In his Truth and Method, Gadamer explains that subjectivity is the everyday understanding that allows us to engage with the world. Gadamer identifies three main aspects that effect our understanding, namely history, language and dialogue. Dystopian fiction is in a unique position to portray how systems of societal control affect and effect understanding, and thus subjectivity, because dystopian fiction primarily explores societies rather than only individuals.
This dissertation applies Gadamer’s framework of subjectivity to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to analyse their portrayals of subjectivity critically. Huxley’s imagined world of test-tube births, rampant consumerism, feelies and orgy-porgies depicts a subjectivity that is nearly completely controlled through the manipulation of history, language and dialogue, with the exception of a few rebellious characters. But Orwell’s Oceania is far grimmer, and the systems of control in place to manipulate history, language and dialogue create a harsh environment in which Winston Smith, the protagonist, struggles to assert his individuality, his own subjectivity, until the liberating sexual relationship he has with Julia. Although both novels depict stringent measures of control, the possibility of rebellion is present in the worlds depicted in both novels, suggesting that despite the manipulation around subjectivity’s three main pillars, as identified by Gadamer, something else provides the impetus for the characters’ understanding of rebellion. Therefore, the study also analyses the characters’ pre-understandings, as explained by Nietzsche and Heidegger, as sources for a wider framework. Through the novels’ portrayals of rebellion, these pre-understandings are shown to complement and inform Gadamer’s framework of subjectivity.