There have been many fictional works written about Utopia and Dystopia – Here are a selection of the most well-known for the book-worms among you - What will the future bring we wonder?
Visions of Utopia…
Plato – The Republic (c. 380 BC)
Written sometime around 380 BC, ‘The Republic’ is one of the earliest Utopian pieces of literature. In the book, Plato sets out what he believes is an ideal City. Society is ruled over by Philosopher Kings – These are the most intelligent, moral and capable people. There is no longer any need for money and land is not owned by individuals but by the State.
Thomas More – Utopia (1516)
Set on a fictional island, the second section of Thomas More’s book ‘Utopia’ outlines what he believed would be the perfect society. There is only a 6 hour working day and people alternate between living in the city and in the countryside on 2 year cycles. There is no private property and no need for money – People just go to supply shops to pick-up whatever they feel is necessary.
H.G Wells – A Modern Utopia (1905)
Set in the not-too-distant future, in H.G Wells’ ‘A Modern Utopia’ national boundaries are no longer important. Apart from having to do a minimal amount of labour, people are free to decide when they want to work and to enjoy themselves when they wish. But in this utopian vision, criminals and deformed people are exiled from society and prevented from childbearing – a hint of dystopia within the dream world?
B.F Skinner – Walden Two (1948)
In B.F Skinner’s novel ‘Walden Two’, children are raised collectively and cooperation and sustainability are the cornerstones of society. Evils are avoided because people only take what they need, they have strong social relationships and satisfying work.
Aldous Huxley – Island (1962)
Less well-known than his dystopian novel ‘Brave New World’, in Aldous Huxley’s ‘Island’ a man named Will Farnaby is shipwrecked on a fictional Island called ‘Pala’. Pala is a paradise where technology is only used to improve medicine and drugs are only used to reach a state of enlightenment.
Visions of Dystopia…
Well, we can’t just focus on Utopia when so many great works of literature have been set in nightmarish worlds can we…
Samuel Butler –Erewhon (1872)
The title to Butler’s book is an anagram of ‘Nowhere’. The story’s narrator discovers ‘Erewhon’ whilst travelling. At first everything appears quite normal – There is money, a monarchy, lawyers and prisons in Erewhon. But as he spends more time there, the narrator finds that the society has some very strange aspects too – For example, illness is punished and criminal behavior is praised.
Aldous Huxley – Brave New World (1932)
In his novel, ‘Brave New World’, Aldous Huxley offers a strong warning against excessive government control. In the novel, happiness is mainly a product of a pill people take called ‘soma’. Human beings are created in factories and divided into 5 social classes. The encouragement of promiscuous sex is a deliberate tactic used by the government to stop people from thinking freely about reality.
George Orwell – Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
Perhaps the most famous dystopian novel, ‘George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ is a nightmarish vision of the future. Set in the land of Oceana after a nuclear war, the story focuses on the character Winston Smith who works at the Ministry of Truth (or ‘Minitrue’). Big Brother watches over everything and people speak a strange form of English known as ‘Newspeak’. In Newspeak, to say something is the best is to say it is ‘doubleplusgood’ and to say that something is dark it say that it is ‘unlight’.
Margaret Attwood – The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
Set in a totalitarian future, Margaret Attwood’s novel is about Offred, a Handmaid. Her job it is to bear children to her employer Fred, or ‘The Commander’. In this dark dystopia, America has become a strict theocracy following fundamentalist philosophies and women are completely suppressed.
Got any other ideas? Post your favourite Utopian and Dytopian works of fiction in the comments box below! And include movies too!