City Tech, Fall 2016

Author: Rino (Page 2 of 3)

“There’s a part of me in you…”

Following the antagonistic androids (Roy, Leon, etc.) in Blade Runner paint’s a different picture of their intent compared to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Their motives in the film are directed towards attaining longevity, and they believe they can do this through contacting their creators. Throughout the film, Roy sequentially seeks out those influenced in his creation, ultimately reaching his “father” Eldon Tyrell, in a microcosmic reflection of men seeking their own creators and gaining insight in their own life.

Roy starts off by finding Chew (28:45), who’s in charge of designing the eyes of the Nexus-6 units. Eyes, being the window of the soul, is an eloquent way to start Roy’s existential journey of attaining a longer life. And from Chew, he finds Sebastian who is in charge of genetic sequencing of the Nexus-6 units. Sebastian even says “there’s a part of me in you” (1:17:00), reminiscent to the idea that “God created man in his image” or with Adam giving his rib to create Eve. Both Chew and Sebastian have parts of themselves in the androids, which makes the androids similar to humans, but at the same time denotes the subservience that comes with the gift of life; much like how people worship God and serve him through theology and practice.

But Roy is fed with serving man, and thus acts “sacrilegious” because of the limitations that his creators put in place on him. When Roy gets the chance to “meet his maker” (1:23:05) he is essentially asking to prolong his life through various methods and is shot down with every hypothesis he proposes. In a way, this could be reflective of God, how we humans would probably seek answers from him when we have signs of distress or problems that we seek guidance to overcome. Likewise, we expect no “direct” response (like in prayer) from God or we simply interpret it as “God’s will” in determining our fates. Additionally, with the android’s 4 year life span, we have “infinite” life compared to them, much like how God has infinite life compared to us humans. And when Roy inevitably kills his “father” (again, God being the father of all men), he is essentially deciding to pave his own path and completely abandon mankind, the creatures that gave him life.

So does this betrayal to humans mean that Roy is essentially a heretic to those he must worship? Or is he justified in paving his own destiny by killing “god” to save himself by any means necessary? In any case, there is a preconceived idea that chains of command come from who brought onto who. God brought about man, and man brought about machines; man serves God, and machines serve man…or at least that’s how things are expected to go.

Mercerism, the elimination of the future to preserve the past; how the bizarre progression of life through technology ultimately finds a way to flourish…

It’s literally presented in the novel that Mercerism’s teachings were to preserve life on earth, how ever little of it was left; but, in underlying objection to technology, it’s intent was more specifically meant to eliminate the future and the elimination of the thought process in looking forward, since this wrought the planet in it’s current state.

Preservation of life is a by product of eliminating advancements of society because it all led to the end of the world, which is why Mercer agrees with Rick in retiring the androids. Mercer outright told Rick that he was doing the right thing when eliminating the androids, that he condoned doing it even if Rick had some form of objection through his empathy of Pris (how she is similar in model to Rachael, who he had feelings for). And Rick finally “becomes” Mercer when he visits that hill and is permanently fused with Mercer afterwards (P.231, P.233). His “permanent fusion” is essentially Rick reflecting on how he is not interested in preserving life, he is interested in preserving humanity.

“So this is what Mercer sees, he thought as he painstakingly tied the cardboard box shut–tied it again and again. Life which we can no longer distinguish; life carefully buried up to its forehead in the carcass of a dead world. In every cinder of the universe Mercer probably perceives inconspicuous life. Now I know, he thought. And once having seen through Mercer’s eyes, I probably will never stop.

And no android, he thought, will cut the legs from this. As they did from the chickenhead’s spider.” P.238

Rick realizes that humanity is endangered, much like the toad he found on his trail. The androids are taking over as the driving force of technological progress when the past is being left behind to die and be abandoned (like the colonies did when leaving the earth). “Life which we can no longer distinguish; life carefully buried up to its forehead in the carcass of a dead world” is the most exceptionally poignant part of this passage, because you could categorize what the Android’s strive for is life, but it’s not exceptionally distinguishable to human life since life emanates from us beyond just one person; we are communal creatures who work together and life flourishes from this community onto the planet. The health of the planet is reflective of the health of mankind and their ability to be together in preservation of life, whereas the Androids see life as a utility (like with Isidore’s spider and the cutting of legs because it was not “practical”).

This endangerment in humanity is even more clearly shown through the discovery that the toad was in fact a fake:

“‘Maybe I shouldn’t have told you–about it being electrical.’ She put her hand out, touched his arm; she felt guilty, seeing the effect it had on him, the change.

‘No,’ Rick said. ‘I’m glad to know. Or rather–’ He became silent. ‘I’d prefer to know’

…’The spider Mercer gave the chickenhead, Isidore; it probably was artificial, too. But it doesn’t matter. The electric things have their lives, too. Paltry as those lives are.’” P.241

The realization that the toad is fake brings Rick back into the reality that his and all of humanity’s days are numbered, that machines with their inevitable ability to mimic humanity perfectly will cause the death of humanity. Humanity already killed the earth, and humanity with it’s technological progress will also eliminate humans from existence if it continues the way it does.

Life will go on in the form of Androids, and ultimately Rick and the rest of society in DADoES accepts that, even Mercer from the previous quote where he gave Rick and Isidore fake animals to find in the environment, and in this quote:

“‘The killers that found Mercer in his sixteenth year, when they told him he couldn’t reverse time and bring things back to life again. So now all he can do is move along with life, going where it goes, to death. And the killers throw the rocks; it’s they who’re doing it. Still pursuing him. And all of us, actually. Did one of them cut your cheek, where it’s been bleeding?’” P.242-243

Mercer has no choice but to move on with life in how it’s progressing, and it’s progressing in the form of Androids being the next species to be on top of the living food chain.

On the final page of the novel, when Iran is ordering all the amenities for the artificial toad and all the specific needs that the clerk talks about for the fake toad (from the synthetic food to the perpetually renewing puddle), this subtly ends the novel with a dark, underlying message that we can’t fight against technology and it’s progression. Inevitably, life will be made around technology rather than we maintain life with the use of technology…

Mercer and Friendly/God and the Devil; how opposing figures influence their masses

As established in my previous blog, Mercer is the God-like figure in post-apocalyptic Earth; but where there is God, there must also be the Devil. Where there is good in the world, there is surely it’s counter-part, bad. The personification of the “Devil” in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the other popular figure that everyone is drawn to in this world, Buster Friendly.

As Isidore pointed out, Buster Friendly seems to have ‘supernatural’ abilities, showcased by his ability to constantly being able to broadcast even when it exceeds impossible amounts of time:

“How did Buster Friendly find the time to tape both his aud and vid shows? Isidore wondered. And how did Amanda Werner find time to be a guest every other day, month after month, year after year? How did they keep talking? The never repeated themselves–not so far as he could determine. Their remarks, always witty, always new, weren’t rehearsed…

But something about Buster Friendly irritated John Isidore, one specific thing. In subtle, almost inconspicuous ways, Buster ridiculed the empathy boxes. Not once but many times. He was, in fact, doing it right now.” P.74-75

Clearly something is not right and Buster Friendly is not what he seems. Moreover, he is more than likely mechanically and possibly there are multiples of him that do different parts of his job in order to be able to flood the transmissions of the colonies and influence the masses. Isidore went on to say that Buster Friendly bashes on empathy boxes, the symbol of Mercerism and being fused with Mercer himself. It can be concluded that Buster Friendly’s motive (or the people who orchestrate the show in the background) is to plant seeds of denial into Mercerism and have people follow him instead, like a false prophet (or the “Devil”).

The idea of this competition between Mercer and Friendly goes further, as Isidore talks with his boss about the matter:

“Isidore said, ‘I think Buster Friendly and Mercerism are fighting for control of our psychic souls.’

‘If so,’ Sloat said, examining the cat, ‘Buster is winning.’

‘He’s winning now,’ Isidore said, ‘but ultimately he’ll lose.’

Sloat lifted his head, peered at him. ‘Why?’

‘Because Wilbur Mercer is always renewed. He’s eternal. At the top of the hill he’s struck down; he sinks into the tomb world but then he rises inevitably. And us with him. So we’re eternal, too.’ He felt good, speaking so well; usually around Mr. Sloat he stammered.

Sloat said, ‘Buster is immortal, like Mercer. There’s no difference.’

‘How can he be? He’s a man.’

‘I don’t know,’ Sloat said. ‘But it’s true. They’ve never admitted it, of course.’” P. 76

Sloat confirms even further that Buster is “immortal”; that it’s never admitted but he’s indeed at least an android, if not many androids employed to play this role. What’s even more interesting is the comparison to Mercer how they are no different; both play roles in manipulating the masses in their ideologies, the difference being the means of delivery. Mercer is doing so through reverence, faith, and community while Buster Friendly uses comedy and entertainment. Where the empathy box converges everyone into a singular fusion, the Buster Friendly TV Program outwardly broadcasts it’s message to multiple people from one source; a convergence of audience versus a divergences of message. As described in countless texts and from the bible, the Devil assumes that humanity can be won over through the indulgence of sins, much like how Buster Friendly can use ridicule and bombastic satire to win over his audience.

The main proponent of Mercerism in the novel is Isidore, even more so than most people because the extent of his empathy goes beyond just humanity. He sees the good in everything, even with the robotic replicas, such as with fake animals and the Andies who everyone hates:

“’You’re a great man, Isidore,” Pris said. ‘You’re a credit to your race.’

‘If he was an android,’ Roy said heartily, ‘he’d turn us in about ten tomorrow morning. He’d take off for his job and that would be it. I’m overwhelmed with admiration.’ His tone could not be deciphered; at least Isidore could not crack it. ‘And we imagined this would be a friendless world, a planet of hostile faces, all turned against us.’ He barked out a laugh.” P. 164

Isidore has so much empathy towards people, he even shows it to Androids who are so good at mimicking people that he believes they are real. And even when finding out they are fakes, his ideology of Mercerism is always something he clings to and respects all life through it, even if people believe that Androids don’t have “souls” (as Rick questioned, P.135). Isidore, in his unique viewpoint in the novel, values all forms of life, even if it was organic or mechanical in nature.

Rick, on the other hand, is the opposite of Isidore when it comes to empathy; he lacks so much empathy that the readers themselves question if he is truly human (and made chapters 9-11 believable to the point of being a possible twist where Rick was actually an android). He even flat out avoids fusing with Mercer, saying “’They’ll have our joy,’ Rick said, ‘but we’ll lose. We’ll exchange what we feel for what they feel. Our joy will be lost.’” (P. 174). He selfishly holds on to his emotions and avoids connecting with people because he doesn’t want to lose what little joy he gets. On top of this, Rick acknowledges the possibility of empathizing with an android and shuns the idea thinking it’s not natural to do so:

“Rick said, ‘I took a test, one question, and verified it; I’ve begun to empathize with androids, and look what that means. You said it this morning yourself. ‘Those poor andys.’ So you know what I’m talking about. That’s why I bought the goat. I never felt like that before. Maybe it could be a depression, like you get…’” P. 174

When Rick eventually gives in and tries out the empathy box, he feels nothing from it: “’I didn’t get anything from holding onto those handles,’ Rick said. ‘Mercer talked to me but it didn’t help. He doesn’t know any more than I do. He’s just an old man climbing a hill to his death.’” (P. 179). Besides the androids, Rick is the only person who seems to not show much reverence to Mercer…but still appreciates Buster Friendly: “’I’ll sit in the hotel room,’ he said, ‘and watch Buster Friendly on TV. His guest for the last three days has been Amanda Werner. I like her; I could watch her the rest of my life. She has breasts that smile.’” (P. 183). The fact that Rick enjoys Buster Friendly alludes to the idea that he resents the idea of being empathetic to everything that appears to show humanity, which goes with his lack of empathy for androids.

The fact that Rick “follows” Buster Friendly differs from androids, who don’t look to either Mercer or Buster Friendly (P. 63, where Pris didn’t know who Buster Friendly was). I guess the idea of being “soul-less” comes to mind, since they don’t follow one side of this dichotomy.

Mercerism; the Post-Apocalyptic Version of Christianity…

Off the bat, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is teeming with biblical references and allusions to Judeo-Christian theology. Going from Old Testament to New Testament, there are so many references to biblical events and representations just in the first 6 chapters of the novel. It already establishes a religion of “Mercerism” that was started by a man named Wilbur Mercer (who acts like a prophet) and alludes to the rapture of Revelations and Noah’s ark.

Living in a post-apocalyptic America, the people who remain on Earth and were not able to go to Mars are akin to people who did not ascend into heaven during the rapture as described in the Book of Revelations. John Isidore, a “special” human who is physically and mentally below average, is barred from going to Mars because he does not meet the requirements to “emigrate”:

“To himself John Isidore though acidly, And it’s gone away for me, too, without my having to emigrate. He had been a special now for over a year, and not merely in regard to the distorted genes which he carried. Worse still, he had failed to pass the minimum mental faculties test, which made him in popular parlance a chickenhead.” (19)

Though not directly referring to the rapture, John is like a man who was left behind on a doomed Earth that is now inhabited by “the void” (an emptiness of humanity). Because of his short-comings, he was not judged appropriately to go into the “after-life”, in this case Mars, which is a wonderful utopia that everyone strives to reach.

And despite being damned to an Earth that is left behind by the rapture, the people who remain on Earth (so far from accounts of Rick and John), embrace the theological practices of one Wilbur Mercer. John uses an “empathy box” in order to connect with the prophet, as described here:

“The visual image congealed; he saw at once a famous landscape, the old, brown, barren ascent, with tufts of dried-out bonelike weeds poking slantedly into a dim an sunless sky. One single figure, more or less human in form, toiled its way up the hillside: an elderly man wearing a dull, featurelss robe, covering as meager as if it had been snatched from the hostile emptiness of the sky. The man, Wilbur Mercer, plodded ahead, and, as he clutched the handles, John Isodore gradually experienced a waning of the living room in which he stood; the dilapidated furniture and walls ebbed out and he ceased to experience them at all. He found himself, instead, as always before, entering into the landscape of drab hill, drab sky. And at the same time he no longer witnessed the climb of the elderly man. His own feet now scraped, sought purchase, among the familiar loose stones; he felt the same old painful, irregular roughness beneath his feet and once again smelled the acrid haze of the sky–not Earth’s sky but that of some place alien, distant, and yet, by means of empathy box, instantly available.

He had crossed over in the usual perplexing fashion; physical merging–accompanied by mental and spiritual identification–with Wilbure Mercer had reoccurred. As it did for everyone who at this moment clutched the handles, either here on Earth or on one of the colony planets.” (21- 22)

It depicts something similar to virtual reality, as John escapes from his own reality and is in another location entirely. But beyond the literal depiction, John is “praying” or showing some sort of worship to Mercer through the empathy box. He “merges” with the religious figure not only physically, but mentally and spiritually, which is the goal that people have when praying to God/Jesus; people say they connect with God when they pray to him and feel close/a oneness with God Not only that, but Mercer is described like typical depictions of Moses (old, wearing robes), which goes further to the point that Mercer is the central religious figure of the post-apocalyptic Earth and everyone follows his teachings, as did Moses who led his people and gained the Ten Commandments.

Lastly, encompassing more on Mercer linked to religious figures, the idea of Mercerism is similar to the thought process behind Noah and his ark in the Old Testament:

“’But,’ Rick interrupted, ‘for you to have two horses and me none, that violates the whole basic theological and moral structure of Mercerism.’

‘You have your sheep; hell, you can follow the Ascent in your individual life, and when you grasp the two handles of empathy, you approach honorably. Now if you didn’t have that old sheep, there, I’d see some logic in your position. Sure, if I had two animals and you didn’t have any, I’d be helping deprive you of true fusion with Mercer.’” (11)

With the promise of Ascent, Rick and other residents of Earth gather as many animals as they can and tend to them to preserve their existence. Preservation of animals is what Noah did with his ark by gathering two of every animal in order to preserve their species and rebuild society, much like the goal of these post-apocalyptic survivors trying to rebuild society through maintenance of their livestock. Barbour also mentions “grasping the two handles of empathy” just like what John does in order to connect with Mercer; so everyone is using these empathy boxes to connect with Mercer and follow his practices.

And so on; there are many more things to look into which relate back to Christianity. Like with Rick having a sheep (“And the Lord is my Shepard”) and the implications that has with it being a fake sheep; or how the defective androids are like “fallen angels” that became corrupt and came back to Earth and hide among humanity like demons. Again, this book from the very beginning is throwing so many religious references, you just need to look hard enough to find them.

Brave New World (1980); how small details create huge theme differences.

Having had just recently read Brave New World, there were a lot of small details that were different about the 1980 version of the film adaptation. Overall, it captured the image of their society very well and accurately, but certain plot points were not consistent with the novel, namely the portrayal of the “savages” and the ending of the film. These differences from the original work create different affects to the audience, and changes some key points that Huxley intended to maintain in his novel.

Let’s start with the obvious example of the residents of the Savage Reservation; they speak English in the movie (the first example can be seen in 28:35). In the novel, the people of Malpais speak Zuni which made John’s accomplishment of learning English from Linda and Shakespeare less amazing. It also loses out on the symbolism that the different cultures have a lose of communication between one another and the “it was only in Zuni the Savage could adequately express what he felt” (p.158) can’t even be touched upon when the only language spoken is English.

One last thing to note about the differences of the Savages in the movie adaptation is that from what I observed, they only worship polytheistic/tribal gods, rather than “the Quakerites” (18:20). In the novel, it was a mixture of Native American ritual and Christianity that encompassed their culture. Even John seems to only respect a god known as “Mecatan” (1:18:30) in the film, whereas in the novel John was willing to suffer self-flagellation for the sake of “Pookong and Jesus” (p.111). While the English speaking savages gives the audience something to relate with and know that they are not in fact “savages” in the movie, the lack of religious similarity (especially with Christianity, since it was such a prominent religion in Western society during the publication of the novel) takes that aback and makes the audience confused. The point of the “savages” was to juxtapose the “civilized” society, making the audience question who the real savages were, and yet the movie seems to paint them in a barbaric way that doesn’t help with relating or justifying the actions of the residents of Malpais.

The last thing I want to discuss in more detail is the movie’s rendition of the ending; though similar to the novel, there are a lot of different nuances that paints a different picture. First off, Mustafa Mond and John did not have their long-winded philosophical discussion in his quarters, which encompassed a large majority of chapter 16 and 17. In fact, Mustafa Mond skips that and determines straight away that John would be showcased for everyone to see (2:43:50). (I think this is done in the movie in order to save time, since it’s already a 3 hour movie and their discussion would make the film way too long.) Although in the novel Mustafa Mond refuses to let John go to one of the free-islands (p.217), he does not outright put him up for display for all to see like he does in the movie; John finds the lighthouse on his own and is then gradually discovered by civilized society. This greatly changes Mustafa Mond’s character from the curious former scientist who occasionally breaks the rules for the betterment of civilization, to a man who is cruel for the sake of creating an example for people in his society. The Mustafa Mond of the novel is confident in his ideals and truly believes he’s bettering society, whereas the Mond of the movie seems to think he needs to eliminate opposition while still maintaining his authority; like with the scene where Mustafa Mond is the one who directs Darwin Bonaparte to make a mockery of John (2:50:00), unlike in the book where society itself was the one that chose how to portray John (p. 226). So in the end, Mustafa Mond is portrayed more as a dictator in the movie compared to the book where he seems more like a figure who over-sees everything and more of a guiding hand of regulation; society is already in affect of their conditioning, Mustafa Mond merely monitors that everything goes according to plan (in the novel).

Another huge part of the ending that needs to be addressed if Lenina’s drastic character development and abandonment of Huxley’s idea that she was a product of “civilized” society through and through. First off, Lenina’s character in the movie isn’t portrayed the same way as in the novel; instead of having her brainwashed and acting more like a reflection of the “ideal” person in her society, she’s more portrayed as “innocent” to her conditioning. What I mean by this is that she seems like she’s only doing the things she does because she knows it’s a societal wrong to oppose it, unlike in the novel where she is truly reliant on civilization and that it’s ingrained in her psyche. Like when Lenina and Bernard go to Malpais without soma (1:15:30), she doesn’t freak out about not having her soma like she does in the novel (p.106). Lenina seems more cognizant of herself and of society in the movie compared to the novel, where she is completely just a product of society and her purpose is to be a summation of representing the values of civilized society in Brave New World.

Moreover, Lenina outright betrays the ways of her society; after discovering John’s book when John storms out in the movie, she starts to read it (2:23:40). This was not in the novel at all, and this set the course of the ending of the film where Lenina believes in John and his ways (2:53:45); although it eloquently is able to recreate Romeo and Juliet with John thinking Lenina is dead and thus commits suicide, this does not happen in the novel. John does not passionately fall back in love with Lenina, in fact it’s the opposite in the novel where he sees Lenina as the object of his repentance, with John whipping her and saying “kill it, kill it!” (p. 230). This drastically differs the reason why John kills himself in the end; the movie version makes it seem like he kills himself out of love and thinking that the one he cared about is gone, just like in Romeo and Juliet when in the original text John kills himself because he fell into the trap of being part of the civilized world. The “need” for having a love interest in movies (which seems to be needed in a majority of films in order to gain female audience attention, as determined by Hollywood) ruins the message Huxley tries to make with John killing himself as a form of ultimate escape from “civilized” society.

As a whole, the movie is very enjoyable, did a pretty good job with portraying the world of Brave New World, and kept a lot of the plot points from the original work. One difference that I especially liked was showing more of Thomas Grambell’s beginning, since it was very well done and was a good way to introduce the audience with the “norms” of the society while also keeping things in chronological order (which is easier to digest when watching a film). However, there are a lot more small nitpicks that I have with the film that bothered me, like with Helmholtz not being an Alpha-Plus (p.70-71) or with Linda not calling to Popé (for some reason called Pelé in the film) when having her final conversation with John (2:26:10 in film, p.185 in novel), and all of these aspects can be discussed in greater detail. The ones outlined prior were the major details that eliminated huge themes and plots from the original novel, however, and these changes greatly affect the lessons that can be learned from it. It overall kept the main idea of the novel (how people are manipulated in order to attain happiness/progress) but it misses a lot of reasons why this civilization is wrong in it’s thinking, with the poor portrayal of the “savages” and with the ending that tries to make a completely different message.

“And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn, Would scarcely know that we were gone”

With all our technological advancements, it’s a thing of wonder how we as a species are able to survive and maintain our existence in this world for so long. Most species that walked the earth died out long ago, and yet we strive to live on in our own mortal lives and through the continuation of the human race through our accomplishments, such as with technology and science. But like with every beginning, there will eventually be an end and so too will the story of the human race end. Nature will reclaim the earth after our leave and eliminate all of the evidence of our existence, even with parameters of longevity we place into our technology.

In A:TWCSR (August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains), human civilization ends at our own hands; we caused the “end of the world”:

“The entire west face of the house was black, save for five places. Here the silhouette in paint of a man mowing a lawn. Here, as in a photograph, a woman bent to pick flowers. Still farther over, their images burned on wood in one titanic instant, a small boy, hands flung into the air; higher up, the image of a thrown ball, and opposite him a girl, hands raised to catch a ball which never came down. The five spots of paint—the man, the woman, the children, the ball— remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer.” (p.1)

What you see here is the aftermath of nuclear annihilation; the house is charred to a crisp in a moment that captured a family enjoying their day. This is particularly reminiscent of Hiroshima/Nagasaki’s “bomb shadows” that left imprints of people onto various architecture when nuclear bombs were dropped on the city; these “shadows” are permanently etched into walls of buildings, which captured moments of what people were doing the instant the warheads were dropped. The actual date of when nuclear annihilation occurred in A:TWCSR is left for debate, but you are able to grasp the idea that the way things ended were sudden and unexpected; the residence of this house were enjoying their day together before the whole world ended, not in a panic to try and escape from some foreseeable event.

And although the human race ended, the remnants of what we brought to the earth remained and are doing the best they can to maintain stability afterwards:

“It quivered at each sound, the house did. If a sparrow brushed a window, the shade snapped up. The bird, startled, flew off! No, not even a bird must touch the house! The house was an altar with ten thousand attendants, big, small, servicing, attending, in choirs. But the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly.” (p.2)

The “gods” in this example are humans and technology acts reverently to their masters. By trying to maintain homeostasis, the house defies nature’s attempts at reclaiming the house back to the earth. The “senseless” and “useless” ritual that the house does is just a programmed schedule that it follows tirelessly without knowing the circumstance the world is in now. The scope of understanding that the house/technology has is limited to it’s time-oriented protocols, rather than understanding that the world is over and it’s tasks are not needed by anyone since there is no one left to service.

The various ways nature gets personified through the short story illustrates how nature is a force that eventually supersedes everything. There were many ways that nature was personified (like with the wildlife trying to enter the house in the previous quote), but one of the most outright examples was how the “fire” moved throughout the house:

“But the fire was clever. It had sent flames outside the house, up through the attic to the pumps there. An explosion! The attic brain which directed the pumps was shattered into bronze shrapnel on the beams.” (p.4)

The fire, including in this quote, shows signs of “sentience” as it’s able to know how to sabotage the house’s infrastructure. This fire was a result of a tree branch breaking a window in the house and spreading solvent onto the flame of a stove; the tree branch being a representation of nature in this metaphor. The extension of this tree branch turned into a flame that is “clever” enough to compromise the security of the house, despite the houses’ efforts to try to avoid nature prior. And as a result of this fire, the house eventually concedes to nature, being reduced to one mere wall.

So what you can take away from this short story is that nothing is forever, no matter how much you try to immortalize yourself with your creations. “The end” is indeterminable how it will be caused, but the aftermath of this end will be played out the same. In the end, nature will reclaim everything and reduce the earth back to it’s natural state. Whether this happens in the next 500 years or…maybe even tomorrow…man will eventually return back to nature one way or another.

Pursuing happiness rather than actually obtaining it…

“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” those are the three virtues bestowed on American citizens as dubbed by the Declaration of Independence. Notice the attention to wording when saying “pursuit” of happiness; though one may never get happiness, you are allowed to go for whatever you determine to provide happiness to you. London in Brave New World makes attaining happiness very simple; by devaluing both liberty and life, you are able to obtain happiness.

The conditioning of people from birth to death sets the boundaries of a person, determining both what is considered “happiness” and, more strictly, what isn’t. When everything is meticulously planned out and limits are set, then a person does not realize what they’re missing something and must by default be happy; the old adage of “ignorance is bliss” comes to mind. And Mustapha Mond/the other controllers of the world realize this:

“‘Because our world is not the same as Othello’s world. You can’t make flivvers without steel‒and you can’t make tragedies without social instability. The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get.’” (p.198)

“… and they never want what they can’t get,” the conditioning that everyone undergoes prevents people from even yearning for something more. This clearly eliminates a person’s ability to have free-will; meaning you can’t choose how you attain happiness, happiness is given to you and you accept it because the scope of your understanding is limited strictly by your worldview. But in turn, this is a limiter on people’s ability to live life the way they want to and are thus not free.

But even happiness itself is an obstacle, because how can you be happy while not knowing what other emotions are. We know what darkness is because we have light, and so on. The struggle of getting happiness in turn creates dullness:

“‘Of course it does. Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations of misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.’” (p.199)

There is no point to living without having a struggle, which is why we in our society “pursue” happiness rather than full on obtain it. The journey is more rewarding than the destination; as shown with John appreciating self-sacrifice (self-flagellation) more than being given everything, seen throughout the entire last chapter of the novel.

In the end, real happiness is obtained through the ability to freely think about what you want to do and then go after it. Helmholtz and even the Controller both strive to do more than be complacent with being constantly, positively stimulated:

“…Anything for a quiet life. We’ve gone on controlling ever since. It hasn’t been very good for truth, of course. But it’s been very good for happiness. One can’t have something for nothing. Happiness has got to be paid for. You’re paying for it, Mr.Watson‒paying because you happen to be too much interested in beauty. I was too much interested in truth; I paid too.” (p.205)

Helmholtz, loving the idea of being expressive, is not happy because he’s shackled by the ability of having free-will and knowing he wants to do more in a world that universally sees happiness as over-stimulation of sex and drugs. The Controller, in an oddly sympathetic way, is striving to make everyone else happy and to maintain a status quo; that’s his goal in life, to make everyone else happy while suffering himself to not pursue his true passion of science.

So are you truly happy when you’re completely complacent with yourself and what you currently have? Or are you happy when you do what you want to do, yearning to make more out of what you don’t currently have/achieved? In other words, should you strive for happiness or for freedom?

Direct and Indirect References to Other Works, in Regards to John

As I was reading this segment of Brave New World (ch.10-13), I observed some parallels between John’s character and other works of fiction. Whether it’s intentional (like with Shakespearean references) or just connections I made with other works that I personally enjoyed, it’s an interesting way to understand his character more and to possibly allude to what might happen to John.

The first comparison I want to make with John is with the character Othello from the work that shares his namesake, Othello. I’ve read Othello and am pretty familiar with the plot and characters of the story, so I can give a bit of insight in why Huxley may have pointed out this particularity:

“Five minutes later he was back in his room. From its hiding-place he took out his mouse-nibbled volume, turned with religious care its stained and crumbled pages, and began to read Othello. Othello, he remembered, was like the hero of Three Weeks in a Helicopter – a black man.” (p.157)

A quick summary of Othello; Othello is a high ranked officer in the Venetian army and is in love with the daughter of a politically influential figure (her name is Desdemona). Othello is not treated the same way as other officers, since he’s Black (referred to in the work as a “Moore”); and although it’s not strongly emphasized in the plot, his race causes him to be seen as inferior to the other Venetians. Iago, a man who claims to be Othello’s friend but secretly wants to get rid of him, plants seeds of doubt into Othello’s mind throughout the story, causing him to doubt Desdemona’s loyalty and thus leads him to kill her.

I think what Huxley is trying to convey with this reference is that John is like Othello, a man who is out of place in a society that expects differently from him. Othello should not be a high ranked officer in the Venetian society he’s based in, nor should John the Savage be treated with respect as a human being despite being birthed from people in the “Brave New World”. They are both the outliers in a world that expects worse from them, and only through their interactions with societal corruption (Iago to Othello as Bernard to John) do they ultimately break and stop being who they truly want to be/be with, Desdemona/Lenina.

Straying away from old English plays, another reference that I thought of while reading the text was King Kong, the classic film of men venturing to an island, finding a gigantic ape, and bringing it back to society to showcase for all to see. This was the quote that first brought the idea to me:

“It was John, then, they were all after. And as it was only through Bernard, his accredited guardian, that John could be seen, Bernard now found himself, for the first time in his life, treated not merely normally, but as a person of outstanding importance.” (p.144)

Bernard acts just like the film director from King Kong, where he gains all the glory and satisfaction for discovering the “Savage”; he reaps the rewards of bringing something new/exciting for people to see and parades John as though he were a novelty, just to get ahead for himself.

Not only did I see this with Bernard, but with John’s interaction with Lenina (in a dark, reflective way compared to King Kong). “‘No, of course it isn’t necessary. But some kinds of baseness are nobly undergone. I’d like to undergo something nobly. Don’t you see?’” (p.173). John, with his customs of courtship from Malpais and Shakespeare do not translate in “civilized” society; much like with Kong, where he tries to court Ann Darrow (the blonde beauty). Kong does eventually capture the heart of Ann because of Ann’s openness and understanding, whereas Lenina’s one-dimensional obedience to her conditioned worldview prevents her from realizing what John is trying to accomplish, love.

Moreover, the way John acts when Lenina is only lustfully interested in him is very animalistic, which again reminded me of how Kong acts when distraught:

“But instead of also saying ‘Darling!’ and holding out his arms, the Savage retreated in terror, flapping his hands at her as though he were trying to scare away some intruding and dangerous animal. Four backwards steps, and he was brought to bay against the wall…Opening her eyes, she had seen his face – no, not his face, a ferocious stranger’s, pale, distorted, twitching with some insane, inexplicable fury.” (p.176)

Kong and John are both products of “the other” and their concepts do not reflect back into a world that skewed itself as far as it could from nature; the difference being that Kong is literally an animal and John merely a representation of an animal/the natural. Will the gilded beauty of the Savage’s “Brave New World” kill him much like “beauty killed the beast” in King Kong…?

How the New World Deals with Celebrating Company

As it’s been touched on in class, the people of Brave New World use a drug called soma in order to attain some sort of escape. The drug is widely used in almost all social situations, like here when Bernard and Lenina end up attending a Woman’s Wrestling match as part of their first date:

“In a crowd,” he grumbled. “As usual.” He remained obstinately gloomy the whole afternoon; wouldn’t talk to Lenina’s friends (of whom they met dozens in the ice-cream soma bar between the wrestling bouts); and in spite of misery absolutely refused to take the half gramme-raspberry sundae which she pressed upon him. “I’d rather be myself,” he said. “Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly.” (p. 89)

Soma acts as a crutch in this society not only for escape for one’s self, but also escape from any related human interaction. Even at a public gathering with Lenina’s “friends”, they are all partaking in the drug. And rather than wanting to enjoy each other’s company watching the moon over the ocean, Lenina insists on how dreadful it is while not feeling the affects of soma.

The “savages” at the reservation do not rely on an escape from human interaction, rather they embrace the concept. Even Bernard is evident of this, as he saw it happening when they entered the reserve and were seeing a mother breast-feeding her child:

“What a wonderfully intimate relationship,” he said, deliberately outrageous. “And what an intensity of feeling it must generate! I often think one may have missed something in not having had a mother. And perhaps you’ve missed something in not being a mother, Lenina. Imagine yourself sitting there with a little baby of your own….” (p.107)

And during the whole time they are at the reserve, neither of them are on soma. Bernard being reliant on his own determination doesn’t need it while Lenina (like a drug-abuser) is relapsing from not having it. Her conditioning with soma also contributes to the fact that she can’t deal with deep emotional human connections. There are numerous examples of this, she takes the drug when not wanting to deal with another person.

The only sign of cope I observed from her while on the reserve, was when she would link whatever she was witnessing back to norms of her society:

It reminded her reassuringly of the synthetic noises made at Solidarity Services and Ford’s Day celebrations. “Orgy-porgy,” she whispered to herself. These drums beat out just the same rhythms…Queer – yes. The place was queer, so was the music, so were the clothes and the goitres and the skin diseases and the old people. But the performance itself – there seemed to be nothing specially queer about that. (p.108)

Though she sees a barbaric display as people sing as one and show signs of brotherhood, she is able to enjoy herself. And this is only through relating it back to her good experiences, the times when she knew that what she was doing was right, is how she is able to deal with not having soma.

In a way, soma draws the person back to “civilized” society. The manipulations of a world that conditions it’s residents to not have deep emotional connections with one another; all the celebration, without the needed outcome of connecting with people. In contrast, the reserve community rely on one another both emotionally and in regards to attaining knowledge; and they show their gratitude with one another with tradition and unified celebration.

Class Notes 9.14.16

Metropolis (Cont.)

Last Time

  • Discussed the idea that Maria (the real Maria) is an angelic figure, as you see her with children entering the Eternal Gardens; the children signify she’s caring, nurturing, and good
  • Left off with Freder in search for Maria

Today’s Lecture

Freder’s transition from Upper-Class Playboy to Mediator (13:53)

  • Freder learns about class inequality through his attraction to Maria
  • Freder (and the viewer) observes the following about the workers: they move in sync with the machines they work on and are exhausted
  • The thermometer rising is related to maintaining the heat levels of the machines
  • The machine becomes personified (as Moloch) when it explodes
  • Freder’s expression in his dramatized shots, show fear, shock, but also realization that things need to be changed (that he should later become the Mediator of the working and upper-class).

Sacrifice to the Machine (13:53)

  • The men look like they are bound and are slaves
  • More groups of people go into Moloch; as though to maintain the routine as though it’s normal
  • The two gate-keepers of Moloch appear to be “savage”

[An aside comparison with Trip to the Moon]

  • The moon men (Selenites) are like the two gate-keepers; recurrence in Sci-Fi to have the “other” be a savage or barbaric person
  • This viewpoint was popular during early American worldviews that painted tribal people as different, and allowed early 20th century writers to exoticize them through Science Fiction.

Jon Frederson’s Office; no one is comfortable, even with status (19:15)

  • You can see everyone is anxious working with Jon Frederson
  • No one is exempt from living comfortable lives, not even Jon Frederson later on when he’s concerned with his own son
  • Shows a similarity between the working and upper-class citizens in their constant anxiety over the tasks they need to do (although it’s not nearly as dangerous as maintaining the machines below)

Rotwang; the original “Mad Scientist” (~38:00)

  • He’s a cyborg, denoted by his hand being robotic after creating his man-machine
  • The exterior of his lab looks like a church, which alludes to his ability to create life and thus having “divine powers”
  • Creates Hel as the man-machine (first double introduced); has a Pentagram above where she sits, which signifies demonic/sacrilegious; has female attributes based on the curves (43:40)
  • The clocks in Rotwangs lab mirror the worker’s movements when operating the machines they labor over (47:30)

Maria; Ave Maria (51:50)

  • Under the catacombs she’s preaching and the subject is the Tower of Babel; there’s an altar, candles, crosses; Maria wears white (purity) and a scarf, which a lot of religious figure adorn
  • Can clearly see that this is a church and she’s the pastor
  • The men are kneeling showing respect to her, with reverent faces (as though they are at mass)

Creation of Maria’s Double (1:23:00)

  • Reminiscent of “Frankenstein”, likely being an homage
  • Alludes to the idea of thinking one is in control of the monster, but in reality the monster has a mind of it’s own (the man-machine being the monster in this case)

Distinction between Real and Fake Maria (1:28:50)

  • The recurring theme of doubling with Fake Maria; unable to distinguish the synthetic and real
  • The audience is able to tell; Fake Maria has dark eye shadow/mascara and her eyes twitch more, as though she’s malfunctioning
  • Interesting imagery using the eyes to have it be the tell, because eyes are “windows to the soul”; so use of black makes it seem like it’s evil or malicious

Intermission

What does it mean to be “human”?

  • Constantly grappled with idea in Science-Fiction stories
  • Writers push the limits of the perception of what is really human
  • Can something be human if it passes as human and mimics them?
  • Can something be human if it feels the same way as humans do?

Brave New World (Ch. 1-5)

  • Utopia/Dystopia is brought up again in BNW, since it’s one of the three most notable dystopian novels
  • On the surface it looks like a utopia, but it’s really a dystopia in outside perspective; which seems to be the case with most utopia/dystopia novels

Class Discussion: What Stuck Out In The Book?

  1. Developing Children as though it were an assembly line

  2. Soma; the drug that is excessively used in the society

  3. Manipulation of language (p. 62)

  4. Caste System/ranking based on genes

  5. Hypnopædia; programming humans with suggestive thoughts while sleeping

  6. Parallels of doing human experiments on actual people in our own society (Little Albert Experiment)

  7. Viewing Soma & Sex as a “religion” (the Solidarity Service)

  8. Bernard is seen as an outcast

  9. Use of similes; Mother & Child like Cat & Kitten (p.43)

  10. Bokanovsky process; competing with others to be efficient; science/progress; 13. stability

  11. Individuality; the view on sex/society defines a person’s individualism (like with Lenina and Helmholst)

  12. Therapy; the conditioning that is done that we would use to benefit people, is used here to be exploitative

  13. (See 10)

  14. Happiness; conditioning creates “happiness” but are you truly happy? (p. 77)

  15. Fear/disgust of the old world; old world mentality of personal connections don’t benefit a society that focuses on the greater good

  16. Social Predestination; everything is planned out and monitored by people outside of your life, from conception to death

Some other ideas to be aware of

  • The motto: Community, Identity, Stability
  • There’s a monetary incentive to do Bokanovsky (p.17)
  • The idea of progress (p.17): efficiency, mass production, standardization, good of society, mass quantity, sustainability (balance), development (ie, betterment), equal opportunity
  • It’s clear that Helmhost and Marx are individuals (p.71)

Review For Next Class

  • The section that rapidly changed perspectives in each paragraph (with Mustapha) (~p.45)
  • Individualism (p.69)

Key Terms (will be talked about more next class)

Bokanovsky Process

Mass Production/Assembly Line

Hedonism

Utilitarianism

Eugenics/Social Engineering/Social Darwinism

Propaganda

Materialism/Commercialism

Hypnopædia

A Note About Blogs

  • Blogs should have more structure to them and should utilize topic sentences
  • Separate paragraphs; each paragraph should have one idea and should reflect the topic sentence of that paragraph
  • Topic Sentence: First sentence of each paragraph that addresses the overall idea of that paragraph
  • Each blog should focus on one key idea, with (at least) three pieces of evidence

 

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