“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.”
– Aldous Huxley
“It has always been this way. Death is followed by birth. To reach paradise, man must pass through inferno."
-Bertrand Zobrist in Inferno
“The keynote of minority prejudice is this: They are loathed because they are feared.”
-Richard Mattheson in I Am Legend
“[t]his evening he almost would have preferred to keep his feelings hidden. But it was, of course, against the rules”
-Lois Lowry in The Giver
"It is only farce" - Edward Walker in The Village
“Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon, but to our ignorance and complacency coming to an end.” -Joseph Campbell
In this issue, we explore various types of societal constructs in apocalyptic situations to tease out the deeper meaning behind different texts. We uncover how the apocalypse is used as a vehicle to analyse societal attitudes towards social and technological issues in the real world. After covering the realm of reality, we move on to the utopia/dystopia where we examine how the power and societal structures function in these societies. By looking at multifarious themes in apocalyptic texts, we hope to address the question: How is this book/film relevant to us? By breaking down the texts into easily digestible sections, we can better appreciate the real-world connections and literary construction of the texts.
In the first article, Gan Ke Ching explores how humans react to ever-changing technology. Throughout the passage of history, technology has come to form a pillar on which societies increasingly rely on. As technology advances, mankind too takes a huge stride forward. Inevitably, advances in technology carry along our fear and concern for its implications on our society, an area of avid discussion, identifiable too in apocalyptic texts. This article will discuss on how these texts encode an overtime shift in what makes technological advancement worth of our fear and concern, in particular, how our fear of technology converges into our fear of human nature.
The second article, written by Loh Wei Ting, touches on the quandary between utilitarianism versus morality in tackling overpopulation, the main reason for the conflict in Inferno. Through the use of a highly utilitarian solution to overpopulation, the supposed antagonist, Bertrand Zobrist created an apocalypse. Yet, it can be argued that Zobrist’s actions are justified based on the perspective of readers, whether they support utilitarianism or morality. Through the conflict between utilitarianism and morality postulated by the Bertrand Zobrist and Robert Langdon in Inferno, the dichotomy between what constitutes a hero and villain is blurred – it has become ambiguous as to what constitutes a protagonist and antagonist.
The third article, written by Bethany Leong, compares the original book of I Am Legend with its 2007 movie adaptation and examines how these texts allude to the issue of Otherness in the real world. The texts depict the journey of the protagonist, Robert Neville, as he struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic world after a global pandemic outbreak transforms infected humans into vampire-like creatures. Although the main storylines of both the book and the movie are largely similar, there exists salient differences that can be accounted for by the differing contexts of the 1950s and a post-9/11 world in which the texts are set in respectively. By analysing how Otherness is portrayed across time, we can better understand the mutable yet perennial concept of alterity.
The question of what an ideal society is has always been one of ambiguity and is subjected to endless debates. In the fourth article, Pooja Bhagwan explores The Giver (1993) as a response to such debates about the construction of society. It is a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel by Lois Lowry that centers around a young boy named Jonas and his Community. The society in The Giver aims to achieve “Sameness,” which is about transforming people into a uniformed entity. The text removes freedom, emotions, identity and memories of the past to reveal how uniformity may initially be a good thing for society. Upon deeper analysis, we see how while these elements can be detrimental, as they play an incredibly important role in shaping the ideal society.
The last article in this series, “Agency in The Village and The Handmaid’s Tale: Regressive Societies and Power”, by Ooi Wen Ting explores the construction of enduring regressive societies by comparing two texts of different mediums produced almost four decades apart. Both texts feature individuals being controlled in their societies that have regressed. Control is the cornerstone for these regressive societies that even deviance cannot undermine. The article will round the issue off by highlighting how the construction, deconstruction or reconstruction of any society is highly dependent on individual vs societal relationships.