Saturday, September 13, 2014

‘Dystopia of the Powerful’ Novels

Dystopian fiction provides a dramatic means to draw attention to what life may be like if power continues to be concentrated in an unaccountable few. The two widely acclaimed novels, Whitehall through the Looking Glass and Kuan’s Wonderland, hold up a mirror to the dark arts of societal manipulation, political intrigues, and the dangers of becoming disempowered.

You can find out more about both novels (including the reviews from general readers as well as those involved in political education) as follows:
• For the satirical Whitehall through the Looking Glass, set in a technologically futuristic but otherwise realistic Whitehall (as only a long time insider can depict), where the government itself has been taken over by the Consortium, click on: Guide to Whitehall
• For the allegorical Kuan’s Wonderland, set in the mysterious world of Shiyan where a young boy has been forcibly transported to, and no one he encounters is what they appear to be, click on: Guide to Kuan

(The two novels can be read independently of each other, though they have plot and character connections)

What are the key issues to reflect on
• Do we know who are accumulating power at our expense?
• What are the tricks used to get people to back those who will only exploit them?
• Why the longer we leave politics to the powerful, the worse things will get for us?
• What does it take to unmask and challenge those who want us to be completely powerless against them?
• Do we understand how people can be motivated by different ideals and concerns to unite around a common cause of ensuring none is too powerful to oppress others?

How to get hold of these novels
For Whitehall through the Looking Glass, you can get:
The E-book version from: Amazon UK or Amazon US
The Paperback version from: Barnes & Noble or CreateSpace

For Kuan’s Wonderland, you can get:
The E-book version from: Amazon UK or Amazon US
The Paperback version from: Barnes & Noble or CreateSpace

Options for further engagement
You can:
• Contact the author with your questions
• Share the novel(s) with others through a reading group
• Set up a discussion group to explore the key themes and ideas directly with the author
• Use the novel(s) as the basis for a class on promoting political reflections through dystopian fiction

The Equality Trust, for example, has chosen Kuan’s Wonderland as a key text for engaging young people in exploring the problem of inequality. See their Young Person’s Guide to Inequality (Stories Page), and the teaching aid to promote class discussion, which can be downloaded for free (but beware of spoilers) by clicking on: ‘A Novel Exploration of Inequality’

The WEA has used Kuan’s Wonderland as a basis to engage learners about the problem of inequality. See the WEA page.

Supplementary Texts
In addition to Whitehall through the Looking Glass and Kuan’s Wonderland, and the two probably best known dystopian novels – Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley’s Brave New World – the following are also worth reading for their respective vision of how society could turn out if a powerful elite were allowed to accumulate wealth, government positions, and control over the media and the use of force:
• Atwood, M., The Handmaid’s Tale
• Bachman, R. (aka Stephen King), The Running Man
• Bradbury, R., Fahrenheit 451
• Lewis, S., It Can’t Happen Here
• London, J., The Iron Heel
• Moore, A., V for Vendetta
• Wyndham, J., The Chrysalids