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A Seeming Paradox?

What St. Sir Thomas More may have simply intended when he wrote “Utopia” in 1516 – is to eluciate and/or affirm the probability of a “better place”, than what he knows, he experiences. Whilst working with Erasmus and inspired by Plato’s Republic, St. Sir Thomas More postulated and pursued the concept of a society, a community that thrives in peace, in equality, in justice, in prosperity, in unity, in religious understanding and tolerance. It is believed that the main purpose of St. Sir Thomas More is to present a probability, an imaginary society, a “wishful thinking” of a suitable society.

It was not intended to pursue courses of action TO ACHIEVE such state, such nation, such society. Precisely and literarily, in Greek it means no place. This imaginary wishful thinking went through time and civilization of interpretation and re-interpretation: in the sciences, in the arts, in literature. Thus, a genre of literary formats came about that tends to illustrate story lines and plots that conform with the prescience of “utopia” – the blissful state. Conversely, “dystopia” likewise evolved in the arts and in literature in reference to an anti-thesis to “utopia”.

“Dystopia is almost as old as Utopia. However, the elaborate or modern dystopian depiction was born in the late 18th century. Before this time, dystopian depictions were merely rhetorical tools and intellectual experiments. It was in a speech of British Parliamentarian John Stuart Mill in 1868 that “dystopia” was first referred to” [ ] Therefore, dystopia is a fictionalized society of oppression, of dictatorship, of authoritative totalitarian rule, of decadence, of fear, of hopelessness. Thus, the concept of “dystopia” is of course negative.

The community of man is categorically averse to a progressive future society. It is an envisioned society where things are bad, discouraging, displaced, disintegrated. The people are deprived and terrorized. Thus, the plots and story lines of works in literature that portrays dystopia illustrates the flaw in that society – therefore disabling the opportunity for change. Thus, the lives of the characters or players in the story are either inhibited or restricted in some form to really pursue a clearer definition of his life, of his purpose.

And since the environment and circumstances in a dystopian society, the lives of the people must just obey and conform with whatever is prevalent thereat. Thus, it blatantly leads the individual or the community of man in such environment to be stagnate – if not be traumatized. And the saddest part is that in a dystopian society, man does not have any source of impetus or inspiration towards change or progress. But then either utopia or dystopia as a paradox may or may not fully satisfy the purpose of literature.

“There’s a reason why most utopias remain placeless….. : It’s pretty hard to design any community from scratch, let alone one that overturns dozens of social conventions….. The dream of a world without exploitation has persisted….. Literary utopias, on the other hand, have flourished, especially if you include the sort of writing that is concerned less with designing a new order than with simply imagining how….. ‘the future could fundamentally surpass the present. ’….. Even conspiracy theories can be utopian, since a dystopia is also a kind of utopia…..

the tales of alien implants and Masonic mind control, of cabals always just poised on completing their long march toward global rule….. dystopian writers have exaggerated social trends they dislike, forging those artful distortions into satires. Conspiracy folklore does the same thing for the same reason, except that most of these dystopians actually believe in the worlds they’ve invented. [ ] It therefore came to pass that the genre of Science Fiction in literature augments the pursuit for finally putting to place the possibility of either utopia or dystopia.

Focal to the genre of Science Fiction in such vain is author Darko Suvin. He says: “I think it is caught up with what both the SF [science fiction] community and also logicians in their latest investigations call “possible worlds. ” ……A “possible world” is a little space time island which is in some ways complete in itself, rounded off and set off against other possible worlds …….. Now, of course, a play, including its performances, is clearly a little rounded off world. And obviously SF is also, within the epic genre and the novel, that form which usually most clearly represents a different possible world.

Therefore, there are some strong internal and formal— [that can even be formalized—kinship] between SF and drama, because both are possible worlds…” [ ] For a literary work, a story line, a plot to exude the utopian or dystopian environment or circumstance – it thus illustrate what is not “common” as we see in this world, in this time. The function of such stories creates the strong probabilities of what is beyond this world, beyond this time. It may even induce readers to daydream, to augment imaginations to the wildest proportions – to create hope.

Conclusively: “All fiction lies between the poles of playful simulation of utopian (i. e. radically better) relationships and ideological explanation as to why relationships are as they are and can change only for the worse. As a rule, utopian presentation has to be explicit since it presents an alternative, while ideological presentation will best be served by remaining implicit, as an unargued premise that this is how things are, were, and will be. Both the cognitively utopian and the mystifying horizons are intimately interwoven in most stories, often in the same paragraph or indeed the same sentence.

” [ ] A dystopian illustration is in Margaret Attwood’s Oryx and Crake. In the story, Snowman is said to be the last man on Earth. Alone, he ventured on cross breeding a new species – the wolvogs (cross of wolves and dogs), the pigoons (pigs transplanted with human organs), etc. He also created the “Crakers” – strange looking creatures that nearly looks like humans. Obviously all of these creatures are the result of the anything and everything that is right and wrong in genetic engineering.

Whatever caused the collapse of the civilization of man as we know, Oryx and Crake seem to extrapolate the probable result. As Snowman used to be Jimmy who lived in the 21st century Earth – he lived within his society that is highly commercialized; where there is an imbalance in the distribution of wealth amongst the classes of societies – both in the first and third worlds. Margaret Attwood merely illustrated in Oryx and Crake that the 21st century of Jimmy’s life on earth “detonates” itself due to the flagrancies in lifestyle; in applying scientific developments and discoveries.

The 21st century that carries its congruent bias and prejudices in its society to creates self-destruction in a sense. Eventually in the tapestry of the adventures of Snowman, he saw a young girl in the internet. But Crake is also taken by the young girl. She is Oryx. And she would become the teacher of the Crakers – who will be the community in a peaceful society that will leave in harmony amongst themselves with respect and love for nature and the environment. The Crakers breed only during limited times when they are “polyandrous” and are leaf-eating herbivores.

Thus, Margaret Attwood veritably clubbed with what Suvin has postulated specifically in the genre of science fiction that “possible worlds” can be ventured upon in creating literature. The challenge is indeed up to the reader or peruser of a literary work to affirm his interpretation of possibilities and impossibilities in relation to the life and world as he conducts, perceives and forsee to be. On the other hand, The Beach of Alex Garland is an emotionally disturbing way to look for reconciliation with one’s angst – brought about by the multifarious circumstances of specifically Richard’s life, the hero of the story.

So, Richard travels. Maybe it can be called an escape. Maybe Richard is not so sure of what is really the responsibility of being part of a cultured society – and yet, finds cynicism in its structure. Richard is drug dependent, wallows in pop-culture, engrossed in video games, caters to Vietnam and other war movies. Thus, travelling may just lay out a diaspora of the much needed change – and hopefully find paradise. He went to Bangkok. In his hotel room he finds a map that was seemingly left behind by someone who committed suicide.

The map describes of an island paradise with its prestine beach where adventurers and soul seekers like him patronize. Then as an icing to his cake of adventure Richard met Francoise and Etienne, a French couple traveller like himself. They all agreed to venture to “The Beach” where they hopefully will discover a utopian kind of life. They see that the visitors who have arrived there earlier than them live in harmony with the environment. They are contented with the island paradise even if they are away from the world wide web. Circumstances eventually evolved that posed trial and challenges to their integrity and unity.

Accidents with the shark and choices to be made to solicit medical attention and exposing the exclusivity of the island and running against the marijuana farmers – all finally brought up the question to all of them: is it really paradise where they are? Indeed, the alternative there is in an utopian pursuit is only as real as when the going is good. When the unforseen, the uncontrollable circumstances circumvent such possibilities, then reality sets in – and seals the way things were, are and will be. Then, another effort will be exerted to try again.

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