A Better Vision for a Better Future in Bellamy’s Looking Backward

7 Feb

Reading Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward can give the reader some sense of the old utopian fiction that portrays a perfect human society. Although we read this work as fictional story, Bellamy seems to imply a message that carries his ideas for a better social reform. His readers in his nineteenth century were impact by the economic and political ideas. I believe that his work is more like a proposal to his audience to imagine a better future with ideal society. Therefore, he tries to touch upon some sensitive issues like separation between gender and personal freedom among the individuals without any change to the social order. It is a representation of an ideal image that portrays a better future maintaining the equality between citizens in the utopian twentieth century. Bellamy’s protagonist, Julian, can be seen as the representative of the nineteenth century who is migrated to twentieth century and readers see how he is in a utopian flexible society with a better personal freedom. We can see how Julian is flashbacking to his past in the nineteenth century as a nightmare as a cruel and inhuman world. In fact, industrial system of private capital was a sign of nineteenth century. The production of wealth was associated with the few privileged and the rest of the society was the sufferers from the poverty and hanger. Bellamy seems to criticize the economic system in a fictional utopian mode were he leaves his audience dreaming for that better society in a better future.

Among the selections from Philip Wegner, it was discussed how Bellamy has his own vision through his narrative utopia that produced by the multiple “legacies of memories” that impact the realization of any American nation (63). As Wegner argued that, for Bellamy, the modern American nation can be seen through a collective act of forgetting the past and reorientation toward a single future. Bellamy leaves his readers think of what might feel once they live in the utopian world and dreaming of the past as a nightmare. I believe it is the case that we all are living in a kind of a welfare state in our days and once we think about our grandparents’ life, we may consider it a miserable life. This feeling might be applied to what we read and watch in the science fiction books and movies. It is the representation of the future world with a better life with modern technology and always a better welfare state than the current one. Therefore, we see Julian in this novel is feeling so sad and considering his life back in the nineteenth century is nightmare.

Looking Backward can be read as one of narratives that gives the read sense of what might feel to be transferred form the current world to a utopian better future where the social, cultural, and economic class is much better. It is a world that both men and women are equal. These what Wegner describes as the “symbols of wealth”, “Born to expect guardianship and support, without either being the result of personal forethought or experience, they could not now, suddenly, appreciate the need of individual reliance upon themselves” (86).


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