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Old 04-14-2013, 08:51 PM   #1
teh603
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How did they get away with it? Part 2

This one is probably going to be getting close to politics, but I want to try to keep it writing-related. So I'm not going to be talking about my personal views or opinions of these authors, but trying to figure out how these authors got away with it.

Ayn Rand sets up straw opponents in almost every single work she wrote. So did Orwell in 1984, and Bradbury in Farenheit 451. In none of their major works, do the protagonists face realistic antagonists. Reading them, or summaries, makes me feel like they were scripted like a children's cartoon where the villain goes on long diatribes about how they're in it "for the evulz" and all that.

If a modern author was trying to do something that blatant, whether politically- motivated (as all three were) or not, they'd likely get panned to destruction. But they weren't for some reason. They're still lauded as writers of classics, and usually on most schools' reading lists.

How the heck did they get away with it?
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Old 04-14-2013, 09:12 PM   #2
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In many quarters, Rand does not get away with it - if you don't buy into her politics, apparently her writing falls short.

Bradbury can't not be lyrical in his writing; even if you disagree with him, I've never heard anyone fault his skills.
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Old 04-14-2013, 09:19 PM   #3
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Are you sure that they don't get away with it? There's a lot of junk out there, and some of it sells pretty well.
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Old 04-14-2013, 10:29 PM   #4
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I haven't read any Ayn Rand, been thinking I should try one to find out what all the fuss is about. But in the other cases the political statement is the point, and the lack of subtlety was, I believe, a deliberate choice on the part of the author. On both this version of the thread and the previous, I think this may be the secret to getting away with it: you can if you do it deliberately, you may not if you do it accidentally.

Also, in more recent times writers and/or publishers seem to believe that audiences are more sophisticated, and so political and societal statements are best made in very subtle allusions rather than directly. Anything as blatant as was done previously is considered crass an uninteresting. From which stems the not uncommon feeling that "literature" can be obscure. Of course blatant statements do still appear, but these are "hidden" inside the drama of political and legal thrillers, and also in the fantasies of modern YA novels. But because the apparent purpose of these novels is to thrill the audience, few bother with the deconstructions that might expose real (and sometimes imagined) political and societal statements. In some respects that makes these all the more insidious (even if it was not always deliberate), when done well the reader just goes along with the assumptions presented by the writer.
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Old 04-15-2013, 08:02 PM   #5
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GMW alludes to this -- you are pointing to a time in literature when three-dimensional (highly developed, believable) characters and sympathetic villains were not in vogue. All those works you mention have a dated feel.

So, for example, do the early works of Frederick Forsyth, one of my longtime favorite thriller authors. I doubt his "The Day of the Jackal" would be a best seller if it was first released today. Good novel but horribly dated by today's standards of pacing, dialog, and character development.
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Old 04-16-2013, 03:56 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by teh603 View Post
This one is probably going to be getting close to politics, but I want to try to keep it writing-related. So I'm not going to be talking about my personal views or opinions of these authors, but trying to figure out how these authors got away with it.

Ayn Rand sets up straw opponents in almost every single work she wrote. So did Orwell in 1984, and Bradbury in Farenheit 451. In none of their major works, do the protagonists face realistic antagonists. Reading them, or summaries, makes me feel like they were scripted like a children's cartoon where the villain goes on long diatribes about how they're in it "for the evulz" and all that.

If a modern author was trying to do something that blatant, whether politically- motivated (as all three were) or not, they'd likely get panned to destruction. But they weren't for some reason. They're still lauded as writers of classics, and usually on most schools' reading lists.

How the heck did they get away with it?
First I give you a match, then a question:

A carpenter does good work, and builds a splendid house. It is then found that the carpenter has reviled "our God." Should both the house and the carpenter be put to the flame?
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Old 04-16-2013, 08:30 AM   #7
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Who was the straw opponent in Fahrenheit 451? Captain Beatty certainly went on a few diatribes, but I don't know if I'd say he was the main opponent of the protagonist.

Is it a problem of straw opponents specifically, or just books that are more interested in making a broader statement that is the issue? If it's the latter, then certainly Orwell's 1984 would fit the description perfectly, and I wouldn't change a thing about any of the characters.

Last edited by Ninjalawyer; 04-16-2013 at 08:33 AM.
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Old 04-16-2013, 07:33 PM   #8
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Ayn Rand sets up straw opponents in almost every single work she wrote. So did Orwell in 1984, and Bradbury in Farenheit 451.
I disagree about Orwell. I think the antagonist is excellent. If you see him as unrealistic, well, I think that's because he is not meant to represent an individual but dictatorship incarnate, and Orwell does that very well. Haven't read Rand and I've never clicked with Bradbury.
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Old 04-16-2013, 09:58 PM   #9
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That is because this is all 100% subjective. Anyone that tells you otherwise is probably selling books.
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Old 04-17-2013, 01:26 AM   #10
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That is because this is all 100% subjective. Anyone that tells you otherwise is probably selling books.
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is probably selling books
or politics.
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Old 04-17-2013, 06:00 AM   #11
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A carpenter does good work, and builds a splendid house. It is then found that the carpenter has reviled "our God." Should both the house and the carpenter be put to the flame?
I don't think this is a good analogy. teh603 isn't suggesting that the authors' works are bad only because of what we now know of the the authors' political opinions.
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Old 04-17-2013, 07:12 AM   #12
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They're still lauded as writers of classics, and usually on most schools' reading lists.
Interesting observation.
I come from Europe and I had never heard of Ayn Rand until I came to India where you will find all of Rand's books prominently displayed in bookshops. When I asked about Rand, my Indian friends were astonished I have never heard of her, recommended reading of Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and to make it more interesting for me told me that Fountainhead has long been on the list of forbidden books in the libraries of architecture colleges across India. Supposedly, the reason was that people used to read Fountainhead and just drop out from the college...I also have a friend here who was an army officer with a great career ahead of him and who left the Army (which in India is a very respected institution) since he thought he can't act against his own principles which he thinks Rand articulated perfectly.
Anyway, I guess there are some thoughts and ideas which - straw opponents or not - survive be they on the school reading list or not. As for straw opponents, I think it depends on the perspective you are reading it from, to me they do not appear to be straw at all...
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Old 04-17-2013, 10:29 AM   #13
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A carpenter does good work, and builds a splendid house. It is then found that the carpenter has reviled "our God." Should both the house and the carpenter be put to the flame?
Performing a damnatio memoria only serves to encourage people to remember something. Forbidden knowledge is just as attractive as forbidden fruit, if not more so.
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Old 04-18-2013, 11:16 AM   #14
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Performing a damnatio memoria only serves to encourage people to remember something. Forbidden knowledge is just as attractive as forbidden fruit, if not more so.
There is always the problem of "preset" attitudes.

For example, some might copy a hurtful action they saw in a parent even if it hurt them personally. (i.e. an alcoholic parent)

Others may reject that action because they saw what happens when someone drinks.
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Old 04-18-2013, 11:26 AM   #15
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I don't think this is a good analogy. teh603 isn't suggesting that the authors' works are bad only because of what we now know of the the authors' political opinions.
I worked with what she wrote.

I did simplify the "tense" in what I said which gave a result I wasn't satisfied with completely, but was good enough to present my point.
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