Ender/ Maze Runner

For many reasons, science fiction has stood the test of time, branching across decades and even centuries for the simplest of reasons: common human themes.  The commonality of purely human themes from classic to modern science fiction is evident in Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.  These two novels are on different edges of the science fiction spectrum and so show the ease of evolution within the primary genre through subgenres.  It also allows the commonalities mentioned to hold fast vastly diverse audiences.  The Maze Runner, a 21st century dystopic science fiction work, presents the primary theme of society using a group’s purpose to define the relationships most prevalent.  Ender’s Game, by contrast is a modern, “pure” science fiction novel that uses a single protagonist to help define the society within the story.  Card uses a distinctly sparse dialogue style in his narration to help speed the reader along and emphasize a specific theme.  He also has a unique dual point of view between third person limited and first person for Ender’s thoughts which helps in making his themes more organic.  Dasher, on the other hand, is very specific in his narration.  The reader understands only what he wants them to understand, and he designs his scenes around the themes he’s presenting.  But both works have isolated societies as a main feature complete with language, culture, and customs.  Each author arrives at the theme a little differently, but the theme remains the same in both works.

            Society can be defined in part as an organized group of people who live within a standard set by leaders of the group.  Within the International Fleet of Ender’s Game, the children in Battle School evolve their own speech patterns and slang which Card uses to help differentiate not only between the children and adults but between groups of children and how they interact with each other.  From the beginning, this establishes the theme of society, without letting Ender define himself.  He can’t really fall into the role of “hero” that people are so eager to see.  This arc is due in large part to a sort of domino cause and affect scenario set up by Graff.  Ender is isolated purposefully by the adults in his life, and what they do or say has very calculated results, and the definition of the plot points are very individualistic.  The reader sees a few different levels within the social network of the IF starting with what they call “launchies” who are the youngest students in the school.  Launchy society is defined primarily with innocence initially, with few attempts at friendship within the small group.  Ender is instantly set apart from the other boys by Graff, forcing the boys to take their own action for peace within the group, but Ender is always above and out of reach it seems.  The establishment of Ender’s isolationistic role in launchy society is his first trip to the game room.   He promptly separates himself from his classmates to challenge an older boy to play him two of three on a harder game in the room.  The soldiers hold launchies in such contempt, however, that it takes some manipulation on Ender’s part.  By implying the other boy is scared of loosing to a launchy, he forces the boy to play him in order to save face, and masters the game by the third turn.  This scene is an important set up for when he becomes a soldier in salamander army and is recognized by the encounter by the boy who would soon be training him in combat, Dink Meeker.  When Ender finally manages to bridge the gaps in his group using his classmate Alai, he’s made a soldier with almost no training, isolating him further.  This leads him to start a free practice with the launchies, which is unheard of in the Battle School since soldiers do not associate with launchies.  It is through this isolation that the society really takes hold, with Ender at the center.  As the structure within the Battle school breaks down due to administrative interference in the game, Ender begins to understand that he will never be able to form friendships with his soldiers.  He will always and forever be the commander.  This draws Ender out from the society of Battle School and Command School isolating him in many ways but often allowing the group to define his personality, even if it is as a reluctant leader.  But because of this forced isolation whether emotional or physical, he brings a society to peace within the Battle School.  He brings together his most trusted comrades.  He succeeds in all he was trained to do.  And then, he’s shipped out.  After a particularly unrealistic game set up by the school’s administrators, he gets promoted to Command School, but during the short leave he’s allowed on earth to prep the larger vessel, he withdraws from the IF.  He comes to a realization about his teachers and the adults who are supposed to protect him, the crux of which is they will do nothing save lie and cheat.  The world treats Battle School and Command School like a game, as the teachers and students do.  Ender knows it’s not a game, but he finds out too late to save a planet and an entire species of intelligent life.  He banishes himself, colonizing a new planet with his sister.  His individual decision changed not only his small world but the larger concept of humanity.  The Maze Runner, on the other hand, develops a completely codependent society that the protagonist contributes to not merely taking over.

            In The Maze Runner by James Dashner, the Gladers have developed their own society and culture over the course of two years before the protagonist, Thomas, comes into the story.  Rather than take over, as some “heroes” tend to do in science fiction or speculative fiction, Thomas tries to assimilate.  He essentially attempts to stay on the sidelines while trying to figure out the idea of the maze.  He wants to help, but he has a hard time figuring out his role in Glader Society until he goes into the maze when the doors are closing, locking him and two other boys out of the safety of the glade.  Like Ender, Thomas is put into a completely foreign environment and has to make something of it.  Unlike Ender, Thomas is allowed to depend on others for help.  He’s not forcibly isolated as Ender is.  Rather than becoming the linchpin, Thomas becomes a support, essential for point of view and moral dilemmas.  Arriving in the glade, Thomas knows nothing about his life before.  He soon learns this is the case with all the boys occupying the glade and his brain asks questions he knows will likely not be acknowledged, secrecy being oddly important to the Keepers, who serve as a ruling body for the Gladers.  In fact, Thomas is not considered important, little more than a new kid on the block so to speak until Teresa arrives.  The last arrival and the only girl in the glade, Teresa makes quite the impression even though she’s in a coma for several days mostly because of her apparent connection with Thomas, which neither of them are able to explain.  At this point in the story, Thomas, somewhat molded by the glade society has to find his feet, has to come to understand who he is not only in terms of the glade or the experiment that keeps it running but of his own existence.  Ender longed to be part of the group, a soldier, a comrade, a friend, Thomas already was and his friends trusted him enough to follow him.  They follow him into the maze, into darkness, and amazingly, back into the world they came from standing in front of those who put them in the maze in the first place.  It’s an oddly empty victory to Thomas though after all those who’ve been killed in the process.

            Societies develop in different ways for different reasons.  Speculative and dystopic science fiction use small closed off societies to establish and develop a protagonist and theme.  In Ender’s Game, Ender is isolated from his society in the Battle School which develops their group dynamic and his own personal commander persona while still solidly establishing the society and how it is different from Earth.  The Maze Runner, however, has a codependent protagonist in Thomas.  The Glader society is already fully established and has been for two years before he gets there, and he has not interest in standing out.  Gladers work together to achieve the goals that define the themes of the story, even if the reader only sees it from Thomas’s point of view.  Common themes bringing science fiction back to the forefront of literature.  Ender’s Game and The Maze Runner proving that societies vastly different with protagonists vastly different can reach that audience in similar ways. 

1984 Analysis

There are many definitions of humanity different to each person, group, or belief that separate us accordingly.  In George Orwell’s 1984, what it means to be human is brought to life in various scenarios through different personalities.  The protagonist, Winston, seeks out humanity through individuality.  On the other end, the antagonist, O’Brian defines his humanity in terms of the group.  The focus of this novel is the discovery of humanity in a world where people are little more than animals to the powers in charge.  Using this totalitarian society allows Orwell to examine humanity in its basest forms while crossing the group dynamic of the Party which serves as an antagonist throughout the story.

Winston Smith, the protagonist for this work, takes a strange, lonely journey to figure out what his humanity is worth, what humanity even means in the larger scheme of things.  The society Orwell creates for this dystopia is oligarchical in nature, leaving little to the establishment of individuality.  Because of this, Winston has to define himself as a human without knowing what it really means to be human.  In the beginning of the book, he only understands humanity as its role in the collective, the Party, and not as an individual state of being.  He struggles with his disdain of the Party and how it has, in his opinion, warped society beyond compassion, which can be argued as a root of humanity.  Winston records his observations, experiences, and general horror regarding the totalitarian regime he’s stuck in illegally in a diary.  While this practice does not necessarily span the entire novel, it does help the reader to understand who Winston Smith is within the context of the dystopia he’s forced to endure.  “It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage,” Winston realizes after briefly coming to terms with his own mortality in terms of a legacy he’d leave after the Party inevitably killed him.  Like most modern humans, Winston does not want to die and does all he can to avoid that fate, his very existence depending on his ability to hide his deepest thoughts.  Winston notes on several occasions the control of the Party over the perception of the populace.  By extreme censorship, the Party is able to control not only perceptions and observations, but the nature of truth and history itself. 

““Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”” The Party has made history an alterable state, leaving nothing to contradict societal beliefs, in a sense destroying the legacy of humanity so that only slaves to the Party are left.  Staying in third person limited, Orwell is able to focus wholly on Winston and his journey to understanding and his inevitable fall.  With this technique, Orwell is able to express how Winston sees these orthodox Party followers, often debasing them to speaking in animal noises or behaving as something less than human.  To that end, the proletariats, or proles, are seen as little better than animals by members of the Party, but to Winston they seem like hope.  To him, the freedom of thought the proles seem to enjoy is the greatest luxury available in their society.  From the point of view of a rebel inside the Party, the reader gets a true sense of how society really works, and in the observation of childhood within the Party, Orwell is able to drive home the point that humanity is a secondary or even tertiary role of the Party members.  In this respect, the definite challenge of the protagonist is his struggle to define his humanity in terms of himself and not the Party.  When Winston is captured and tortured by O’Brian, the reader gets a real sense of how his journey has come to a head.  He is finally able to define his own humanity and in the end understands the necessity of dehumanization within the context of the oligarchy.

Fahrenheit 451 Analysis

When classical dystopian literature starts to look like the modern world, the definition of dystopia has to change. Once it becomes reality, it can no longer be science fiction. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is welcomed by people to this day simply because we can see our world becoming what he predicted. Using basic poetic devices and prose style, Bradbury takes a future and makes it the present in this generation. It is metaphor, personification, and simile that help express the torn feeling that the main character, Montag, is fighting as he grows in the story. Montag has a very unique journey as far as being a classic male protagonist. His view of the world as it is takes a total and complete turn from the first page to the last. Each section build’s Montag up by breaking him down completely. Bradbury uses a casual, modern language structure with Montag which he develops as the character changes to match the tone of the sequences as they go. After meeting Clarisse, Montag begins adopting patterns and characteristics of the people influencing him which is a very unique way to arc character development. Bradbury’s revolutionary style and the poetic characteristics and cleverly structured prose he uses in this novel are what make it speak to audiences even in the twenty-first century.
One of the most noticeable characteristics of Bradbury’s style in this work is his use of metaphor. He uses this device almost straight away and makes good use of it throughout the book. For Montag’s experiences, only a unique descriptive process is adequate because of the nature of the society the book investigates and the possibility it implies. This is where metaphor is most often used. When Montag discovers his wife’s mistake with her sleeping pills, he slips right into a metaphoric description of her, comparing the process of cleaning her body of the drugs to digging a trench, “the woman on the bed was no more than a hard stratum of marble…” which is to say that Mildred is unaware, unfeeling, and ignorant of what’s being done to her, not much more than an obstacle the technicians have to overcome to clean out her system. This is an important sequence as the story begins because it sets up the society very well in a very short amount of time. The reader can see the clash between society and Montag beginning in this scene. The moment he finds the empty pill bottle, he searches for his identity, for happiness, and he realizes just how far gone the world is. “Someone else just jumped off a pill box.” The technician tells Montag as they prepare to leave him alone with his comatose wife. This simple sentence with the casual demeanor of the man who says it very effectively sheds a small light on the world that grows as the story goes on.

Montag understands and begins to question the society they live in when he hears the McClellan family discussing its structure and how grotesque it has become. The reader follows Montag at this point in his curiosity and his fear of what his life has become. He begins to hate his involvement very slightly just at this moment, and he wonders what it would be like to be different than they are. ““I don’t know anything anymore,” he said,” his mind wandering as he falls asleep, confusion coupled with fear stay with him long after he wakes. He’s begun to question the very foundation of his belief system and all he’s ever known. This sequence allows juxtaposition later when Montag tries to explain what happened to his wife then speaks with Clarisse, the former expressing the obscenely frivolous lifestyle of modern society, the latter a sheer joy in experience. Montag’s perception of the world around him changes vastly from this point. Part one has a distinctly darker tone in Montag. As he learns about himself and grows into awareness, the tone becomes more hopeful with a dreamlike quality.

When Clarisse disappears, Montag is lost in this new awareness and he doesn't think he has anyone to ask for help. This is when Beatty takes time to throw his mind off even more. The lecture Beatty gives Montag very clearly shows the decline of their society, his fancy words saying little more than it’s their own fault things have become this way, and there’s no point trying to change it. Beatty succinctly bastardizes literature by metaphorically putting its decline in a centrifuge which “flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought.” His justification for the illegality of books in that time period centers primarily around the idea that people simply want to be entertained, not taught or scolded. To Beatty, and indeed most people Montag comes into contact with, books were only to make certain groups of people feel inferior, to argue and contradict ideas. From this point of view censorship is a matter of political correctness, but for Montag it’s a loss of something he doesn't understand. He knows he can change nothing if he’s burned with the books, so he hides within himself until he remembers his chance meeting with professor Faber and realizes that Faber could help him. “I don’t talk things sir… I talk the meaning of things. I sit here and know I’m alive,” so Montag lets himself hope just a little remembering what Faber told him that started him down this path so long ago. 
The extended metaphor that alludes to Montag’s childhood compares putting sand in a sieve to absorbing the knowledge of books, and Montag fights with all he has to keep some of the sand in the sieve. It’s a sense of despair that overtakes him to the point of madness on his way to meet Faber at which point he sees beyond the fear of the old man and helps him hope again. They are able to support each other through their mutual uncertainty until Montag is forced to run from his whole life just to live and be free. From Beatty, the reader learns one side of the journey that led to the dystopia Montag lives in, from Faber, there is another. These two monologues from opposite sides of the spectrum tie Montag’s journey nicely up into a neat package so that afterwards, he can rip it open and throw it in the river, and finally, he understands.

In his novel, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury uses metaphor, simile, and prose style to mark the change, the journey of his protagonist, Guy Montag. Within the story Montag is faced with three different world views through Clarisse, Beatty, and Faber and in the end he finds his own opinion. This novel is a known classic that carries applicability even in the twenty-first century