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Denisova T.N.
Starobin secondary school of Soligorsk district, Starobin
Future has always attracted people as it belongs to the sphere of undiscovered.
Man tries to predict what will happen to him, to society, to planet. These questions
have become especially relevant nowadays when mankind face numerous global
problems such as overpopulation, nuclear threat, uncontrolled technological
development, ecological catastrophes,etc. In the second half of twentieth century
different scientists and non-government organizations turned to these problems and
extensive researches were held in the field of prognostication of the future. One of the
best-known example of this kind is reports made by “The Club of Rome” that showed
how fatal future will be if nothing is changed.
It is natural that these serious concerns have found its reflection in literature
especially in the genre of dystopia. This genre gives an opportunity to speak about
problems critically. Usually dystopias emphasize negative phenomena and trends of
society and history so drawing a picture of hopeless future trying to warn people.It
should be mentioned that fiction doesn’t give any proves or exact calculations as
scientific reports do but it can take into account such very important issues as moral
and aesthetic aspects in attitudes between humans and environment. Lacking
scientific exactness and concreteness fiction can influence spiritual world of a
personand it is more available for a wide circle of people who is far from science.
Jeanette Winterson in her book “The stone gods” speaks about different
problems: personal freedom and total control, the right for self-expression,
disappointment in scientific progress, gender identification. But all of them are
examined in a close connection with ecological problems. She is well-known as a
person who really cares about nature. She has been a member of “Greenpeace” for
many years. She believes that people shouldn’t wait when following generations will
come and solve these problems; people should take some resolute measures
immediately. People and their activity are destroying the planet and in her book she
expresses to the full the anxiety about it.
In modern ecological fiction man is viewed as an integral part of a universe and
environment. It can be observed in a new global scale of events and in more
complicated spatiotemporal dimension. Books about nature and ecology have
particular composition which reflects non-traditional time and space organization.
They combine elements of reality and fiction. And the novel by J. Winterson is a
bright example of ecological dystopia.
“The stone gods” is a novel in three acts.There are three different stories which
are different scenarios of the development of mankind. There can be found various
societies on different stages of development but doing the same mistakes. In act I J.
Winterson tells us a story of Orbus, a planet on the edge of collapse: natural resources
are wasted, nature is degrading extremely fast or as they say on Orbus “evolving in a
way that is hostile to human life” [1, p. 7].
A new planet (Planet Blue) is found and it is “receptive to our forms of life” [1,
p.26]. It is a second chanceto start everything from the beginning and avoid mistakes.
The only problem is existence of prehistoric on a new planet. So it is decided to get
rid of those creatures. People proclaim their right to determine other species’ destiny
taking away this prerogative from Nature.
Act two is a story of a British seaman who was left by the crew on Easter
Island in 1774. It is deserted site with no trees, bushes orwildlife. Formerly there
were vast forests full wild of animals but then men came there. Tribes of islanders
destroyedeverything while constructing huge statues of their gods. The author says
that man always treated nature like that. The level of technical and science
development doesn’t matter aspeople can ruin natural balance even by bare hands.
The third act told by J. Winterson is a story of a post-world war III society.
Ecological problems in this part of the book are mainly caused by a use of nuclear
weapon. Great areas became contaminated therefore they are not suitable for living.
J. Winterson relates three different stories separated from one another by
millions of years and miles. It is almost impossible to understand when and where
does action take place. All the parts have the same main characters (Billie Crusoe and
Spike) which appear in different embodiments. Author says that people are always
the same regardless time and place. Theyalways treat nature carelesslyand
consequences areirreversible. It is stated that environmental problems caused not by
industrial and technological development but by a human attitude to nature.
The world repeats itself. History of humankind presented in the book not as
straight as line but it looks like a maze with numerous turnings and blind alleys. Men
pass one and the same place time after time and turn the wrong way without noticing
it. The key element in circular composition created by J. Winterson is a parable about
a young man whose hot temper led him to a murder. He was in despair and he begged
for a second chance and his goodangel gave him a possibility to live his life again so
he could correct his mistakes. But the young man killed again and then again. It
repeated time after time and the result was the same, a death. People are unable to
learn from their own mistakes.
To stress this effect the author uses the method of repetition: “The new world –
El Dorado, Atlantis, the Gold Coast, Newfoundland, Plymouth Rock, Rapanaui,
Utopia, Planet Blue. Chanc’d upon, spied through a glass darkly, drunken stories
strapped to a barrel of rum, shipwreck, a Bible compass, a giant fish led us there, a
storm whirled us to this isle. In the wilderness of space, we found…” [1, p. 7]. This
fragment appears in each part of the book. It names the places where people wanted
to start a new life from the blank page. Not all of them can be found on the map so
reality and fiction are closely tied there.
One of the main issues discussed in the novel is a question of responsibility to
the planet, to descendants and to each other. Every action has its response. People
think only about themselves changing and using the world as they want not caring
about consequences which can be seen later. People on Easter Island were given by
ancestrybare land and they have no powers to restore it. In Central Power on Orbus
they started to use advanced technologies aimed at saving the planet but it is not
enough when the rest of the world doesn’t use it. Ecological problems are of a real
concern of every country, of every person on the planet.
According to J. Winterson world is made of a great number of possibilities and
everything depends on man’s choice: “There are potentialities and any third factor –
humans are such a factor – will affect the outcome” [1, p. 181]. So future belongs to a
man himself. He decides what happens next.
Understanding responsibility and importance of a choice people invented a
robot which can be completely objective and can tell what to do. Man shifts
responsibility to a robot asit has no personal interest, no emotions, it can use all
knowledge and it will be possible to blame it if something goes wrong. But it doesn’t
work out because humans are too subjective and they can’t live following any
rational patterns. It is impossible to take everything into account. It is impossible to
find one correct answer. It is impossible to solve all problems with the help of
technologies. Science should serve man but not guide him. Humanity distinguishes
man from other species.
One of the characteristic marks of ecological dystopia is an opposition natural
– artificial. In the first part author shows society with a surplus scientific and
technical development but poor nature. There is no wildlife. Humans are replaced by
robots in all spheres of life. Food is made of some synthetic materials. Human body is
modified by plastic surgery. In the second part huge statues made by islanders are
opposed to devastated lands. In the thirdact we can see “Dead forest” destroyed by
nuclear attack. So we can assume that notions of artificial and natural have clear
semantic evaluation. Things connected with nature possess positive connotation and
phenomena connected with technic and science have a sense of something bad,
harmful, dangerous. But in dystopian fiction these meaningsareoften reversed.
Nature in “The stone gods” becomes one of the main characters. It is not just a
setting anymore; it is now a full-fledged actor. Author uses verbs that express active
actions: seek, evolve, die, do, throw up. Nature fights for survival with its main
enemy, man: “She needs us as a bedbugs” [1, p.23]. Planet is a living creature so
Billie calls it sheusing pronoun which is normally describes human beings.
“The stone gods” by J. Winterson can be related to ecological dystopia as it
possesses characteristic features of the genre: planetary scale of events, conflict of
man and nature, complicated spatiotemporal relations, nature as an active participant
of events.But mainly the topics discussed in the novel allow to speak about this book
as ecological dystopia. In the novel J. Winterson tells about past, present and possible
future. She tries to show that the man’s attitude to planet and nature has remained the
same during all history and if nothing is done in the nearest future a catastrophe will
follow. Development of civilization without paying attention to natural processes
ends up in a collapse.
Winterson J. The stone Gods / J. Winterson, London: Hamish Hamilton, 2007
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