Science fiction is a genre of fiction revolving around science and technology, usually conveying the dystopian alternative future context, the pessimistic resultant of society. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and Andrew Niccols Gattaca (1997) both explore the values and concerns of human existence. Despite the difference in context, Gattaca and Fahrenheit 451 both extrapolate the relationship between man and machine in a metaphorical sense. Both pose similar dystopian concepts of a machine like world. Through the use of juxtapoism, satire, film noir, textual devices and symbolism, both artists are able to successfully convey their interpretation on the values and concerns of science and technology. The historical context affects both authors. Bradbury had written Fahrenheit 451 in an era affected by ww2, McCarthyism, communism and Nazis burning books, culminating with a significant influence on young Bradbury. Bradbury implements the concept of censorship, being ‘inspired by these events’, and bases the foundation of the novel around the 1933 Nazi book burning period. The 1950’s was the decade where television was found common in the average household.
Bradbury satirically implements the newly ‘innovative’ television within Fahrenheit, portraying the technology through his envisionment of the destruction/ eradication the newly fond technology could bring upon humanity, hence opening up to the dystopia found in Fahrenheit 451. Andrew Niccol wrote Gattaca in the 1990’s, a decade of technological rises including the human genome project, cloning and the modification of genes. These uprising in technologies are evidence of humanities desire to reach ‘perfection’. Niccol similarly to Bradbury, satirically portrays the advancements of genetic technology within Fahrenheit 451. “ My father was right. It did not matter how much i lied on my resume. My real resume was in my cells”. One whom is a ‘god child’, has no chance competing against someone conceived with genetic perfection. To enhance the perfection of this genetic thriving society, film noir is used. Giving it a sullen 1970’s look, symbolizing absolute sameness and lack of originality. Bradbury and Niccol both analyse the effects of a precarious relationship between man and machine. Bradbury implements conformity within Fahrenheit 451 portraying a machine like society. He depicts a world that has succumbed to those ‘innovative’ technologies that rid socialization from existence.
Multiple enormous televisions considered ‘family/relatives’ are interspersed frequently throughout the house. There is a ubiquitous acceptance throughout the dystopian world of Fahrenheit 451, and this ignorant/sullen/ anti-social society, is portrayed through the wife of Montag. Mildred. She is representing the ignorant, controlled censored society of Fahrenheit 451. Mildred can be related to the mechanical hound, a ‘man made monster’ designed to ensure social control. “The mechanical hound slept, but did not sleep, lived, but did not live…It doesn’t think anything we don’t want it to think”.
The hound can be seen as the mechanic representation of the society. The people only think what they are told by the media, portrayed physically by the TV wall family substitutes. Mildred is the humane representation of the society. Because of the lack of free thinkers present in the society, there is no real questioning of why books are burnt. Hence a social division is made; corresponding with the division of the in valid’s and Valid’s, there is the division of free thinkers, and ‘Mild reds’. Gattaca highlights the pessimistic alternative of a world where genetic engineering is dominant, possessing a complete opposite context to Fahrenheit yet both culminating with a generic, hated dystopia. Supreme advancements in science and technology have led to an extreme social division. Life is somewhat pointless due to the suppression of imagination and the genetical discrimination extremity. Vincent has been ‘damned’ in this genetic dependent society from the moment he was declared an invalid. Hence put at the very bottom of the economic structure, not being able to compete against those declared ‘valid’. “I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the colour of your skin.
No, we now have discrimination down to a science”. Gattaca parries the genetic technologies present in the 1990’s with his dystopian alternative. The game of chicken acts a metaphorical ‘hidden’ phrase implying the flaws of genetic manipulation and science in general. This hidden statement is inevitably relevant when comparing with all past genetic projects. Dolly, who was the prime uprising of cloning/genetic technology, failed after a short amount of time even though it had a supposed life expectancy of 12 years. Even though Vincent’s brother is declared genetically perfect at birth Vincent impossibly beats him in the game of chicken resulting with questioning of the perfectness of science and technology. Vincent’s human like/in valid features are portrayed through his obvious spectacles, suggesting myopia which is one of the many human ‘burdens’, and also his heart disease.
Both texts conclude with suicide and a sense of hope. Hence the relationship between man and machine and machine is mutual, as humanity prevailed under the dystopia machine had forced upon them. In Gattaca where Jerome commit suicide yet Vincent exults with his dream. Similarly in Fahrenheit 451, where Beatty chose to end his life after the overwhelming human emotions of the realization of the dystopian world he had contributed to had encompassed his heart culminating with a choice that Montag soon came to realize was intentional. Whilst Montage broke free from his imprisonment in this censored and suppressed society with a human essence that has the potential to transform his dystopia into a utopia. Hope. As time predates, science and technology will inevitably advance. Theorems such as Moore’s law actually provide a physical equation that can be used to calculate the power increase of a computer every 20 years. There is no real surprise, considering technology today, that this law states in 30 years the power of computers will become unfathomable to the point where computers will actually bizarrely enough have the ability to create worlds, as complex as ours.
Which then leads us onto the controversial topic of, is our universe a virtual world created by a super computer. Bradbury and Niccol have somewhat juxtaposed this equation symbolically within their texts through the dystopian world they present. Conclusively both texts consist of different contexts yet portray a generic dystopia. Through the genre of science fiction, in a sense, both texts are implying the warning of the precarious relationship between man and machine can lead to sorts of dystopic ventures. With Fahrenheit 451 highlighting the detriments of censorship, with all the events regarding censorship that have occurred in the past, humanity has sort of ‘moved’ past these events. Whilst in Gattaca, the context is somewhat relative to our decade.
Regardless both texts represent there context through the dystopian extremity of optimum genetical engineering to the other extremity consisting of a society dominated by censorship. With these two very different contexts, the same message transcends. One that justifies the inevitability that humanity will prevail through the perils of machine. Bradbury and Niccol very successful portray this message through both texts allowing the reader to understand that even in the most dreaded of situations, there are human essences that divide humanity from all other intelligence. With dystopian extremities and contrasting contexts, the same message appears. The implication being even if we fall under the hands of genetic engineering, or live in a society controlled with censorship, humanity will always find a way to prevail through the essence of hope.