“The Machine Stops” is about a dystopian civilization so reliant on The Machine that they all live in that they begin to worship it. Anyone who thinks poorly of The Machine or tries to escape is becomes “homeless.” To the rest of civilization they are thought to be dead, but in reality they are simply put to roam the barren soil of the planet. When The Machine begins to malfunction, people complain about the newest thing to break and then they adapt to it. That is, until the constant humming stops. Since the beginning of The Machine there has been a constant hum from the air filters. The silence that endures is what drives humanity out of their honeycombs to face death together.
In the book 1984 there is a man by the name of Winston Smith. He is the book’s protagonist. In this dystopia there are three main powers; Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia. Winston lives in Oceania. The three powers are at a constant war with each other over control of slaves and land. This war serves a secondary purpose of using up extra supplies that Oceania doesn’t want its citizens having for fear of them being too comfortable. Oceania itself is controlled by the party led by Big Brother. There are the inner and outer party members and the proles. The proles are unimportant as they are allowed to do whatever they want as long as they are kept unintelligent enough that they don’t wish to revolt. The inner party members are the elite of this world, they have the power to know the secret workings of their fields, but at the same time by the use of doublethink, they know nothing of any importance in regards to their field of work. The outer party are simply the working class of people that do their job and participate in community events. That is all they do, anything else would throw up a red flag.
Winston works in one of the four Ministries called the Ministry of Truth. His job is to update historical documents to make the party seem correct in all of its predictions and to rewrite articles about people who are now unpersons, someone who existed but is wiped from history. His job for him is proof enough that the party is full of lies. In reality the Ministry of Truth is dedicated to forgery and falsities. The other Ministries have names that are similar in that idea. The Ministry of Plenty, which controls the economics of Oceania, often reports overflow of product while really covering for a lack of product. The Ministry of Peace is dedicated to the constant war that Oceania is a participant in. The Ministry of Love is the justice department. The building is tall and has no windows. It would be easier to get into the White House wearing belts of ammo riding on the front of a tank than to get within a few blocks of the Ministry of Love. Inside the Ministry of Love is torture and pain for those that go against the party in anyway. It is made to conform those that don’t believe in the party and then kill them when they love Big Brother.
Oceania has no written laws, yet any mistake can mean a certain death. Winston feels as if he is capable of outsmarting the party by hiding from his telescreen and meeting Julia in hidden locations. As he later finds out, there is no hiding. He is discovered and brought to the Ministry of Love where he is forced to confess to crimes he never had the mindset of committing. He is tortured and starved until he is committed to Big Brother. Even then they bring him to room 101 to face his greatest fear, rats, so he will betray his love for Julia. Only when he does is he ready for recovery and release. In the end of the novel his hatred for Big Brother is no longer. He loves Big Brother.
In Children of Men fertility rates plummet until there are no babies being born at all. For eighteen years there is not a single birth. In this society they turn to discrimination against any and all foreigners and consider all people who look or sound different to be refugees who must be shipped out of the country. They don’t even try to treat them as people and will kill any one of them without a second of thought just for being annoying. Theo, the protagonist of the movie, is kidnapped by his ex-wife, Julian. She is a leader of a rebel group that is protecting a young refugee named Kee who happens to be eight months pregnant. When Julian dies, Kee relies on Theo to get her and her baby to The Human Project where they can be safe.
The people that worked with Julian turned out to be mostly against them. Their plan was to kill Kee and the others and take the child for themselves. Theo found out about this plan and got them out. He brought them to his only friend’s house, but they were discovered and his friend was murdered. They did managed to make it through to a safe house where Kee safely delivered her baby. The next morning the rebellion was started. Theo got Kee to a boat and paddled her and her daughter out to a buoy in the water where they were supposed to meet The Human Project. Theo died right before they were saved.
The movie is an example of a government and a bureaucracy dystopia. The government is who decided that all foreigners must be considered less than people. It’s because of bureaucracy that refugees are shipped out and slaughtered. The people believe that their government is doing what’s best for society. The people are unable to reproduce, so they can’t put their faith in the next generation so they put their faith into their system of government.
All three of these forms of literature demonstrate dystopias differently, but they all overlap in a lot of areas. They all show the government as a controlling entity, although in “The Machine Stops” it is more or less the technology that is seen as the governing force and not so much the actual government. In all three stories the citizens are shown as completely devoted to their governing force, but they also show that for every governing force there is a rebel force that wishes to see its downfall. In “The Machine Stops” there are people who want life to be back on the surface of planet Earth, but the government claims that the only safe place on Earth is inside The Machine. In 1984 the people are in belief that Big Brother is the only way to go. They aren’t given the option of another form of government as they are taught that all other forms led to oppression and bad times. Both 1984 and Children of Men shows the government as being entirely against foreigners. In 1984 they are at constant war with all foreign powers and foreigners are murdered in public while the crowd cheers. The government in Children of Men gives the refugees a chance of survival by shipping them out of the country, but if they do so much as breathe too loudly they are murdered in front of anyone around. All three show how sinister a dystopia really is. In none of the three do we find out if the rebels ever beat the government. We know that in “The Machine Stops” the machine is no longer, and the only people who are left want to start anew, without The Machine or the strict laws that it came with. In 1984 the protagonist of the story ends up making no difference at all, and the cycle simply continues. Children of Men ends in the middle of a rebellious uprising where they are trying to overthrow the strict deportation laws, but it is unknown if they ever succeed in their goals.
Dystopian societies are run by a powerful force. Between the three stories in the above paragraphs there is a technological dystopia, a governmental dystopia, and a cross between governmental and bureaucratically controlled dystopia. These forms of dystopias are very different, but they all have the same fundamental principles. As long as those who they rule want for them to rule them and believe that they are needed, than they are in control.