In Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, a traveler finds a land that is not totally unlike his own society, but he soon discovers that they have a very different culture from his. By using the failings of Erewhonian society, the author draws the reader’s attention to flaws of his own society. This device is used in other works studied this semester, by creating a world that is not completely different from the author’s own in an effort to make society realize its faults. Thomas More’s Utopia is similar to Erewhon because it makes commentary on certain social issues of his time, disguised as a story about a different culture. George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale were also written based on the societies in which the author’s lived, but these stories take place in the same society at a different time, so they serve more as cautionary tales than social commentary.
Erewhon satirizes many aspects of Victorian English society, including elements of religion, social injustice, and education. It is neither a utopia nor a dystopia, but rather a normal life for the Erewhonians, as they are not altogether unhappy, and a foreign place which the narrator discovers to be somewhat similar to his home country, but also opposite in many ways. By creating similarities between Erewhon and Victorian England, the flaws in English society which are commented upon in Erewhon become more apparent.
Butler recognizes the flaws in England’s present educational system in the chapters on Erewhon’s Colleges of Unreason. He gives the name hypothetics to the main feature in their system of study. They believe that preparing students for any possible or impossible situation will prepare him for actual events of his life, and how to …
…European society should strive. Erewhon is also a fictional society, but it is far from perfect. It first appears to be similar to Victorian England, but it is actually very different with regard to its beliefs and values. These outrageous beliefs and practices call attention to some of the outdated and irrational practices of Samuel Butler’s society. The authors of 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale both use the tumultuous happenings of their time to create a world which does not seem totally impossible. They do not give possible solutions to their society’s problems, but instead draw upon their present day experiences to create a future totalitarian state, which helps to make their warning more realistic. In all four works the reflection of society is dismal, but 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale go a step further, creating a hopeless society where there is no freedom.