Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Reader 1

Kimberly Drake

Reader 2

Mary Hatcher-Skeers

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2015 Clea D. Harris

Abstract

This project is an exploration of 20th century dystopian literature through the lens of germ theory. This scientific principle, which emerged in the late 19th century, asserts that microorganisms pervade the world; these invisible and omnipresent germs cause specific diseases which are often life threatening. Additionally, germ theory states that vaccines and antiseptics can prevent some of these afflictions and that antibiotics can treat others. This concept of a pervasive, invisible, infection-causing other is not just a biological principle, though; in this paper, I argue that one can interpret it as an ideological framework for understanding human existence as a whole. Particularly, I believe that authors of prominent 20th century dystopian novels applied the tenets of germ theory in order to explore the potential “pathogens” that furtively exist within the human mind. These pseudo-germs are various human tendencies that, when left “untreated” by governments, create nonnormative members of society. In the eyes of dystopian regimes, it is precisely this nonnormativity that poses a lethal threat, in that it challenges the continued existence of society with the current ruling body at the helm. In this paper, I trace love (both sexual and familial) and individuation (as a function of social hierarchy, recreational activities, and the use of language) as social disease-causing pathogens in George Orwell’s 1984 and in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.