Technically, Herbert George Wells’ 1895 classic “The Time Machine” and Arthur C.
Clarke’s 1953 novel “Childhood’s End” belong to that Science Fiction category known as dystopia. As an anti-thesis to Thomas More’s utopia which presents an almost perfect state for human civilization, dystopia or cacotopia presupposes a rather sad and a doomed end for man’s dream of an ideal society (Hillegas 3).More than giving a scary future for mankind, science fiction dystopia always makes important commentaries on the human life, thus becoming a mouthpiece for social criticism and to some extent for satire (Amis 18). Furthermore, the nightmarish future painted in dystopic science fiction can be seen as a vehicle of diagnosis and even warning (Hillegas 167). It is towards these ends that dystopias should be seen: as an analysis on a present situation that gives future probabilities based on present problems.Both novels – “The Time Machine” and “Childhood’s End” – present a utopian civilization in the early chapters. “The Time Machine” ushers in the simple and peaceful existence of the Eloi civilization. Though physically fragile and intellectually bordering on below the average, they live an enviable life where crime is not known and chaos is foreign.
They are vegetarians and need not have to handle regular jobs to survive. They have no need for agriculture and technology that political roles for male and female are also missing. They project a pastoral communist state where equality extends not just to social status or economics but even to physical appearance and intellect.On the other hand, “Childhood’s End” starts with pacifying pre-conceived fears for alien beings.
The Overlords, as its main alien race, are helpful and rather insistent in giving aid to the human race in order to attain peace and prosperity. Instead of making slaves out of human beings, the Overlords help the human race in solving the age old problems of war, hunger, homelessness, and even advocating animal rights.The similarity between the two novels does not stop in handing a picture of a utopian society. Both novels, set in the future, and presenting races different to ours reveal towards the middle rather frightening truths about the utopian societies. The Eloi for instance exist without art, politics, and creativity. It is the lack of such things that drives the lead character – The Traveller – to muse about how chaos and man’s unceasing struggle for survival give birth to the crescendo of artistic achievements.Moreover, The Traveller soon finds out that class structures have not been totally obliterated in the realm of the Eloi.
As a matter of fact, he is just seeing the tip of the iceberg in the temporal world that he happens to be visiting. Further observation and investigation show him that the human race, has in fact branched out into two groups: the peaceful Eloi living in existential bliss amidst ignorance and sloth ness; and the cannibal Morlocks whose appearance is similar to that of a fused human and spider, who are working underground to maintain the machinery that keeps the Eloi alive and docile.In the case of “Childhood’s End,” the revelation of the Overlords as to their real purpose in coming to Earth disintegrates the order that has already been achieved for human civilization. In wanting to observe the evolution of the human race in order to find remedy to their stagnant evolution, the Overlords deny the humans their rightful claim to natural evolution by placing into quarantine the human children who have displayed psychic abilities and meddling with the decision of the human race as to what to do with such children.
But then again, the two novels do not end in just projecting a bleak future for mankind. At the core of “The Time Machine” lie the challenges facing communism as an ideal state. In eradicating social classes, as Marx would have wanted it, the citizens are in turn giving up more than a portion of their individuality. In positioning the Eloi above the workplace of the Morlocks and in presenting the former as not having to struggle to survive, Wells was able to graphically present the class distinction between the capitalist and the bureaucratic capitalist on one hand and the working class on the other hand wherein the capitalist and the bureaucratic capitalist are simply living off the blood, sweat, and tears of the working class.Arguably, Clarke’s depiction of the evolution of the human race rests on aspiration. It is not enough that the physiological make up of the human being adapts to its biophysical environment, for that very environment can be influenced by the humans themselves. Simply put, the evolution of the human race is not only based on its natural trajectory but is also influenced by the actions of its previous generations.
Even Marx himself supports the idea that the human species in creating its world through labor, creates itself, that production “not only creates an object for the subject, but also a subject for the object” (Marx 92).It is in this context that Ray Bradbury’s idea of science fiction’s ability of dreaming of the future comes in. Dreams can be used as a device in both literature and psychology. As the royal road to the unconscious, psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were able to come up with psychoanalytical theories anchored on dreams.Since Freud used the literary texts of Hamlet and Oedipus in explaining some concepts, tying up literary criticism to psychology proved to be easy and acceptable. In literature, some writers have been known to have based their writings on their dreams or nightmares like in the case of Mary Shelley and her revolutionary novel “Frankenstein.” The absurdist and expressionist are also known for giving importance to their dreams in the creation of their masterpieces.The psychological approach as a literary approach owes much to the theories of Freud and Jung.
Freud identifies the unconscious as a more interesting study than the conscious sphere in an individual’s mind. He divides the unconscious into three: the id, which contains desires or as critics put it, libido; the superego which represses the id’s impulses as it contains the dictates of the society; and the ego, which serves as somewhat sort of repository for the compromises between the id and the super ego (Burris Screen 7).Jung on the other hand, as a student of Freud was more concerned with the collective unconscious, that part of consciousness that interlocks every human being to other human beings. His concept of the process of individuation loosens such interlocking in the unconscious so as to give birth to the “individual” (Screen 7).Bradbury’s statement about how science fiction may be preventing the future holds water when applied in the psychological context.
Just like any literary genre, science fiction still fulfills its nature as a sociological act. Its creation is still influenced by the overlapping relationship among literature, man, and the society, where in man is positioned at the very center of both literature and the society.To dream therefore in science fiction, is not exclusive to an individual’s dream.
It is the dream of a community, a nation, or even a generation that finds its way into science fiction. The future that Bradbury may be referring to is not just an individual’s future but the future therefore of a community, a nation, or even a generation.Science Fiction offers both dreams and nightmares as evident by the fact that there exist two subgenres termed as utopia and dystopia. In presenting utopia, in the case of “The Time Machine” and “Childhood’s End,” modern-day concerns for a just and blissful global society are well articulated. The eradication of poverty, social classes, and hard labor in the early chapters of “The Time Machine” more than echo the historical struggle of mankind for a better world resulting to numerous revolutions and civil or global wars. Meanwhile, the eradication of the same things in the early chapters of “Childhood’s End” is compounded by the presence of an alien race heightening the human being’s fixation to embark on that journey to the unknown.
The two novels are successful in turning utopia to dystopia. They are able to show the problematic side of the human being’s dream of a utopian society without social classes. In both novels, evolution seems to be the magnetic core. It is the evolutionary development of the Eloi that astounded The Traveller as it is the evolutionary development of the human race that interested the Overlords.The problems for both evolutions can be answered with Frued’s psychoanalysis.
The Eloi’s stunted evolution is due to the fact that eradicating day-to-day struggles for survival makes any being at all docile and complacent. If physical and mental faculties are going to be used in a limited capacity, then it follows that they are not to develop dramatically or may even be underdeveloped just like the case of the Eloi.The evolution (or the end of it) in the case of the Overlords is anchored on the lost of individuality.
Just like the Borgs of Star Trek, in obliterating individuality, a race may fall into the clutches of stagnation. It is the lack of desire, the final suppression of the id in both the Eloi and the Overlords that spelled out their doom in evolution. It is the suppression of the id that forces a race to lose its individuality that forces every human being to conform to the dictates of the collective or the society as it is the failure to loosen the interlocking of the collective unconscious that puts the two races in evolutionary peril.
Bradbury’s idea that science fiction prevents the future, though substantive is not totally true if the two novels would serve as the only basis. “The Time Machine” underscores the impossibility or even improbability of the obliteration of social classes as seen in the case of the Eloi and the Morlocks. For a class to thrive in utter docility, it seems that there should always be another class to do the hard labor. On the other hand, “Childhood’s End” implies that individuality is a basic ingredient in the evolution of the human race. The loop towards the psychical instigated by the demon-like appearance of the Overlords intensifies the archetypal significance of the demon: that ushering an end. The end of the human development begins with the introduction of the demon-looking Overlords, the race which can no longer evolve for having imploded into a single mass bereft of diversity.
Either way, the two novels prove that certain dreams are not probable, that given the nature of the human being, with the interplay of the id, ego, and superego in the unconscious, desires can never be totally suppressed, that to lose desire is to hamper progress, that to lose individuality is to stagnate evolution. Bradbury may be thinking of preventing the future, but it may be a localized or compartmental future. The future of mankind is plain and simple, amidst chaos, man will evolve.