Jargon of the People

“You’re firemountain-glass, Dama.” He says this very softly. “You’re a gift of the earth-but Father Earth hates us, never forget, and his gifts are neither free nor safe. If we pick you up, hone you to sharpness, treat you with the care and respect you deserve, then you become valuable. But if we just leave you lying about, you’ll cut to the bone the first person who blunders across you. Or worse-you’ll shatter, and hurt many.” (Jemisin 38)

I wanted to start with this quote because how evocative it is.

Firemountain-glass – this may be because I’ve had geology classes, but already I can picture volcanoes spewing lava, where the molten rock cools into the shiny black rock that breaks so neatly, each piece resembling a sharp piece of glass – and cuts like one too. It’s so easy to compare Dama to this, aligning her with this image so quickly.

“Father Earth hates us” – with this piece, we crystallize the religion of the people, and although I’ve never been a fan of religion, I’m a huge supporter of beliefs. If someone has an opinion, I’m interested. Even if I care squat about religion, I care that they care. I love strong opinions.

You’re “valuable” and dangerous – I love how this single quote immortalizes the love/hate relationship people have with Dama’s species. It didn’t take but a single sentence to show me, but it shows how Dama can conjure fear and respect. All it took was opposites to illustrate Jemisin’s point.

These are just a few of the reasons I really love this quote. But, I think the most important piece of the quote is how it summarizes the jargon of the people. This shows me their voice, how they speak. It’s casual; it’s stressful. I can feel the weight this guy places on this little girl’s shoulders.

It’s hard to solidify voice, but by reading enough pieces with it, you can develop an idea.

The questions you should be asking, is how do I know he’s male?

Why does he sound like a judge? A teacher?

Why do I feel like he’s judging me?

Jemisin, N.K. Fifth Season. New York, NY: Orbit, 2015. Print.

Huxley’s 1984

I submitted to peer pressure.

A lot of my friends had talked about the book, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, including how much they liked it and how traumatic an ending it had. They pressured me to read it, telling me again and again, it’s a classic. You should know the story.

So, I read it. I submitted to peer pressure and committed the deed. And fortunately, I didn’t feel contaminated afterwards, which tends to happen after I read a book I didn’t like. But this book was so interesting, and there are so many things I want to talk about! This book had a weird style; it was similar to 1984; the ending was weird? Forced? Rushed?

I’ll divide up my thoughts and try to make them quicker than usual, since I did a no-no and left a whole book for a post.

PREFACE

Within the first chapter, you get the setting of the book: future time period, a society where humans are artificially grown in a lab, set to undergo the Bokanovsky’s Process (where fertilized eggs undergo duplication until there are ninety-six duplicates), which the Director calls “one of the major instruments of social stability” since, as Huxley says, it produces “standard men and women; in uniform batches” (Huxley 7). Because everyone is a twin of the other; humanity can be standardized and cast into formal castes, based on intelligence. As one of the characters mentioned, “If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely” (137). Meaning, the more standard they look, the more easily they can conform and socialize, equating popularity and happiness.

This is a big component on which the society is built, and even though their civilization has changed in more than one manner, I think this component, for being such a small deviation from the norm, still resulted with a largely different plot, in which is discussed the importance of the individual versus society. Hint: All it takes is one deviation from the norm to create a good framework for a novel.

 TRANSITIONS IN CH 3

“Ending is better than mending, ending is better than mending.”

Green corduroy shorts and white viscose-woolen stockings turned down below the knee.

“Then came the famous British Museum Massacre. Two thousand culture fans gassed with dichlorethyl sulphide.”

A green-and-white jockey cap shaded Lenina’s eyes; her shoes were bright green and highly polished.

“In the end,” said Mustapha Mond, “the Controllers realized that force was no good. The slower but infinitely surer methods of ectogenesis, neo-Pavlovian conditioning and hypnopaedia…” (50)

Most of the chapter was this way, and it was crazy to read, because it was constantly changing scenes, switching back and forth between the repetitious nurses (who used hypnopaedia to sleep condition citizen’s ethics and morals), to the reflecting Controllers (who explained how society became this way), to the average Lenina, acting as the typical citizen in this society. Because it switched so often, my brain struggled to keep up. But one thing I liked was that it showed all that was going on at the moment, drawing direct comparisons between each of these situations.

While the Controller, Mustapha, explained why society acted this way, the nurses showed how we conditioned society to act in this manner, using Lenina to demonstrate the typical behavior. For example, the nurses repeated, “Ending is better than mending,” encouraging citizens to always buy new clothes while Huxley described all of Lenina’s clothes, showing how she conforms to these conditioning’s (50). Hint: These quick transitions draw direct comparisons between scenes or characters, making them relate to each other.

1984

Remember how 1984 was a direct contemplation of the politics and social criteria to make a totalitarian society? One of the criteria it required was a sex-less society, where sex became a chore, and the standard woman behavior (of the middle and high class) was abstinence. As a direct opposite, Brave New World is sex heavy. And although the two books share opposing views to create a submissive society, both of them encourage society members to never be alone, to always be in public, and to never ruminate in their thoughts. For example, while 1984 encourages doublethink to disable individual thinking, BNW encourages the use of soma, a drug that Lenina says to take “when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You’d forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you’d be jolly. So jolly” (92).

It’s interesting to compare the books side-by-side since they both study social behavior of their own fictional society, constantly examining what-if’s. Where 1984 took a ‘hate everything, be at war approach,’ Brave New World took a peaceful ‘everyone’s happy’ approach, which you can see is drilled into the mind of every citizen on page 75: “‘Yes, everybody’s happy now,’ echoed Lenina. They had heard the words repeated a hundred and fifty times every night for twelve years.” Overall, it’s funny how similar and different they are, considering they both had the purpose to have a stable society for forever. Note: Notice again how this book doesn’t have to be sneaky with its purpose, again having the characters reflect on the same theme throughout their thoughts and dialogue, just as obvious as 1984. This gives a good method on how to reveal your theme: Make the characters examine and reflect on your purpose.

SOMA

I really like the use of drugs in this book, the one named soma. In the case of this book, as previously mentioned, characters take these drugs whenever they’re feeling something other than happiness, using soma as an avoidance method for any strong negative emotions, in effect, never learning how to deal with them (examples seen on 171 and 176). This is a cool similarity with our society, even though drugs aren’t as heavily used as in BNW, where they’re used as currency. But I think the reason this drug made the book stronger is that it shows the degree of happiness that characters feel. They depend on this sort of artificial happiness, which is by no means a true substitute for real happiness. As the Controller says, “Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for 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” (221). What the Controller means, is the kind of happiness their society achieves is tiny compared to the kind you earn in the face of sadness. You cannot achieve true happiness without its opposite, and by eliminating the negatives, they’ve diminished the positives, but it’s okay! It’s all in the name of stability, and wouldn’t everyone rather safety? Leading us back to 1984’s statement. Would you be willing to give up your freedom for safety? How much are you willing to give up for survival? Hint: Running symbolism, as is the case of soma and the society’s dependence on artificial happiness, is a great way to exaggerate the theme of your book.

ENDING

This one I won’t include any references, but I will include plenty of SPOILERS. With the end of the book, came a general conclusion, where a few of the characters were banished from society, being too creative and intelligent for the general society. And then one character decides to banish himself, not being able to accept this artificial happiness that they have created, through the avoidance of all negative emotion.

After a sort, society tracks him down and continues to make fun of his culture’s tradition, where he learned to welcome pain and suffering as a sort of cleansing process, making him feel better. But the society warped this, making him go crazy until he rebels against the crowds, whipping people and eventually killing – what I believe to be – his ‘love’. In the face of this, his hangs himself.

This felt overall, too quick, rushed. This happened in the last 10 pages, and the pacing seemed quite strange. It slowed down quite a bit after the argument between the main characters, delving into a sort of epilogue before it re-entered the action, with the unhappy character moving away from society, flashing through quick moments of his life until we arrived at the moment of him going crazy, and killing himself in the face of murder. And because this felt forced for me, I don’t think it had the same sort of impact as it did on other readers. What about you?

Edit: I still want to say I’m not a huge fan of the ending, but I want to change part of my answer. While I was discussing the book with a friend, someone said, I know you didn’t like it, but was it effective? Causing me to consider it for the first time. Was it an effective ending? And in short, I want to say yes. It was effective.

The character who killed himself thought he couldn’t deal with the guilt at killing his love, so he ended up committing suicide. I thought this was funny – yes, funny – because he was in opposition of this consistently happy society because it was artificial through the constant use of soma. And yet, when he was faced with the situation of unhappiness, he couldn’t handle it and killed himself, showing, maybe the fake-happy society has it the right way. Because the only thing this ending showed us was that, no, people can’t handle the truth, so continue to feed them soma.

I liked that. Continuing the trek of the story by reinforcing the incorrect notion.

Huxley, A. Brave New World. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1932. Print.