I am now over half way through my English course (with the Ron Paul Homeschool Curriculum for this year). In this half, the lectures are switched from being presented by Bradley Fish, to Gary North. I greatly enjoy Mr. North’s lectures; the philosophical way he presents, the way he analyzes the information. Today’s assignment was to write about the least believable aspect of a socialist ideologically based novel: Looking Backward. Though the author truly believed in the principles presented in the novel, it clearly presents the inconsistencies of a socialist society. It is purely utopian fiction and, though greatly amusing, it is mainly discourse between the main character, Mr. West, and the good doctor, Mr. Leete.
The plot is reasonably intriguing…though not reasonable at all. Mr. West suffers from insomnia (a condition that makes sleeping difficult). He thus makes himself an underground chamber – steel walls and door and a concrete floor. It is in this room that he generally finds peace and slumber. However, on nights such as the one portrayed in the book; West feels another sleepless night coming on. Because he suffered from lack of sleep the last two nights, and because he never lets himself go more than two nights without sleep (for health reasons), he calls upon a physician who puts him into a trance.
Now you see, the physician who usually lends his services to West was leaving for greener pastures elsewhere. It was only he, West’s servant, and West himself that knew of this sleeping chamber. The physician taught West’s servant how to awaken West (for the convenience of the physician), and with that, he put West to sleep and left Boston in the year 1887
The next thing West knows is that he is awakening. There is an unfamiliar man above him and he is in an unfamiliar room. West is soon explained to that he slept for 113 years…with no food or water – and he suffers from no internal or external problems! The one who aroused him explained that in the state of slumber which he was put into, the body itself goes to sleep. Thus, basically everything is frozen in the state that it was when it was put to sleep and it remains that way until the being is awakened. The man explains that West’s house burned down and, because West’s servant (who also died in the fire) was the only one to know about the chamber (except the physician who left town who was unaware of the fire’s occurrence), West had remained in the sound proof, fire proof, water proof, yet ventilated chamber. Dr. Leete had come across the chamber by accident and had aroused West.
From then on, Dr. Leete informs West of what has taken place in the economy, society, and civilization in general since 1887 to the present day 2000. He explains how wonderful the socialist society is, and yet, neglects to explain how the all-important transition took place.
The writer of the novel’s name was Edward Bellamy. Bellamy was writing in the 19th century and was trying to inspire his readers to believe in the socialist concepts for society.
The main reason for this assignment was to explain what, so far, I believe to be the most unbelievable aspect of the novel (I have only read to about chapter 9).
Aside from the fantastic slumber, his incredible survival, and the amazing change in society (that seems to have no transition), the most unbelievable aspect might have to be the conundrum of the establishment of wages.
You see, Dr. Leete claims that all wages are equal; which in fact is not true. He contradicts himself by saying that, though everyone is paid the same daily wage, hours fluctuate (more, or less) depending on the attractiveness of the occupation. Thus, the hourly wage is different. Any person in their right mind would realize that someone being paid $100 for 8 hours of work is being paid less than someone being paid $100 for 2 hours of work! Yet, Bellamy thinks us all idiots…either that, or he himself is an idiot. Mr. West asks twice for Dr. Leete to explain how wages are decided…and twice Dr. Leete refuses to answer the question. The first time Dr. Leete is asked the question, he answers by declaring that it is bed-time. No joke. The second time Mr. West asks the question Dr. Leete says he doesn’t know how to answer it using West’s language!
Bellamy himself – the socialist – didn’t understand how a socialist society ought to be established; that is why he did not explain. He only knew how his fantastical ideas ought to play out.
I would recommend reading this book. Though illogical, it is still good literature and it is fun to point out the fallacious statements and inconsistencies of the writing.