Looking Backward: 2000-1887
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Edward Bellamy's 'Looking Backward: 2000-1887' remains the most successful and influential Utopian novel written by an American writer. At the end of the 19th century, Bellamy creates a picture of a wonderful future society. Bellamy's protagonist is Julian West, a young aristocratic Bostonian who falls into a deep sleep while under a hypnotic trance in 1887 and ends up waking up in the year 2000 (hence the novel's sub-title). Finding himself a century in the future in the home of Doctor Leete, West is introduced to an amazing society, which is consistently contrasted with the time from which he has come. As much as this is a prediction of a future utopia, it is also a scathing attack on the ills of American life heading into the previous turn of the century. Bellamy's sympathies are clearly with the progressives of that period. "Looking Backward" does not have a narrative structure per se. Instead West is shown the wonders of Boston in the year 2000, with his hosts explaining the rationale behind the grand civic improvements. For example, he discovers that every body is happy and no one is either rich or poor, all because equality has been achieved. Industry has been nationalized, which has increased efficiency because it has eliminated wasteful competition. This is a world with no need of money, but every citizen has a sort of credit card that allows them to make individual purchases, although everyone has the same monthly allowance. In Bellamy's world is so ideal that it does not have any police, a military, any lawyers, or, best of all, any salesmen. Education is so valued that it continues until students reach the age of 21, at which point all citizens enter the work force, where they will stay until the age of 45. Men and women are compensated equally, but there are some distinctions between job on the basis of gender, and pregnancy and motherhood are taken into account. Bellamy was living during the start of the Industrial Revolution, and like Francis Bacon and Tomasso Campanella who wrote during the height of the Age of Reason, he sees science and human ingenuity as being what will solve all of humanity's problems. He does not get into too many details regarding the comforts of modern living in the future, but there are several telling predictions (e.g., something very much like radio). However, it is clear that Bellamy is writing primarily to talk about economics and sociology, especially because he always compares his idealized future with the problems of his own time.
myself on the approach of the third without sensations of drowsiness, I called in Doctor Pillsbury. He was a doctor by courtesy only, what was called in those days an “irregular” or “quack” doctor. He called himself a “Professor of Animal Magnetism.” I had come across him in the course of some amateur investigations into the phenomena of animal magnetism. I don’t think he knew anything about medicine, but he was certainly a remarkable mesmerist. It was for the purpose of being put to sleep by
great curiosity upon his features. He was an utter stranger. I raised myself on an elbow and looked around. The room was empty. I certainly had never been in it before, or one furnished like it. I looked back at my companion. He smiled. “How do you feel?” he inquired. “Where am I?” I demanded. “You are in my house,” was the reply. “How came I here?” “We will talk about that when you are stronger. Meanwhile, I beg you will feel no anxiety. You are among friends and in good hands. How do you
possession of one another’s goods.” “There, there, Father. If you are so vehement, Mr. West will think you are scolding him,” laughingly interposed Edith. “When you want a doctor,” I asked, “do you simply apply to the proper bureau and take any one that may be sent?” “That rule would not work well in the case of physicians,” replied Doctor Leete. “The good a physician can do a patient depends largely on his acquaintance with his constitutional tendencies and condition. The patient must be
and none were idle. By what hiatus in the logical faculty, by what lost link of reasoning, account, then, for the failure to recognize the necessity of applying the same principle to the organization of the national industries as a whole, to see that if lack of organization could impair the efficiency of a shop, it must have effects as much more disastrous in disabling the industries of the nation at large as the latter are vaster in volume and more complex in the relationship of their parts.
executives and banking officials were lavishly compensated, while laid-off workers were advised to go it alone and not whine. By the turn of the new century, 40 percent of the nation’s wealth was owned by the top 1 percent of the population, while some 36.5 million Americans lived in poverty and 44 million lacked health care. Americans increasingly faced unstable terms of employment, for work arrangements now absolved employers of long-term commitments to employees. One 1996 report captured the