Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Benjamin Robertson

Second Advisor

Jane Garrity

Third Advisor

Robert Buffington

Abstract

The undergraduate thesis I am currently working on analyzes ways Ursula K Le Guin and Strugatsky brothers, prominent science fiction writers of the Cold War Era, wrestled with the pros and cons of communism employed in USSR at the time. These specific authors have been chosen to represent two sides of the Cold War conflict, the United States (by Ursula Le Guin) and the USSR (by Strugatsky brothers). It is especially interesting to note that in their respective works, The Dispossessed (1974) and Roadside Picnic (1972, translated into English 1977), both authors went against the grain of propaganda of their countries. One of the reasons for such course was their chosen genre: science fiction. They created fictional worlds that were seemingly unconnected to the time and place Le Guin and Strugatsky brothers lived in, which enabled them to critically examine societies and political systems they lived in or were surrounded by, particularly that of communism. This genre also helped the authors to wrestle with the question of whether their governments’ outlook on communism was correct. After a brief discussion of the differences between the Marxist communism and the communism of USSR, I will identify the majority opinions about the communism of USSR both home and abroad (mainly in the U.S.) during the Cold War Era, and ways the governments of these countries influenced their citizens’ beliefs through the propaganda, both for and against communism. In analyzing the literary works, I will focus on the dialectical approach both authors take in regards to the version of communism they discuss. Le Guin and the Strugatsky compare communism with some other system of political rule. In the case of Le Guin the other system is capitalism, while for the Strugatsky this system is lawless and dangerous alien system. Putting the two systems side by side, the authors are able to analyze communism critically. They do not assert a clear opinion on whether the communism is good or bad, but through their presentation and analyses, allow the readers to make up their own mind. And so it is not my intent to praise or condemn communism as a valid political regime either. Rather, by examining one particular system of government I want to discuss the fact that politics in general are multifaceted. I believe that one cannot praise or condemn any political system as being valid or invalid. If the major literary figures of the Cold War Era wrestled with this question and could not themselves find the one right answer, how can any government claim that the system of their choosing is the only right one?

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