Manipulation of youth in Utopias/Dystopias

Sam Wittmer

 

What are some characteristics of the manipulation of youth (base) for the good of society and how does conditioning affect family structure and values in a utopian or dystopian society?

 

The paper will generally focus on how the manipulation of children in a utopia or dystopia changes family structure and values.  I will mainly write about this topic as seen in film and literature. The paper will be limited to perhaps a few references to historical texts and real world applications, and the focus will be mostly limited to fiction.  I will use evidence from literature and film and compare the different modes of the society’s manipulation as well as the effects of these actions.

In this paper, I will attempt to address the following issues and questions:

From where does the need arise for a society to manipulate children? So often it seems, very cruelly, that a fictional government chooses the youth as its means of creating the society that is desirable.  Why start so young?  Is it because children are impressionable?  Is it because they are the future and will in turn perpetuate the legacy of the society’s goals and aspirations?

Even if the ends are truly just in nature, is it right to manipulate a child’s mind to desired standards of behavior.  Cotillion?  Is there still meaning behind the actions of the child if it is not truly because of the child’s goodness, but is in fact, their conditioning that leads to their choices?

What are the various techniques that different societies use in order to manipulate children?  Do they use fear or happiness to make them do what they want?

Is it the government specifically, or the society in general that conditions the children into behaving the way they do?

How do family values and the family dynamic change when manipulation is present? (GATTACA—One brother is valued more than the other.  Hunger Games—family’s pulled apart.  1984—Kids turn in their parents when they are going against the party and committing thoughtcrime.)

Children are definitely influenced by their parents and the society that we live in.  When does the teaching of children become manipulation?  Does our society manipulate children now?  (Institutions such as Cotillion, kids often having parents’ political values, law that kids must go to school.) Is this ok/just/good?

When do societies come to the conclusion that they must actively manipulate the children?  Is this and active choice by society?

What is the right setting to manipulate a human being?  What types of societies have conditioning?

Any dystopian novel will demonstrate in its contents the role of youth.  All the works of fiction that I am focusing on show the role of children in society.  Some of the secondary sources I am considering are about the Hitler Youth and Red Guards —but most likely the paper will focus on primary sources and secondary sources that analyze the texts. I believe that the paper will support the ideas of how children are manipulated by their societies.  The paper’s originality is the focus on fictional utopias and dystopias.  This paper will extend the understanding of conditioning effects on children because I will be using a wide range of primary sources, thus perhaps bringing a comprehension to the reasons, settings, outcomes, etc., for said conditioning of children.

 

There are many sources available for this topic, and a wide variety of sources.  There is plenty of fiction—primary sources of movies and literature—as well as non-fiction.  For non-fiction I will look into the Hitler Youth movement or the Red Guards in Mao’s China.  I will sparingly reference secondary sources concerning these topics.  Another non-fiction source could be any parenting magazine articles on how to raise your kid to be respectful: this in order to display the current life of the topic.  Is that manipulation of children?  However, I will focus on primary sources of dystopian literature.  Even if the focus is not on children, these sources always make reference to the role of children.  I will compare the different answers to the questions posed from each piece of literature and compare them.  In the comparison I will look for patterns in the manipulation of the youth.  I would look at the roots of each characteristic of the society in question to make these connections.  I will also reference some of the many criticisms of the primary sources that appear in the bibliography.

Bibliography

 

1a. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Manifesto of the Communist Party,” in The       Communist Manifesto and other Revolutionary Writings, ed. Bob Blaisdell (Mineola:      Dover  Publications, 2003), 123-150.

Focusing on Marx’s points on: a) the current status of the family—his observations on the proletariat family and its degeneration into simply another asset to the bourgeoisie and b) his proposals for change.  He proposes abolition of inheritance, and a different style of family relationship.  There will be new “family values.” (A community of women??) (inheritance, family values, community of women)

 

1b. Davis, Todd F. and Kenneth Womack. “’O my brothers’: Reading the Anti-Ethics of the          Pseudo-Family in Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange.” College Literature 29           (2002): 19.

 

2b. Kirby, David A. “The New Eugenics in Cinema: Genetic Determinism and Gene Therapy in   “GATTACA”” Science-fiction studies 27 (2000): 193.

1c. More, Thomas. Utopia. Toronto: Dover, 1997.

 

2c. Plato, The Republic. Toronto: Dover, 2000.

 

1d. Niccol, Andrew. GATTACA. DVD. Directed by Andrew Niccol. Culver City, CA: Columbia Pictures, 1997.

The film displays a society in which everyone’s destiny is determined by genetic modification before they are born  Society manipulates the youth before a child is even born.  Genetics bring an entirely new way for possible discrimination.  In the movie, a family has one son whose DNA is manipulated in order to make him predisposed to success, and the first who is a “God child”—one who is treated as less because he has inferior genes.

 

1e. Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. London: Heinemann, 1962.

Society corrupts a child at first and then tries to recondition him.  There are two examples of conditioning in this novel.  In the beginning, the protagonist is a general hooligan who rapes and robs as he pleases—a side effect of the dystopian society’s unintentional conditioning.  Later, when he is arrested, the state attempts a reconditioning process.  He becomes “good” simply because he will feel violently ill when evil thoughts come to mind.  Is it still just to be good if the goodness is not inherent.  Can you treat humans like clockwork?

 

2e. Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2008.

 

3e. Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. London: Chatto and Windus, 1932.

(genetic mod., conditioning with repetitions)

 

4e. Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. London: Secker and Warburg, 1949.

 

5e. Twain, Mark. Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins. New York: Norton, 2005. (inheritance)

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Manipulation of youth in Utopias/Dystopias

  1. I think you have a very interesting topic, and have very effectively narrowed down on a specific subject. You have a good number of sources and a broad scope on the topic. Propaganda and youth is a very pertinent subject with regards to the works we have studied and these topics could use some emphasis, so I’m sure your paper will be very interesting.
    With regards to your bibliography, you once again seem to have a very broad range of sources. I would only suggest that you do not get carried away with sources, as too many could make it difficult to home in on your specific topics and your essay could consequently be too broad.
    You have a very interesting topic, have an outstanding grasp of your ideas and sources and I very much await your final paper.

  2. Sam- Your idea for the essay is very unique and by referring to modern, well-known sources, you will have an eager audience in no time. I like how you have many fictional sources, but also included the idea of Hitler and his Red Guard; additionally, I thought it was smart of you to recognize that you shouldn’t put too much focus on this, because will all the fictional references you have, a nonfictional one might cause confusion. You ask a lot of questions, but since they all appear to be fairly relevant, instead of narrowing them down I would just encourage you to make sure they’re all answered within your paper. The sources you have are all very diverse (you’ve got literature, movies, etc.) and relevant to your topic. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this proposal, and look forward to seeing how exactly it plays out.

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