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Sublime Case Study
Utopia / Dystopia
Wikis for Uni
The Next Generation of Mankind
(by Natsuki Nakamura)
"They were our hope, our promise of salvation, and they were--they still are--exceptionally beautiful." --Theodore Faron on the Omegas (10)
In her novel
The Children of Men
, P.D. James writes of the mass infertility that has inflicted the race of man. James, "England's Queen of Crime," writes another novel with an engaging plot and character motivations, tied together with a strong Christianity motif (Wood). However, James steps away from her usual murder mystery, packaging a dystopic foretelling in her 1992 novel,
The Children of Men
In the Year of 2021...
"Pornography and sexual violence on film, on television, in books, in life, had increased and became more explicit but less and less in the West we made love and bred children."--Theodore Faron (7)
The world has now gone 25 years without a single child being born. With population on the rise and true love on the decline, the lack of children seems like a natural, and perhaps welcome, change. Those born in 1995 are known as Omegas: beautiful, but ruthlessly spoiled. They have grown up without seeing a baby born or hearing a child cry after them. They are the last generation and a constant reminder of the slowly dying human race.
In an attempt to defeat the infertility of man, scientists across the world are searching desperately for the cure. The government has instated required sperm and fertility tests for anyone deemed healthy and has sponsored porn shops to encourage sexual drive. Meanwhile, the government of England also has a system set up called the Quietus to organize "voluntary" suicide for old people who are no longer contributing or have lost their will to live, establishes an island to contain all of the debase criminals, and brings in immigrants as cheap labor.
Theodore Faron, a middle-aged history professor who also happens to be the cousin of the Warden of England, finds himself unhappy with his life. His wife leaves him after their daughter dies and his students don't seem to respect him. In this state, he is approached by a past student of his named Julian, who is a member of a resistance group. She appeals to him to talk to the Warden to stop his tyranny and immoral system. Even as mankind is doomed to a slow death, Julian possesses a faith and compassion that instills hope in Theo.
Theo finds himself caught up in her efforts against the government when Julian tells him she is pregnant. Theo's only concern becomes protecting Julian's child, the hope of the next generation of the future.
"The dinosaur, with its small brain, had survived for a couple million years; it had done better than
."--Theodore Faron (106)
This grim future depicted by James is a critique of the direction of our morals and brings up issues that are being discussed today. In this near future, our respect for elders has disintegrate to the point that we want to help organize their deaths, we take advantage of immigrants and deprive them of human rights, violence fills our streets, explicit sex in the media is encouraged by the government...
And we must view everything with a scientific mindset. We believe that science has the answer to everything. The fact that we can't identify a scientific cause for this epidemic frustrates us and hurts our pride. Science is driven by finding the right answer and making progress. This craving for progress overrules our compassion and humanity. Even in the most desperate times for a new generation, the fertility and sperm tests are only performed on "fit" humans with no mental or physical handicap so as to pass on the strongest genes. This future resembles the controversy of genetic engineering and eugenics.
Also, James implies we are too caught up with the now and immediate pleasure. We want to make money and be successful so that we can live in comfort, even if that means stomping on others to get to the top. Too often we are self-absorbed and don't think of the future. This selfishness goes against the idea of caring for our children and the next generation. The way we act sometimes, thinking only of ourselves, is like we don't have any children (Heim).
Inversely, one could argue that our decreased desired to have children (with increased use of abortion and birth control, concerns about financial need of children, sexuality in media, etc.) is contributing to our selfishness. Children force us to think of the future, saving money for them, raising them so that they'll be ready someday to fend for themselves. Humans will tend to be more concerned with individual, immediate prosperity rather than investing in prosperity that can be shared with future generations if they do not have children to think of ("Children and Hope").
More disturbing than these developments, though, is the fact that no one except a handful of wishful thinkers care enough to oppose it. There is no election held for the position of the Warden of England, and the Council is appointed solely by the Warden. However, even if there were to be an election, the outcome would inevitably be the same. That minuscule minority that speaks against the system will remain unheard among the political apathy and conformity (Bowman). The loss of fertility seems to reflect the selfish and disinterested nature of humans.
Message from God
"I always find, don't you, that when you're in real trouble, faced with problems which seem too much for you, and just ask, He does answer."--Bed and Breakfast caretaker (79)
Much of the problems with the world and of the morals of people seems to be caused by their abandoning of God and their belief in "western science" instead (7). Theo was once vaguely religious, but loses faith after he contributes to his daughter's death in a car accident. His hopes decline in a dying world as the government gets worse and there is nothing humans can create or discover to save mankind. Many others share Theo's apathy or even possess anger toward God who is not helping them, believing He has perhaps abandoned His experiment of mankind that went "spectacularly wrong" (131).
Julian, like James, is a very religious woman, praying every day. Julian is driven by her faith in God and is coincidentally the first woman to break the mass infertility and become pregnant. In addition, the father of the child is a priest. Both parents, however, are deemed "rejects" for physical deformities in "a world which had become increasingly intolerant of physical defects" (67), meaning that they were never even considered in the government's mandatory tests interested in procreating a stronger race.
These faithful followers of God function as unlikely saviors for a decaying society. Julian is like Mary, pregnant with a holy child that will repopulate and restore faith to the world. With a child in her belly after 25 of no children, her child will literally act as a savior like Jesus for mankind. In this context, James demonstrates the power a single child being born can have, and restores the idea of each child being a blessing in a world that is caught up with overpopulation or having the most perfect child (Heim).
In addition to conceiving child, Julian works to lead the resistance against the tyrannical government. Julian serves as a beacon of hope in a world that has turned away from God. The second part of the book is titled Alpha like the basic crash course of the principles of Christianity, corresponding to the proper religious rebirth Julian and her blessed child hope to restore (Finn). It also serves to answer questions about Christianity, such as "how can one birth be of such significance?" (Cunningham).
Julian possesses a passion that other characters who have lost faith seem to lack. Most people have grown apathetic towards the seemingly hopeless future (Mitgang). Watching Julian, Theo begins to believe in a better future and feel emotions again. One strong emotion he feels is love for Julian. Theo wasn't sure if he ever loved his wife before, but something about Julian's compassion makes him sure that he must protect her and her child because of the love he feels (Finn). Both Theo and Julian reflect back on their respective marriages, and Julian says, "I willed myself into the appropriate feelings without knowing what the appropriate feelings were" (274). When they both have faith to guide them, love is more than a just a matrimonial contract.
Dystopic Vision or Just Propaganda?
"Man's infertility is God's punishment for his disobedience, his sinfulness. Only repentance can appease the Almighty's rightful displeasure."--Roaring Roger, self-proclaimed Old Testament
James writes of a dystopic future with many questionable governmental policies in a society that has lost nearly all hope. Concerns with overpopulation and decrease in population are both popular subjects for dystopia, depending on the time (Shriver). Interestingly, James's
Children of Men
was written in 1992 and predicts infertility to begin in 1995. For dystopias that happen in the future, it is always tricky to try to set a realistic yet eminent time that the story takes place.
However, the slow death of mankind due to no more babies being born hardly seems relevant in our time of booming population. In fact there is some postulation of another baby boom, possibly due to an increase of teenage pregnancies
For James, the time allowed for society to change is irrelevant since there is no direct, identifiable cause leading up to the infertility, such as a disease or an enforced control on population. While most dystopias assess the rate of mankind's progress or degradation, James simply critiques her current society by punishing them with an uncurable mass infertility. The fact that the infertility is unexpected and out of the hands of humans puts them at the mercy of a greater being of power--God in this case.
James says she "does not want to confine her hero within her own convictions, nor to impose them on her readers" (Wood). Technically, Theo is the narrator and is questioning God, but he is still wary of science. Furthermore, Julian, partnered with a masculine name much like James, is much more the hero to her ailing society. Julian is a very devout Christian and seems to speak for James. The seeming cause of the infertility is the lack of faith in God in this troubled society. Julian's faith renews Theo's Christian roots, like when she asks him to recite a passage from the Bible for their fallen comrade (Finn). Likewise, James seems to be trying to convince readers what needs to be fixed in our society is the lack of faith.
Also, she seems to imply that there is a direct correlation between belief in God and emotions, hope for the future, and abilitiy to love ("Children and Hope"). James makes poignant critiques of the morals of our society, our obsession with science, and our political apathy. However, she does so by relating them all back to our abadonment of God, and the only solution she proposes for this hopeless situation is to look to God.
Bowman, James. "Our Childless Dystopia."
The New Atlantis
(May 2007). 19 Mar. 2009 <
"Children and Hope."
. Everyday Ethics. Montana Public Radio. KFUM. 8 Feb. 2007. Transcript. 19 Mar. 2009 <
Cunningham, David S. "Explicating Those 'Troublesome' Texts of the Creeds: The Promise of Realistic Fiction."
42.2 (2003): 111 - 119. 19 Mar. 2009 <
Finn, Molly. "Not Tonight, We Have a Headache." Rev. of
Children of Men
23 Apr. 1993: 26.
Academic Search Premier
. EBSCO. 6 Mar. 2009 <
Heim, S. Mark. "The Omegas and the Alpha: World with an End."
110.17 (1993): 561.
Academic Search Premier
. EBSCO. 6 Mar. 2009
James, P. D.
The Children of Men
. 1992. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.
Mitgang, Herbert. "Leaving Dalgliesh Behind to Enter an Orwell Mode." Rev. of
Children of Men
New York Times
17 Feb. 1993: C17.
. ProQuest. 6 Mar. 2009 <
Shriver, Lionel. "Population in Literature."
Population and Development Review
29.2 (2003): 153-162.
. 19 Mar. 2009 <
Wood, Ralph C. "Rapidly Rises the Morning Tide: An Essay on P.D. James's `The Children of Men.'"
51.2 (1994): 277. EBSCOhost. 6 Mar. 2009.
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