GATTACA AND 1984 COMPARITIVE ESSAY
How has the comparative study of 1984 and Gattaca offered insights into ideas of control and freedom. Control and freedom are both heavily universal aspects to the societies of the late 1900s. The ideas of control and freedom are presented in Nineteen Eighty Four written by George Orwell and “Gattaca” a film by Andrew Niccols. Both texts offer insights into the nature of societies dictated by control such as the totalitarian society of Nineteen Eighty Four and the genetically esteemed society of Gattaca. Both texts also explore the plights of characters in their attempts to obtain freedom. Nineteen Eighty Four written by George Orwell is a didactic text which provides insights into the ideas of control and freedom. Orwell’s main goal is to warn of the serious impending danger that totalitarianism poses to society. He demonstrates the terrifying degree of power and control that totalitarian regimes can acquire and maintain such as the ones he witnessed in Spain and Russia where an accompanying destruction of civil liberties, honest government, and economic strength was displayed.
This totalitarian government is represented by The Party in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four. The Party has unflawed universal control over society, as evidenced by its ability to break even an independent thinker such as Winston, and has mastered every aspect of psychological control, largely through utilizing technological developments to their advantage. The party employs technology to curtail human freedom and privacy and also to control behaviour. By placing telescreens and clandestine microphones all across Oceania, the Party is able to monitor its citizens 24/7 showing the extent of control in which the Party has. This is conveyed through monotonous language and imagery in “The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely”. Another way in which Orwell demonstrates the ideas of control and freedom is through the destruction of individualism. Through its effective psychological manipulation tactics, the Party destroys all sense of independence and individuality, essentially “three hundred million people all with the same face”. To have an independent thought borders on a felony. Early in the novel, Winston writes that “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.” The notion of freedom comes around in a full circle at the end of the novel after the torture Winston suffers in the Ministry of Love which breaks his soul; he sits at the Chestnut Tree Café and traces “two plus two equals five” in the dust on his table furthermore representing how psychological manipulation can destroy individualism and crush freedom.
Evidently, through the use of technological advances and the destruction of individualism Orwell is able to provide insight into the ideas of control and freedom and is able to warn against the dangers of totalitarian rule. Similarly, “Gattaca” a film by Andrew Niccols is another prophetic text which provides insight into the ideas of control and freedom. Written during a time where the study of bioethics and the discovery of the human genome Niccols demonstrates through the use of science and technology how the freedom of society has the potential to conform and be controlled by genetic perfection. Only after a few seconds after he came into the world, Vincent Freeman was already considered a loser; his first genetic test revealed “Neurological condition 60 per cent probability : Manic depression 42 per cent probability : Attention deficit disorder 89 per cent probability: Heart disorder 99 per cent probability– Early fatal potential. Life expectancy: 30.2 years” The clinical jargon used symbolises how far science and technology have come in that it has the power to determine the course of anyone’s life and that it can make such an extraordinary event of childbirth into a sombre display of statistics. When Vincent’s parents visit the geneticist they wanted their next child “to be born into the world in what is the ‘natural’ way”. The voiceover is ironic which emphasises how the society of Gattaca has become a society bent on genetic perfection. The control on society for genetic perfection is so strong that it produces a whole new type of “psychological burden”, the burden or perfection.
When Jerome meets Vincent he claims that “Jerome Morrow was never meant to be one step down on the podium” while displaying a silver medal. This silver medal is symbolic of the fact, that even though Jerome was genetically perfect, he still did not reach his full potential. For Jerome, the burden of protection is what stops him from achieving freedom while for Vincent, it is his genetic imperfection. However, In Gattaca, even though control is very much present, freedom is real and attainable unlike 1984 where control is revealed to be more omnipresent than ever. Bars are an ever-present motif symbolic of being trapped under society’s standards for example when Vincent
is locked out of an educational institute for not possessing the qualified genes, however at the end, Vincent is able to walk through these bars as he achieves his dream and is granted freedom from the pressure of having genetic perfection. Jerome also finds freedom, as the silver medal is paralleled again at the end of the movie strapped around his neck as he closes the door of the incinerator symbolically closing the door on the idea of genetic perfection and the burden it carries, accepting of what he has done and who he has become.
Through the many film techniques conveying ideas such as the extent of science and technology and the burden of perfection, Niccols is able to provide insight into the ideas of control and freedom in “Gattaca”. In societies dictated by conformity and genetic perfection, freedom becomes hard to obtain, such as in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, however, in some circumstances, the plights of the characters in obtaining freedom is successful such is the case in Andrew Niccols’ “Gattaca”. Through the many techniques and ideas conveyed in both these texts, insight is given into control and freedom in society.