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Impossibility Of Utopia


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  • Who determines what perfection is? Must everyone have the same opinion in order for there to be perfection? Basis for my presentation Human condition  differences of opinions  conflict  foreign to utopian society
  • In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, both authors employ the use of foil characters, motifs, and character name significance in order to convey their idea that the human condition acts as an impediment to the creation of any utopian society.
  • Hester: utopia cannot exist with outcasts  does not correspond with the notion of equality - lead a life of shame and rejection  “out of the ordinary relations with humanity and enclos[ed] her in a sphere by herself” (61) - most accepting and generous person  “more saintlike, because of the result of martyrdom” (84) “Hester bestowed all her superfluous means in charity…an idea of penance in this mode of occupation” (87) Dimmesdale: utopia cannot exist with reputations based on dishonesty and deceit - society considered him holy: “little less than a heavenly-ordained apostle” (119) - considered himself a liar: “a pollution and a lie” (140) - most everyone hides darker secrets - ex. Roger Chillingsworth and Mistress Hibbins: “There are none in this land that know me. Breathe not, to any human soul, that thou didst ever call me husband!” (80) “few things hidden from the man who devotes himself earnestly and unreservedly to the solution of a mystery.” (79) “ Mistress Hibbins, Governor Bellingham’s bitter-tempered sister, and the same who, a few years later, was executed as a witch.” (116) Together: utopia cannot exist with sin (caused previous 2) - lives drastically worsened after they had sinned though their action was the result of the human emotion and instinct to love - defiance of Puritan society who deemed it dishonorable for two people of such contrasting positions to ever be together - similar to Adam and Eve  the Garden of Eden was their utopia until sin changed the whole nature of their existence
  • Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson: utopia cannot exist with social unrest Their differences  emphasized in such a controlled environment  somewhat isolated them from society  ridiculed or praised: “A mental excess had produced in Helmholtz Watson effects very similar to those which, in Bernard Marx, were the result of a physical defect.” (67) “The mockery made him feel like an outsider; and feeling an outsider he behaved like one, which increased the prejudice against him and intensified the contempt and hostility aroused by his physical defects.” (65) “That which had made Helmholtz so uncomfortably aware of being himself and all alone was too much ability. What the two men shared was the knowledge that they were individuals.” (67) Saw flaws in their society: quotes  began to question its order and purpose: “ ‘Do you ever feel,’ he asked, ‘as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out?’” (69) “ ‘I feel I could do something much more important. Yes, and more intense, more violent.’” (70) “ ‘I want to know what passion is…I want to feel something strongly.’ ‘When the individual feels, the community reels.’” (94) Caused social unrest: stirring up feelings of fear and uncertainty John the Savage: utopia cannot exist with outcasts  does not correspond with the notion of equality Only one with no psychological conditioning  had full range of his emotions and his individuality was not externally limited: “early conditioning can be made to modify and even run counter to natural impulses” (161) Was completely emotionally driven  allowed him to view the society differently Saw flaws in the society: “Well I’d rather be unhappy than have the sort of false lying happiness you were having here.” (179) Caused his suffering and suicide
  • - flaws of civilization, Boston’s “utopia”, and attractions of wilderness, forest around the town - Boston  governed by social constructs where “religion and law were almost identical…both were so thoroughly interfused” (57-58)  under human control and influence - Hester was exposed and punished and shunned in the town - Dimmesdale engaged in “practices more in accordance with the old, corrupted faith of Rome” (141) like scourging himself, fasting, and keeping vigils in the town - both were unhappy in Boston, both assumed alternate personalities in Boston  Dimmesdale more than Hester - the forest  portrayed as being haunted by the Black Man  of natural, unrefined authority  providing a location for truth and escape - Hester and Dimmesdale felt most content/comfortable, especially with each other, in the forest  “they felt themselves, at least, inhabitants of the same sphere” (181) - felt each other’s pain, realized each other’s situation in the forest  this is the truth that evades them within society, the town - illustrates the artificiality of Boston and its religiously and politically “correct” rules  not everyone benefits from this system
  • - eloquent, rich, flowing verses Shakespeare uses contrasts the direct, apathetic, systematic orders and propaganda of the World State - Shakespeare - provides examples of the human emotions that the World State tried to eliminate - expresses how John views the world, language he understands, what he relates to - in general, Shakespeare is open to interpretation - “ ‘one needs ridiculous, mad situations like that; one can’t write really well about anything else. Why was that old fellow such a marvelous propaganda technician? Because he had so many insane, excruciating things to get excited about. You’ve got to be hurt and upset; otherwise you can’t think of the really good, penetrating X-rayish phrases.’” (185) - World State - physiological conditioning  reduced range of emotion and limited individuality  all believed the same things - no individual interpretation allowed: “ ‘I wanted to do a bit of propaganda; I was trying to engineer them into feeling as I’d felt when I wrote the rhymes…They were about being alone.’ ‘Its flatly against their sleep-teaching. Remember, they’ve had at least a quarter of a million warnings against solitude.” (180-182) “ ‘What an outcry there was! The Principal had me up and threatened to hand me the immediate sack. I’m a marked man.’” (180) - how can utopia exist of you cannot recognize or appreciate it? How can you recognize the flaws in your society?
  • Dimmesdale: “dimness”  his cloudy, gloomy, vague perception and judgment, indecision and almost cowardice, unwillingness: “what was he? – a substance? – or the dimmest of all shadows?” (140) “He had striven to put a cheat upon himself by making the avowal of a guilty conscience, but had gained only one other sin, and a self-acknowledged shame, without the momentary relief of being self-deceived.” (141) Chillingworth: “chill”  cold, heartless, implacable, cruel nature and deformed, hideous appearance: “Had a man seen old Roger Chillingworth, at that moment of his ecstasy, he would have had no need to ask how Satan comports himself when a precious human soul is lost to heaven and won into his kingdom.” (135-136) “there was something ugly and evil in his face” (126) Pearl: “pearl of great price”  reference to the bible, representing the equivocation of Pearl  “her mother’s only treasure!” (91) but “it was as if an evil spirit possessed the child” (98)
  • Bernard Marx - Karl Marx: German philosopher, political economist, historian, sociologist, humanist, political theorist, revolutionary, founder of communism  “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” opening line of The Communist Manifesto, feudalism  capitalism  socialism  dictatorship of the proletariat  stateless, classless society - Claude Bernard: French physiologist who tried to apply the scientific method to medicine  “The stability of the internal environment is the condition for the free and independent life.” referring to homeostasis Helmholtz Watson - Hermann von Helmholtz: German physician and physicist who contributed to many large scientific areas of modern science  “Reason we call that faculty innate in us of discovering laws and applying them with thought.” - John B. Watson: American physiologist who came up with a new philosophy called behaviorism  “The behaviorist, in his efforts to get a unitary scheme of animal response, recognizes no dividing line between man and brute.” first paragraph of Behaviorist Manifesto, psychological analysis of behavior and reactions in certain situations to understand human actions  came from his studies on animal behavior and controlling it Mustapha Mond - Mustapha Kemal Ataturk: Turkish army officer  founder of the Republic of Turkey  first president, put Turkey through many political, economic, and cultural reforms in order to try to become a modern, democratic, secular, nation  “In order to stave off covetousness, greed, and spite, citizens world over must be educated.”
  • Human nature involves emotions and instincts which are constantly coinciding and disputing. Differences of opinion and motives cause conflict, and any sort of conflict is foreign to a utopian society. Also social constructs are initially created by humans and therefore mirror the defects and flaws inscribed in human nature. Social constructs, especially those of religion and law, can vary in extremity, and an equal as well as accepted balance between the two is almost impossible. Utopia can only possibly exist if anything and everything humane about our race was eliminated. This is why utopia has never been experienced and will remain unknown, indefinite, and unreachable.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Impossibility of Utopia Megan Fernandes
    • 2.
      • Which one most represents utopia to you? If any?
      • More realistic? Or more fantastical?
    • 3. Realistic?
    • 4. Fantastical?
    • 5.
      • Utopia is defined as an ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects.
      • It is described as unknown, indefinite, and unreachable.
    • 6. “ Utopia”
      • The Puritan society was deeply religious, and in their quest to become closer to God, they developed a system of government combining religion and law which they considered a utopia.
      • The civilized society under the World State created an order that dictated and assimilated everyone’s lives which they too considered a utopia.
    • 7.
      • Foil Characters
      • Motifs
      • Significance of Character Names
    • 8. Foil Characters
      • The social identities of the foil characters allow insight into the human condition in a way that refutes the supposed utopian societies in each novel.
    • 9. Foil Characters (Scarlet Letter)
      • Hester Prynne  utopia cannot exist with outcasts
      • Arthur Dimmesdale  utopia cannot exist with reputations based on dishonesty and deceit
      • Together  utopia cannot exist with sin
    • 10. Foil Characters (Brave New World)
      • Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson  utopia cannot exist with social unrest
      • John the Savage  utopia cannot exist with outcasts
    • 11. Motifs
      • The motifs applied in each novel subtly contrast the supposed utopian societies and emphasize the weaknesses in each form of government.
    • 12. Motifs (Scarlet Letter)
      • Civilization vs. Wilderness
    • 13. Motifs (Brave New World)
      • Shakespearean quotes vs. World State propaganda
    • 14. Significance of Character Names
      • The character names in each novel contain certain implications and representations which communicate either the deficiencies of the characters or contradictions to the society.
    • 15. Significance of Character Names (Scarlet Letter)
      • Names have such simple allegorical suggestions
        • Dimmesdale  “dimness”
        • Chillingworth  “chill”
        • Pearl  “pearl of great price”
    • 16. Significance of Character Names (Brave New World)
      • Names have references to past political, scientific, or cultural figures
        • Bernard Marx (Claude Bernard and Karl Marx)
        • Helmholtz Watson (Hermann von Helmholtz and John B. Watson)
        • Mustapha Mond (Mustapha Kemal Ataturk)
    • 17. Conclusion
      • Emotions and instincts constantly coincide and dispute
      • Social constructs mirror defects and flaws of human nature
        • Religion and law
      • Eliminate human condition
    • 18.
      • Utopia is defined as an ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects.
      • It is described as unknown, indefinite, and unreachable.