Teaching Inside: Perspectives on Dystopian Literature

In October 2016, my students read a bunch of books. Well, more like, in Fall 2016 my students read a bunch of books. I took them through the Prologue to Invisible Man, 1984, Lord of the Flies, Night, and Song of Solomon (because Toni Morrison is all things literary goddess #fightmeonit). So, in October, the guys had finished 1984 and they were preparing for their first debate. The debate topic had nothing to do with the books they were reading BUT the prize for the winning team was that they didn’t have to do the “end of the book” reflection for 1984. #stakeswashigh

The excerpt below came from a member of the non-winning team. To be honest, glad he lost because what he wrote was profound; it was beautiful; it was evidence of what we often know to be true — simply exposing folks (or re-exposing, as the case may be) to social critique through literature can awaken even the sleepiest of dreamers.

October 13, 2016

Students were asked to examine some critical themes in George Orwell’s book 1984. Here is an excerpt from one of the written reflections:

“The most important way the party controlled the party members was through control of emotion. The only acceptable emotion that existed for party members was hate. Hate is reinforced for two minutes every day and for a whole week every year. This is the reason why Julia’s “I Love You” note to Winston is so significant. It was not just that fornication was a sin; love was a sin. Love has the ability to erase and negate almost any and all rational thought; thus is the power of love. In Siddha Yoga meditation it is taught that love is the secret sensation of the self. Love is the most powerful force that exists in the universe. God is love. God created man out of love and to love one another in the same way that he loves us. Therefore love is at the center of all creation. And is the ultimate unifying force. If the Party eliminated love and all the things that came with love, it can conceivably stay in power forever. But as soon as people felt that it is okay to love their children and as soon as children developed love for their parents, and people began to love one another, it became impossible to maintain control over the minds of the people. You cannot hold the minds of the people without the heart of the people. Love conquers all no matter what.

In the end this may be Orwell’s ultimate message; no matter what type of control system the ruling powers attempt to implement, no one can control the power of love. The power of love is much more than just romantic love. The power of love governs the ultimate will to live and live freely.”