Within the modern world, there is a great emphasis by modern society on a number of traits that are commonly found within literary imaginings of totalitarian states. State control, surveillance, and cultural domination are all themes that are explored within both the Brave New World, and the Truman Show. While these two separate worlds have a significant amount of differences, Seahaven and World State are both totalitarian societies that share several aspects with our own modern society.
While these places look idyllic and perfect from the outside, there is a strong totalitarian strain that runs through the central principles of these societies. Seahaven and the World State restrict the freedom and thought of their inhabitants, unlike our society where such rights are enshrined within the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.” We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.” This is no more true than in the Truman Show, as the main character fully accepts the life that has been placed before him for so long. Within the Truman Show in particular, the main characters entire life is orchestrated by the show’s producers, whose only goal is to use Truman for the TV ratings that he brings in. In order to facilitate this, Truman is held within an artificial town where all conditions are controlled. As such, while idyllic, this town is the hallmark of any totalitarian state.
The thoughts and considerations of Truman are not taken into account when making any decisions about the show. “We’ve become bored with watching actors give us phony emotions. We are tired of pyrotechnics and special effects. While the world he inhabits is, in some respects, counterfeit, there’s nothing fake about Truman himself. No scripts, no cue cards. It isn’t always Shakespeare, but it’s genuine. It’s a life.” As such, while Truman is not directly controlled, his environment is manipulated in such a way that forces him to act according to the wishes of the producers. Due this ability, the producers are to act out scenes in Truman’s life and develop a cohesive plot for the show.
The modern economy is wholly dependent on a steady stream of consumer demand and consumption to hold the economy solvent. Without consumption, there is no economy. This connection between consumption and economic growth has clearly been demonstrated by the US recession, which has led to a world-wide depression in economic activity; as the US is the primary market for most of world production. Similarly, in the Brave New World, the economy of the World State is dependent on consumerism. The citizens of the World State are conditioned from birth to consume. “We don’t want people to be attracted by old things. We want them to like the new ones” (219). They are forced to hating anything that is old, irreplaceable, or free, “Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks- already in the infant mind these couples were compromisingly linked” (22). To control their population, they are from birth conditioned to avoid the natural and the free. Items that are not consumable have no worth to the society of the World State.
To enjoy nature is considered a crime, and every new innovation is specifically designed to fuel further demand. “We condition the masses to hate the country…but simultaneously we condition them to love all country sports…we see to it that all country sports shall entail the use of elaborate apparatus. So that they consume manufactured articles…” (23). In concerning economic policy, the World State and the United States are similar in terms of the fundamental basis of their economy. The propagation of consumption is seen as a matter of national importance, as without it the nation cannot survive. The expansion to new markets and the drive to consumerism matches the policy of the World State.
However perfect the initial design of these societies were, both Seahaven and the World State are ultimately unraveled by the flaws that are displayed within them. Within the Truman Show, Truman ultimately discovers the inconsistencies within the Seahaven, as he notices the constant repeating of accent and the brand advertising that Meryl does. Truman attempts to escape his fate via boat, at which point he discovers the exit to the set. As his last words to his audience, Truman bids a farewell and a greeting to his audience. “Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, Good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight.” This farewell finally frees him from the burdens of the totalitarian state, and allow for his self-realization as an individual.
Within the Brave New World, all inhabitants and individuals that come in contact with the true nature of the regime are ultimately forced to their death or exiled in order to prevent them from affecting the society at large. Bernard is exiled for his independent ways, while John the Savage ultimately chooses to kill himself instead of existing in the morally decaying society that is represented within the World State. “Just under the crown of the arch dangled a pair of feet. ‘Mr. Savage!’ Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east…” (259). To John, his existence within the state led to his inevitable corruption, for which he paid with his life. As such, the World State is only acceptable to individuals who are conditioned to exist in it.
Although the societies are similar in ways, there are more similarities between Seahaven/World State and modern society than there are differences. However, these novels did not focus on society as it currently stands but more on the pathway that society is undertaking considering current social, scientific, and economic trends. Ultimately, these literary works are meant as warnings rather than criticisms of current society.