English department, fu jen catholic university



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Introduction
Although the dystopian genre has existed in literature fora longtime, it was not until the post-World War II era that dystopian literature flourished. According to Douwe Fokkema, the sudden growth in dystopian literature is in reaction to unchecked technological and disastrous political developments (345) during that era. As many writers then either participated in or were impacted by the events of World War II, it is to no surprise that postwar dystopian literature is often enveloped in the overwhelming anxieties of the terrors that still remained after the war, especially George Orwell’s
Nineteen Eighty-Four
​ and Ray
Bradbury’s
Fahrenheit 451
​. Orwell himself participated in the Spanish Civil War and later worked in London as political commentator for the BBC . . . in support of the British war effort during World War II (351), a role paralleling that of the protagonist, Winston, in
Nineteen Eighty-Four
​, who works to falsify historical records in the Records Department. Similarly, although Bradbury did not have firsthand experience in the war,
Fahrenheit 451 was inspired by the public book burnings of Fascist Germany during the s (Eller 77), which parallel the work of the protagonist, Montag, who is a fireman responsible for burning books as a means of preventing freedom of thought and expression (Fokkema 364). Therefore, critics tend to devote their attention to the portrayal of male protagonists in the novels and view their totalitarian nightmares in relation to recent historical events.


3 Chen Although following the male protagonists actions and character development throughout these novels is a logical approach, critics severely overlook the female characters subjectivity and agency in both texts. Feminist readings of dystopian literature did not fully emerge until the sin response to second wave feminism that made its strong statement in the s. As a result, feminist readings of speculative fictions are focused on more recent dystopian works written by female writers, such as Marge Piercy’s
Woman on the Edge of
Time
​and Margaret Atwood’s ​The Handmaid’s Tale​;​
1

feminist readings of earlier dystopian works written by male writers are still in short supply. In order to grasp how the protagonists ultimately come to the point of rebellion, it is vital to consider the interactions between the protagonists and the female characters. This study, therefore, hopes to fill this gap in the criticism on postwar dystopian novels by focusing on the role of female characters in both
Nineteen Eighty-Four
​ and ​Fahrenheit 451​, where the dichotomy between the passive women, Katharine and Mildred, and active women, Julia and Clarisse, is a necessity in the making of the protagonist. Female agency measures the extent to which female characters are able to resist totalitarian control, and how they influence the protagonist to do the same. In terms of methods of totalitarian control, Margaret J. Daniels and Heather E. Bowen propose that totalitarian practices within dystopian literature are means of “anti-leisure,” the devaluation of women’s personal leisure spaces (423), thereby suppressing their individual subjectivity. Thus, for the purposes of analyzing female agency in this paper, totalitarian practices will be referred to as “anti-leisure,” and agency will be partially examined through the characters ability to regain their own personal leisure spaces. However, not all female characters are necessarily subjected to anti-leisure, and there is commonality in that Orwell and Bradbury tend to portray and categorize female characters as stereotypical opposites of each other whereas the passive women are stripped of their personal leisure spaces, the active women


4 Chen regain them. Consequently, the active women inspire the protagonists to defy their totalitarian regimes, whilst the passive women remind the protagonists of the daunting reality that they must rebel against.


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