People always long to have some perfect life and perfect society, since the ancient times and until now writers from all over the world write about their ideal societies. Two of the most famous works depicting this theme – non-existing worlds -are Utopia by Tomas More and 1984 by George Orwell, though they represent two opposite worlds.
First, I’d like to point out that More’s Utopia became more than the name of his book and his non-existing country, it became a name for every ideal world. People use to say now that an ideal society is Utopia, meaning that it is impossible. Returning to More’s Utopia it is necessary to stress that this book reveals his ideas about the basic principles and laws which should rule in each human society.
More criticizes the laws of the contemporary European society; he highlights that other countries, in the East for instance, have more fair laws; and after that he starts depicting Utopia, where all people live and work in the ideal society. One of the main religious principles in Utopia is “that the soul of man is immortal and that God of His goodness has designed that it should be happy” (More 47). Thus, More states that the main idea of every society should be happiness and satisfaction of its citizens.
On the contrary, Orwell’s people live in “Negative Utopia”, where people live in fear and unjust society. Ruling totalitarian party of Orwell’s society keeps people in fear and ignorance, to make them work for the sake of the party. The majority of people should “always look cheerful”, they should “never shirk anything” and “always yell with the crowd”, because this is “the only way to be safe” (Orwell 122).
It is very remarkable that Orwell’s people only look cheerful, though they are miserable; moreover they cannot express their real needs and wishes, for in that case they will disappear. People of this society are presupposed to feel hatred rather than happiness, they even have “Two Minutes Hate” (Orwell 9), it is during this time all people gather in front of the big telescreen and express their hatred towards non-existing enemy.
In Orwell’s society everything is assigned from the above. People are to do some definite, even mechanic and often useless work, like deleting yesterday news and making out some new ones, which better fit to the new environment. Thus, people were turned to machines lacking any emotions and thoughts. Contrariwise, in Utopia people knew all kind of work and could ask to prolong the term of working in the area they liked.
For example, agriculture is paid great attention and is “so universally understood among them, that no person, either man or woman is ignorant of it” (More 33). People spend some definite period of time in agriculture, and then shift to other areas, for example, trade. People could stay in agriculture more, if they liked working in the field and could do it the best. Thus, in Utopia people could do every necessary work, and they also could dedicate their life to the labor they preferred.
Another remarkable point to consider is the perception of war in both worlds. First, I’d like to consider Utopia where “they detest war as a very brutal thing” (More 64).
Here war is unacceptable, though they have trained warriors; they try to prevent any war. Utopians seek for peace; they understand that the appropriate state of any society is peace, not war. They understand that only peace can bring happiness and satisfaction to the citizens of Utopia. Orwell’s society, on the contrary, lives in war, they constantly have wars, at least the ruling party says so.
They have powerful Ministry of War, where all the issues of war are considered. All Orwell’s people “know that it is necessary that the war should continue everlastingly and without victory” (Orwell 197). In this world, war is not only the state of the society; it is a state of the people’s minds. This state of war is to make people frighten and obedient, fulfilling the necessary work and orders.
At this point I’d like to point out that Orwell and More pertain to different centuries and, thus, different movements and even absolutely different worlds. More lived in times when people believed in human mind, believed that people can and should be happy and live in fair world.
More suggested the ideas of enlightenment in his Utopia, giving reasonable ways to obtain just society. Orwell lived in the world of two great wars, world wars. He saw totalitarian ruling in several societies, he saw technological progress and also saw what human mind can do. Orwell’s book is a piece of social science fiction, where he warns people against the possible future of the whole humanity, if people continue moving in the path chosen in the beginning and in the middle of the XX century.
These two non-existing worlds reveal the More and Orwell’s ideas about the ideal society, though More show how it should be, depicting the ideal and beautiful world of Utopia; and Orwell shows how it should not (but can) be, depicting horrible totalitarian Oceania.
More, T. Utopia. New York: Cosimo, Inc., 2004.
Orwell, G. 1984. New York: Signet Classic, 1981.