ETON – KING’S SCHOLARSHIP (1 hr 30 mins, incl. 15 mins reading time) Compare and contrast – vocabulary, syntax, characterisation, punctuation, tone, imagery, similes, metaphors attitudes, descriptions, impact (40 mins)
The two texts reveal that the success of a totalitarian state depends on convincing rhetoric to persuade and guide its citizens or subjects. Both texts explore this through characterisation of leadership, familial imagery, and through their relationship to dissent. Huxley’s novel A Brave New World presents a society that is directly involved in the citizens’ lives to inculcate a sense of foreboding in the reader. The DPRK constitution is a document that espouses sentimental respect for Kim Il Sung and aims to build a sense of duty in the reader, likely a citizen of the nation themselves.
In A Brave New World, Huxley characterises the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning (DHC) as a “menacing” yet accessible figure. The DHC is introduced as he “[opens] the door”, effectively using the metaphor of the door to establish him as a gatekeeper figure. Huxley continues, using the popular idiom “straight from the horse’s mouth” when referring to the DHC, and repeats “horses mouth” and “privilege” when discussing the students meeting the DHC. In doing so, he reiterates that the DHC is a gatekeeper for education, in fact, the DHC “[makes] a point of personally conducting” new students around the premises. Thus, Huxley creates a character who is important enough to be intellectually out of reach, but yet still tangible enough to be directly involved in directing the students’ education. In doing so, the DHC is able to voice the necessary political rhetoric, giving the students a “general idea” so as to be “good and happy members of society”. Therefore, the character serves to demonstrate how totalitarian rhetoric is furthered and passed on by real people.
This sense of direct engagement with leadership in A Brave New World is contrasted by the distant omnipotence of the leader, Kim Il Sung, in the DPRK constitution. Kim is presented as an overarching figure who is spoken of reverently, using language such as “genius”, “brilliant”, and “ immortal” to describe him. These superlatives evoke a sense of legacy and continuity in Kim’s leadership, even though this document is presumably supposed to exist beyond Kim Il Sung’s lifetime. This creates the sense for the reader that the leader’s power is dispersed more widely. Kim is characterised as someone unattainable and god-like, and is therefore impossible to directly engage with. The rhetoric espoused in the constitution is attributed to Kim, but does not come directly “from the horse’s mouth” as in A Brave New World. Therefore, the power of totalitarian rhetoric in this context comes from how indirect and intangible it’s originator is.
Familial imagery is used by both texts to create a sense of solidarity and community. In A Brave New World, Huxley presents the fictional “Bokanovsky’s Process”, which allows an embryo to be split into 96, creating 96 full-grown adults who are genetic clones of one another. Huxley presents this process as efficient and therefore an indication of “progress”. Yet, the implication is also that since these clones created in labs are all related to one another, they form a super-family of sorts. The imagery employed here, referring to the embryos as “buds” that “grow”, suggests an endlessness to this imagined ‘family’. The sinister implication is that the ‘parents’ of these clones are those who work in the lab for the government. Therefore, much like familial allegiance, the clones will be encouraged to be loyal to their ‘parents’, meaning the government. Huxley demonstrates this rhetoric through short, clipped syntax, suggesting to the reader a cynicism in his depiction of the process. This indicates that the reader should be suspicious of the political rhetoric furthered by familial imagery.
Similarly, the DPRK constitution refers to the citizens of North Korea as a “one big and united family”. Much like A Brave New World, the constitution employs familial imagery to create a sense of allegiance to the state. Yet, once again, the meaning of this has a more direct impact on real people than in Huxley’s novel because the constitution is a document meant to be followed. The suggestion here is that the state has a ‘parental’ duty to its citizens, whilst the citizens themselves have familial obligations to the state, including maintaining unity and solidarity. The idea here is one of peacekeeping and is approached with benevolence and familiarity. This is unlike in Huxley’s novel, where familial rhetoric is framed as a matter of “progress”. However, there are similarities in the intention of both writers, as the notion of ‘family’ is politicised and the rhetoric used to further the power of the state. Thus, the DPRK’s constitution evokes a similar suspicion to a neutral reader as A Brave New World.
Lastly, dissent is approached similarly in both texts. In A Brave New World, the incoming students are described as “young, pink and callow” who hang on to the DHC’s every word. The adjectives used depict the students as immature and inexperienced. The use of the colour “pink” is often associated with raw meat, and reminds the reader that the students are not yet ‘ripe’ or fully indoctrinated into the system. Yet, despite their naivety, the passage ends on the phrase: “But one of the students was fool enough to ask where the advantage lay.” This sentence creates a sense of foreboding, but simultaneously evokes a sense of hope. The student who questions the authority figure is described as a “fool”. The term “fool” is colloquial and not particularly severe, which implies that although questioning authority is bad, it is not prohibited, thus allowing the reader to be hopeful for those in the society. Huxley’s implication is that disagreement and questioning whilst frowned upon, is still allowed. Thus, i n this fictional society,political rhetoric is vague and expansive enough to allow for dissent, but is not so open as to actively encourage or create avenues for it.
The DPRK constitution takes this a step further. The regime is presented as “eternal treasures of the nation” and a “fundamental guarantee” for the country’s success. This attitude evokes a similar desire for “young, pink and callow” individuals who are reverent towards authority. However, the tone does not frame them as immature or naive and instead suggests that they are politically mature. As the constitution states, “the entire Korean people will uphold the great leader”; no training or education is required for this purpose, implying that this quality is innate to citizens of the DPRK. However, dissent is not articulated in the document and no ways to disagree or question the state are laid out. No branches of government are established, and instead a cult of personality is the only thing put forward. This rhetoric that revolves around a single figure suggests that dissent is not allowed at all by the government. This reminds us that totalitarian regimes limit their citizens’ freedom of expression. Compared to Huxley’s text, this is far more threatening as real people in North Korea are expected to abide by the lack of infrastructure for political dissent.
Overall, the two texts differ fundamentally in that text one is fictional whilst text two is a document meant to be followed by an entire population. The two texts demonstrate different approaches to totalitarian leadership, in A Brave New World the DHC is directly involved in the citizens’ lives, versus in the DPRK’s constitution, Kim Il Sung is presented as more distant and omnipotent. However, there are many similarities between the two texts in how familial imagery is used as political rhetoric to create a sense of duty to the state, as well as in how dissent is depicted as something limited or banned in these societies. Overall, political rhetoric is used as the primary way in which citizens or subjects are kept under control by totalitarian regimes and leaders. Huxley aims to present the dangers of totalitarianism, whilst the DPRK’s constitution aims to present it as a way of life.