Free Will and Freedom in Dystopian Literature

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Free will and options are necessary to maintain humanity. Without them, man is no longer human but a “Clockwork Orange,” a clockwork toy with Organism appearance, as shown in the novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. The novel explores this through Alex’s transformation from a violent criminal, to a law-abiding citizen, back to his original self with the willingness to sacrifice his life for his freedom.

In the same vein, 1984, directed by Michael Radford, is another work that also tackles this, but the outcome is not as positive. Its protagonist, Winston Smith, returns to society after his rehabilitation and sacrifices his freedom to save his own life. Both the movie 1984 and A Clockwork Orange are works in which an oppressive totalitarian regime attempts to transform an individual’s selfhood in order to control personal thoughts and actions.

However, the characters emerge from their brainwashing in varying ways due to their inclination to rebel, the levels of government control, and the character’s desire for freedom.

Both Alex and Winston Smith inclined to rebel their government and their social expectations. In A Clockwork Orange, Alex has a natural tendency towards chaos. He prefers to be subversive, committing crimes such as robbery, rape, and drug use. Alex manifests his rebellion by intentionally harming others. However, society expects individuals to follow laws and social mores. As he mentioned when he was arguing with the doctor about whether his actions are right or wrong, he believes that “I see what is right and approve, but I do what is wrong” (Burgess 87).

Alex is aware what society views as right or wrong, but he chooses to behave contrary to society’s moral standards. In the end of the novel, he decides to give up his violent behaviour, although this is not because of external factors or outside influence. In his own words, he explains “What I do I do because I like to do” (Burgess 31). This quotation clearly explains Alex’s motivations of committing crimes are simply because of his will and passion of unlawful acts. His decision to give up violence happens to align with social expectations but this is merely a coincidence.

Similarly, Winston also rebels against the Big Brother in 1984. In the movie, Winston is an Outer Party member, who works as clerk in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. Changing the record of the past and rewriting history for the government’s good is his job. However, Winston Winston rebels the Big Brother multiple times. He writes daily diarys that talks about his hate of the government and life, “Down with Big Brother”, even though just having a thought of rebellion can him killed.

He rebels against the system because he thinks the laws are unreaonableand unjust. The biggest rebel that he ever did is when he falls in a mutual love with Julia. Winston discovered that Julia also has a rebellious heart, their connection transforms Winston from a fearful individual to a reckless rebellious party member. Winston rent a “private” room that is the directly above the Charrington’s Shop, and this is their secret hideaway room. He is rebelling the party secretly by having a secret affair with Julia.

Winston’s diary sets him on a trajectory to all out rebellion against the Party. The diary allows him to release all his rebellious opinions. Julia, on the other hand, contents herself with private acts of rebellion by engaging in sex and wearing makeup. Winston and Julia are not content with conforming to the Party’s rule or principles, even though the Party devotes substantial resources to detecting rebellion and subversion.

Winston builds up these minor rebellions by committing personal acts of disobedience such as keeping a journal and buying a decorative paperweight. Eventually he escalates his rebellion through his sexual relationship with Julia. The relationship is a double rebellion, as it includes the thoughtcrime of desire.


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Free Will and Freedom in Dystopian Literature. (2020, Sep 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/free-will-and-freedom-in-dystopian-literature/



Is there any freedom in a dystopian society?
No, there is no true freedom in a dystopian society as individual rights and liberties are often suppressed in order to maintain control and order by the ruling government or authority. Any semblance of freedom is often an illusion, used to placate the populace and prevent rebellion.
What are some 7 common themes found in dystopian literature?
Most dystopian literature includes themes of government control, oppression, and/or technological control.
What are the three main elements of dystopian literature?
Dystopian literature typically includes elements of suffering, oppression, and rebellion.
What information and freedom is in dystopian societies?
The most important part of dystopia which is present in every dystopian fiction is restriction of freedom, information and independent thought . It is a very broad aspect which is strictly connected with propaganda, censorship and other forms of manipulation.
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