains: they are greedy, power-hungry, selfish, even sadistic. But Brave New World has at its heart a society that grants its citizens peace, prosperity, and happiness, ruled by a leader who genuinely cares for his people - who in fact sacrificed his own personal happiness to ensure their well-being.

I love how topsy-turvy and inside-out it is, and that it's not that way just for the heck of it, but because (as a dystopia) it creates a frame to examine the real world - the culture we live in.

[AN: OMG. it's like... it's like you're seeing things from the Joker's perspective. The protagonists, you see, are going to FIX things. Because this perfect, happy world is all wrong. Never mind that people like living this way - it is WRONG and must be FIXED. And if there's a bit of mayhem amid the fixin, well, them's the breaks.]

[AN: Ok, my brain is, I think, starting to leak out my ears. Need to wrap up my ideas here. Another part of what I like is how the topsy-turvy-ness makes it a great way to look at craft. What does the author do to make us see the World State as eeevil? How much of it is the resonance with our own culture and how much is negative description? and how does he DO that negative description and still somehow keep it under the radar? It's just so subtle and intricate and BRILLIANT!]

[WHEW. Gonna hafta revisit this. I have GOT to stop. :P Later all!]

[PS: Title? Do I need one? Ugh.]


Liz said...

Do you need a title? No. As long as you're writing again you can be title-less and nobody will mind. Who knows, maybe one will come to you later.

I still disagree with you on BNW being better than 1984. I read a line recently (within the past month) that said "If you keep hearing the same lies over and over eventually you'll agree with them not out of logic, but out of fatigue."

I get your point on the medicating aspect of BNW, but... eh, nevermind. You win. Fatigue sets in again.

(I read 451 last month... no, over Thanksgiving... not as impressed with it as I had been the first time or so.)

Are your paragraphs too short? 'Real' essays? Sheesh Clix, get a grip. Who cares about 'real' essays anyway. Yours have voice and an unpretentious audience that's ok with short paragraphs as long as you're ok with misspellings in the responses.

Clix said...

Well, no, I guess I don't NEED a title. But I'd be interested in one. Haven't thought of it and am open to ideas. :)

In WHAT way does belief-via-repetition align better with 1984 than with BNW? BNW has hypnopaedia - catchphrases that play while you sleep so they get embedded in your subconscious. So even MORE so than in 1984. BOOYAH!

What was my point about medicating? *rereads* Still don't see it.

And *I* care about making this a Real Essay. I'm hoping to have it published, after all. And I don't wanna let my ECN peepz down.

Also I need to fill out the form to do my WoW discussion this coming November in Chicago.

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