Dystopia Unseen (OCR) based on the A level paper June 2017.

2017 summer examination OCR

The passage, from Genevieve Valentine’s text: Is this your day to join the revolution? (2009) is interesting because it shows OCR being perfectly happy to use material other than ‘regular’ novels/short stories as the source for the unseen passage. This passage is derived from this web site: futurismic

I found this a tricky passage – the short paragraphs and underdeveloped character and setting don’t lend themselves to this task. Still….


My commentary, written in 50 minutes or so follows:

The passage seems to be set in a cinema – ‘the three screen’ suggesting some form of communal viewing though it is uncertain whether this represents a necessity, due to restrictions in domestic viewing, possibly to restrict the opportunity for independent thought or whether the couple, Liz and Greg, are enjoying a romantic excursion.  Since a typical trope of Dystopia is the need to control society and to restrict freedom of thought, the former would seem most likely. Indeed, Society’ is referenced with typical Dystopian perversion of everyday terminology as being part of a Government Department. The links with texts like 1984 with the Minilove overseeing a clamping down of individual freedoms in response to the fear of the ‘thought police’ that the populace might revolt , are clear.

Into this setting come Liz and Greg – simple, shortened names suggesting some form of intimacy perhaps, yet they do not seem to be on a ‘date’ in the conventional sense.  This is more of a business meeting. The bored cashier (his reply is ‘droned’ suggesting the repetitiveness of this exercise) is clear that a refund is available from the Department of Society as though this outing is a necessary expense for one living in this ‘society’.  This feeling of a lack of romance or spontaneity is increased when Greg’s action is so laboured. He responds  ‘like the other guys had done with their dates’ suggesting by the pluperfect tense either observation or shared discussion of the expected behaviour in the past and certainly not the behaviour expected of a young suitor in a cinema. His reasoning becomes clear however in the direct address to the reader: ‘you never knew… Society council Inspector’. The implication is clear: this is a society based on fear of being found unsuitable and in which the controlling powers have planted spies to ensure ‘correct’ behaviour. Again parallels with Winston’s fears about the role of Julia and his later error in trusting Mr Charrington are suggested. The trope is, however typical of much Dystopia, possibly finding its origin in Zamyatin’s We, written in 1922 as a response to the burgeoning totalitariansim of the the new Bolshevik state in the USSR.

Following the tryst, Liz offers a night in a hotel in a perfunctory manner. The conversation is devoid of all sexual tension or excitement, focused as it is on ‘the doctor’ and the idea of the ‘re-match’ of partners, ideas proposed as Liz smiles ‘thinly’ suggesting clear distaste. This is sinister, ordinary language is used to present ideas greatly altered from our society. The doctor is presumably checking either for pregnancy or simply sexual health. The re-match suggests that failure to pass the test will result in the relationship being terminated, regardless of any emotion – if such exists. In a manner reminiscent of Brave New World and 1984, this is a world in which sexual contact is purely functional and is intended not to involve a couple in any form of emotional attachment. This can help to undermnine societies, as Winston and Julia show. The figure of Mr Randall hovers over Liz and we realise that the responsibility for successful union lies with the female. As in Attwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, the men seem to have a freedom denied the females in this relationship. Indeed even Liz and Greg are not seen as a loving couple -she would rather ‘stick it out’ with him, suggesting ultimate incompatibility.

The ‘meet-cute’ dance routine ( the compound adjective suggesting the falseness of such an idea) is interrupted by John Doe. This grainy character, reminiscent of graphic novels like V for Vendetta, addresses the audience, placing himself in the first person plural, suggesting that he is the face of a revolutionary movement and he announces the central idea of the revolution. Since Dystopia of this kind relies on controlling the masses, the idea of a disease being used in this way is not uncommon. The novel Delirium proposes the idea of love as a disease which needs to be cured, for example.  The suggestion is greeted with suspicion – the populace are cowed by society into assuming that any idea of freedom is a trap and the response is not strong. Indeed, Liz not only ‘hoped’ this were a lie but focuses her thoughts on the ‘paper mask’ she needs to wear  – not her freedom. When John Doe emerges in a panic -he ‘crash-landed’ by the couple, he is seen to be young and blond. His voice has been altered to seem altogether grander and older probably in an effort to fool the authorities, who react swiftly. The forces of order ‘crashed open’ the doors and materialised ‘guns out’ . The diction is limited but suggests the sound and fury of a typical authoritarian raid is depicted in so many texts from Fahrenheit 451 to V for Vendetta.

The interruption to the film uses imperatives and rhetorical questions to challenge the regime yet it is cut off. The urgency of the message is lost in the swift action by the authorities. There is little attempt to flesh out the character of John Doe, before he sprints for the exit.

The passage conforms to the Dystopian model of protest against totalitarian regimes. The action centres on a pair of protagonists who will, presumably, become involved in a revolution begin by an anonymous force, who may yet, in the manner of  O’Brien in 1984, become agents provocateurs working for the authority. There is a sense of a cowed populace living a controlled existence who are encouraged to break free. To what, is unknown.