The relationship between society and the individual exists in strongly differing ways in the books Oryx and Crake, The Quick Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and The Lady in the Dunes. While Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake shows how the specific views society as a source of sadistic home entertainment or wealth, Junot Díaz’s The Brief Fascinating Life of Oscar Wao reveals a relationship in which society declines the person. In turn, Kobo Abe’s The Lady in the Dunes reveals a relationship in which society requires the specific into servitude.
Oryx and Crake presents a society in which people residing in the time before “the flood” (this story’s apocalypse) have lost all sense of social ethics. The fundamental style in this society seems to be sadism (in a non-sexual way); the major types of entertainment for people involve the pleasure of human suffering. The best examples of this are the 2 primary kinds of entertainment that Crake and Jimmy enjoy in their youth: Web video games and Web programs. Games such as “Barbarian Stomp,” “Blood and Roses,” and “Extinctathon” all pit society on one side and utter damage on the other, with the side of utter destruction usually winning (77-81). Their pleasure of such games shows the appeal that death and destruction have to people in this society.
The example of their Internet shows, however, is much more troubling. Whereas the video games Crake and Jimmy play are dream, the programs they view are not. Shows such as “Felicia’s Frog Squash,” “hedsoff.com,” and “deathrowlive.com” all show acts of violence inflicted on genuine people for the entertainment of the viewer (82-83). And there is such a high demand for these shows that Crake presumes that a few of the executions are staged; he says that “the viewers wanted to see the executions, yes, but after a while these could get monotonous” (83 ). People in this society have actually reached such a high level of corruption that acts of real violence need to be made in order to meet need.
Aside from the enjoyment of violence, these people have actually also reached a new level of sexual wickedness. Even an easy thing such as seeing the news needs to have some level of sexual stimulation to keep people captivated; for this, there is the “Noodie News,” a news program in which all of the anchors are completely naked (81 ). The worst example of sexual depravity can be found in the type of a website called “HottTots,” where tourists are recorded “doing things they ‘d be put in jail for back in their home nations” (89 ). The videos involve children as young as eight carrying out sexual acts for the entertainment of the audience; one only needs to be 18 to legally see these websites, though Jimmy and Crake have the ability to get around this speed bump to see the material at an even more youthful age.
Another significant style in Oryx and Crake is elitism. Simply as the person in Jimmy and Crake’s society has lost all appreciation for the worth of human life, so too has the upper class lost all empathy for the lower class. Society is now divided into two classes: the elites, who live in the protective paradise of the compounds, and the plebands, who live in crowded, diseased, and unclean cities. The elites of this society view the lower class as a method to make money, no matter the cost to human life. The most disgusting example of this is the corporation “HelthWyzer.” This business establishes remedies for diseases, however at some point in history, they faced a problem: they found out that if they cured all of the diseases, they would no longer produce any profit. In order to remedy this problem, they began concealing brand-new, manufactured illness in the vitamins they offered to the pleband population; as soon as the virus took off into the population, they launched an antidote onto the marketplace– but in restricted quantities “so they’re guaranteed high profits” (211 ).
What is most scary about the vicious and morally corrupt people of Oryx and Crake is that their dishonest characteristics can be found in real-life society today. Individuals are currently enthralled by violence in home entertainment and games, and there are a lot of genuine websites where one can go to see terrible violence, physical and sexual, caused on genuine humans. Which is the ultimate claim of Oryx and Crake: that human beings do not value the lives of other humans. The texts positions the questions: is the society displayed in Oryx and Crake the inevitable endpoint for our own society? And is humankind vicious by nature? The text believes so, and its answer to this issue is the supreme example of the devaluation of human life: Crake’s decision that mankind is too imperfect and vicious to continue, and need to be erased and changed.
Another book rife with various human relationships is The Short Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The most intriguing relationship in the book is that between Oscar Wao and society. One of numerous questions that this text asks us is, can an individual who is not able to form a favorable relationship with society endure? The text reveals us that a person who does not fit into society’s requirements is not valued by society. Oscar is the quintessential nerd, maturing in a time when there was nothing cool about being a geek; he likes to watch anime (Robotech and Akira); he enjoys to play role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons; he is overweight, unathletic, and unsightly. He is not able to understand and follow social guidelines. He speaks in a manner that is inappropriate to society, using words discovered only in dictionaries or comics. Worst of all, due to the fact that of his social awkwardness, he is never ever able to communicate with woman, a problem that constantly weighs on his soul. In addition to being ostracized by society as geek and a gamer, Oscar is also an outcast because of his race. Due to the fact that he is of a mixed ethnic culture, “The white kids … treated him with inhuman cheeriness. The kids of color … shook their heads. You’re not Dominican” (49 ). Unfortunately for Oscar, he is unable to suit the requirements of society in any way.
It seems that the text is trying to show us that society itself is dishonest in its severe treatment of those who do not fit its mold. This rejection by society so upsets Oscar that he feels required to take extreme procedures to get rid of the discomfort. He ends up being so depressed and downtrodden by his status as an outsider that he attempts to take his own life. This becomes somewhat paradoxical in searching for an answer to our initial question; had Oscar was successful in taking his own life, then society would have won, and the answer would be that rejection by society is an individual’s death sentence. Fortunately, a minimum of in this story, the person is not eliminated by his rejection and has the ability to survive on.
Unfortunately, Oscar does end up losing his life by the end of the story. Rather of losing his life out of depression, nevertheless, Oscar is able to discover his own strength and stand up for what he believes in. In the end, Oscar is able to transcend his rejection by society and accept himself for who he is. However, he does have a little bit of aid in doing this by lastly having a relationship with a female. It appears, then, that an individual can endure without a positive relationship with society in general, but not if he or she is entirely alone; people should have some sort of positive human relationship to help them. Oscar’s final letter, which is provided to Yunior after his death, ends with a recommendation to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. However instead of quoting the popular words of Kurtz, Oscar announces, “The charm! The charm!” (355 ). By the end of the story, Oscar is able to leave the wilderness of the society that has actually rejected him and discover the appeal in the wild of his own uniqueness.
The primary human relationship in The Lady in the Dunes exists through the story’s use of utilitarianism. The story of Niki Jumpei is the story of what occurs to a specific when he is forced by society into a life he does not desire. At the beginning of the story, Niki has unwittingly been trapped in a society that positions no value on the person. The village does what is finest for most of its inhabitants at the cost of a little minority group, who are forced to live in holes and keep the village from being overrun by the ever-encroaching dunes of sand. Niki recognizes this but does not concur with it; his mentality is that an individual’s ultimate responsibility is to himself, whereas the villagers see the predicament of the specific as unimportant when compared to the predicament of the group.
Niki continues to resist the whims of the villagers, but after they keep water from him, he yields to the labor he has been pushed into. This is the start of his descent into acceptance of his new life. He begins to rationalize his new existence by believing that “work seemed something essential for man, something which enabled him to sustain the aimless flight of time” (158 ). This is the message that the text is attempting to communicate: man, when pushed into a presence he does not originally desire, will eventually accept that existence.
Though Niki starts to lose his rebellious spirit, he still looks for to go back to his old life beyond the hole. This culminates in one supreme jailbreak, though it is an unsuccessful one that ends with his capture and go back to the hole. However even after this failure, he still desires some form of his old life and requests of his captors that he have the ability to leave the hole every now and then to see the world exterior. They consent to enable specific concessions if Niki will make love with the female he is stuck to while they enjoy. This is another main point of the text: when there is one group that is ruled over by another as roughly as Niki and the female remain in this utilitarian system, the elite group’s own authority causes them to see the ruled over group as subhuman, and the ruled over group loses its mankind; for that reason, this kind of human relationship is a dishonest one. This is exemplified by page 230 of the text, in which Niki attempts to rape the female at the whims of those above just so he will have the ability to leave the hole once in awhile.
After this last failure of attempted escape, more time passes, however without any attempts by Niki to get out of the hole. He still thinks of getting away, however these desires have become a sort of intangible dream; he has actually lost the fervor for flexibility that he as soon as had. At the end of the book, Niki is briefly allowed to leave the hole, however he is so used to his life in the dunes that the air above stings his throat, and the ocean appears unappealing to him (238-239). In spite of this glance of liberty, all he can think about is returning back to his life in the hole. This is the last message of the text: when groups of people are valued so little by another, they will eventually end up being complaisant and certified and accept their lot in life as slaves.
Each of these 3 stories presents a different view of the relationship between society and the individual. Unfortunately, all of these relationships appear to present a clash in between the two. One is left questioning if this theme, so common in contemporary literature, signifies the times: is society today as unethical, harmful, and terrible to the individual as these texts make it seem?