View Poll Results: Will you read "It Can't Happen Here"?

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Thread: Why "It Can't Happen Here" is better than "1984"

  1. #1
    Registered User ZTay's Avatar
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    Why "It Can't Happen Here" is better than "1984"

    If you haven't already scoffed, then go ahead. But having read both, aside from 1984's mammoth reputation, "It Can't Happen Here" exceeds Orwell's much ballyhooed vision of the future in all ways.

    It's frequently conceded by even the most ballyhooing of Orwellians that the characters in 1984 are thin- the vision itself being the great offering. But as with all of his other works Sinclair Lewis skimps none on his characters for the sake of his vision. Unlike the air-headed and defeated Winston Smith, Sinclair Lewis' hero, Duremus Jessup, is a bookish newspaper editor who isn't struggling like a mouse in a maze but like a Man in the world. Perhaps it can be said in defense of 1984 that Winston Smith is a product of the extended, stupefying effects of tyranny; but even that works in the favor of "It Can't Happen Here" because it explores not only the aftermath of the storm, but the first formation, the approach, the arrival, the raging winds as well as the aftermath.

    I doubt that anyone is such an Orwell apologist as to claim to have been made emotional while reading 1984. Yet a horrible sadness purveys throughout "It Can't Happen Here". As Lewis details how Dartmouth University campus is transformed and utilized as a concentration camp- as a car full of refugees are denied entrance into Canada by armed guards- as each "American Value" is manipulated to Her people's on hurt- oh yes, I challenge you NOT to react emotionally.

    Lastly, "It Can't Happen Here" was published 14 years BEFORE 1984- that is the publication of the novel in 1949, not in 1970 14 years before 19 hundred and 84- so that it predicted much of what was learned from WWII instead of reacting to it as Orwell did.

    So then WHY does 1984 hold such indisputable preeminence over "It Can't Happen Here"? I honestly think it's to do with that Reebok commercial and the musician Prince. Or perhaps "It Can't Happen Here"s own loftiness works against it.

    So will you read "It Can't Happen Here"? The book heralded by the Boston Herald as Sinclair Lewis', the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, masterpiece?
    Nothing resting in its own completeness
    Can have worth or beauty; but alone
    Because it leads and tends to farther sweetness,
    Fuller, higher, deeper than its own.

  2. #2
    Two Steps Into Exile Shevek's Avatar
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    I cannot tell if this is serious, but... that is a strange interpretation of 1984. Winston Smith is co-opted by the Party in his role as bureaucrat, like everyone else around him, but he isn't an "airhead." The point of making him protagonist was to show that resistance to the very logic of doublethink is at the heart of totalitarian rule. Orwell saw nationalism of the sort he presented in 1984 as an obsession that festers if it is not curtailed by the people themselves -- so he did acknowledge human agency.

    Orwell's reputation is a confluence of many things, but the concept of Big Brother has had major pop culture appeal because it is an easy metaphor to grab and apply to complex issues (even if the interpretation of the concept is superficial). Plus, the political climate 1984 was published in is highly significant.

  3. #3
    Registered User ZTay's Avatar
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    I come not to praise Caesar but bury him. All your points withstanding, my aim is to resurrect some of that good of "It Can't Happen Here" that's been interred with its bones. Something also about the doublethink-resistance being applicable to those who hold the great opinion of 1984. It's popularity abounds, therefore does its defenders, and likewise its reputation. Agreed that timing began that process. Those 14 years were a detriment to "It Can't Happen Here". Yet here we are 60 years removed from it all. Let us break the chain! Let us read both instead of being ushered along by the decade-old current! (Completely serious)
    Nothing resting in its own completeness
    Can have worth or beauty; but alone
    Because it leads and tends to farther sweetness,
    Fuller, higher, deeper than its own.

  4. #4
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    I like all sorts of dystopia novels so I might give it a go. I don't know whether both are directly comparable as one is a version of Britain, the other of America. Admittedly you may be able to find universal truths in both, but the novels sound clearly based on the political landscape of their country.

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    Cool I've read them both .....

    more than 50 years ago. In comparing them, It Can't Happen Here is just one novel by the American Nobel prize winner, Sinclair Lewis. And Lewis wrote several novels better than his diatribe against fascism: Main Street, Babbitt, Elmer Gantry, Arrowsmith, Doddsworth to name a few. Granted, Sinclair Lewis was not picked up by academia as Scott Fitzgerald was. So this is probably the reason Lewis is not universally read today, but those who do read him usually prefer one of his other satirical novels over It Can't Happen Here.

  6. #6
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZTay View Post
    It's frequently conceded by even the most ballyhooing of Orwellians that the characters in 1984 are thin- the vision itself being the great offering. But as with all of his other works Sinclair Lewis skimps none on his characters for the sake of his vision. Unlike the air-headed and defeated Winston Smith, Sinclair Lewis' hero, Duremus Jessup, is a bookish newspaper editor who isn't struggling like a mouse in a maze but like a Man in the world. Perhaps it can be said in defense of 1984 that Winston Smith is a product of the extended, stupefying effects of tyranny; but even that works in the favor of "It Can't Happen Here" because it explores not only the aftermath of the storm, but the first formation, the approach, the arrival, the raging winds as well as the aftermath.
    I haven't read It Can't Happen Here so can't compare, but I have recently read 1984. I thought Winston and Julia seemed like real people. I didn't think the charactarisation was thin.

    Quote Originally Posted by ZTay View Post

    So then WHY does 1984 hold such indisputable preeminence over "It Can't Happen Here"? I honestly think it's to do with that Reebok commercial and the musician Prince. Or perhaps "It Can't Happen Here"s own loftiness works against it.
    Didn't Prince sing about dancing like it was 1999?
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  7. #7
    Registered User ZTay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dfloyd View Post
    more than 50 years ago. In comparing them, It Can't Happen Here is just one novel by the American Nobel prize winner, Sinclair Lewis. And Lewis wrote several novels better than his diatribe against fascism: Main Street, Babbitt, Elmer Gantry, Arrowsmith, Doddsworth to name a few. Granted, Sinclair Lewis was not picked up by academia as Scott Fitzgerald was. So this is probably the reason Lewis is not universally read today, but those who do read him usually prefer one of his other satirical novels over It Can't Happen Here.
    Ive read Arrowsmith, Mainstreet and Elmer Gantry. Each was a joy in their own ways. Arrowsmith, to me, is the best of the 3. Mainstreet went on 100 pages too long, in my opinion. Elmer Gantry lacked the firm direction the attack on Facism gave him. One gets the feeling he thought Facism more deserving of the attack than religion.

    I don't think it's fair to bury this book by exalting the other 3. And besides if you admit the other 3 are so praise-worthy, is it that great a stretch to think he could have written a 4th?

    IT's funny to about F Scott. The knock on him is that he was a better writer than everyone, but a lackluster intellect. Lewis captures the intellectual climate of his time better than anyone I ever read. It's standard for him to reveal his characters by telling what books they read. Read one of his books and you'll have a field day wikipedia-ing obscure characters like Kip Carson, Franz Mesmer, John Alexander Dowie, Tom Mooney.

    I think it's standards notes that we hit with Lewis and unfortunate artists buried beneath the fortunate ones. Notes that don't really mean anything at all. Pitiful excuses to save us the trouble of going an extra step.

    For what it's worth, I read "It Can't Happen Here" in 3 days. Not a huge investment. And certainly what I've taken from it will go a lot further than 3 days.

    Kev,

    Wasn't entire sure myself why Prince was provoked in my mind. I think that album was released in 1984. I thought about altering my post, but I decided to just let it ride. Might be worth a chuckle I thought.
    Nothing resting in its own completeness
    Can have worth or beauty; but alone
    Because it leads and tends to farther sweetness,
    Fuller, higher, deeper than its own.

  8. #8
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    I love the poll options. The first states directly that you make a good argument, while the second says the reader is too stubborn to concede--not that you actually may be wrong. So, I wonder what I should vote for if I disagree with you? I obviously can't vote for the first option, but if I vote the second, I'm just being insulted.
    Last edited by Mutatis-Mutandis; 09-21-2012 at 02:33 PM.

  9. #9
    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    I may read "It can Happen Here", but the reading would come after I have already read of an fascist government taking over a Western republic. I have been reading about that in the news for years, and the state has steadily tightened its grip. The only major difference between the U.S.A. and the government in "1984" is the matter of miral TV. Government has steadily taken more power over the lives of citizens largely by saying that it was making things easier or something like that.

  10. #10
    Registered User Clopin's Avatar
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    From what I've seen on this forum Orwell in general and 1984 in particular are both the most read/loved and the most vocally hated. But really who has read so few books that 1984 is their #1 pick?

  11. #11
    Registered User ZTay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterL View Post
    I may read "It can Happen Here", but the reading would come after I have already read of an fascist government taking over a Western republic. I have been reading about that in the news for years, and the state has steadily tightened its grip. The only major difference between the U.S.A. and the government in "1984" is the matter of miral TV. Government has steadily taken more power over the lives of citizens largely by saying that it was making things easier or something like that.
    Honestly I feel completely unrestricted by the Gov't. When I turn on the TV I feel bullied to think certain things, so I don't turn on the TV. I even got rid of it altogether. But I have principles and I've never been beaten or abducted for them, never had my mouth covered by the Gov'ts long hand. Truly Im free. However, I'm powerless to make others think like me. That's the source of frustration a lot of time. Feeling stifled by differing opinions. But remember what the preacher says, "Vanity of vanities, all things are vanities." That's one thing I learned from reading "It Can't Happen Here". The difference between a varying opinion and a steel-toed boot.

    Clopin,

    I liked 1984. Provoked a lot of thoughts. I thought "It Can't Happen Here" was a better novel. But I do think it's a sheik favorite for the under read. But let us not become too intolerant. Haven't we learned anything from these books we read?
    Nothing resting in its own completeness
    Can have worth or beauty; but alone
    Because it leads and tends to farther sweetness,
    Fuller, higher, deeper than its own.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandis View Post
    I love the poll options. The first states directly that you make a good argument, while the second says the reader is too stubborn to concede--not that you actually may be wrong. So, I wonder what I should vote for if I disagree with you? I obviously can't vote for the first option, but if I vote the second, I'm just being insulted.
    Good point. I haven't even noticed the poll until now. It basically asks you to choose between Yes, you're smart and No, I'm stupid.

  13. #13
    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZTay View Post
    Honestly I feel completely unrestricted by the Gov't. When I turn on the TV I feel bullied to think certain things, so I don't turn on the TV. I even got rid of it altogether. But I have principles and I've never been beaten or abducted for them, never had my mouth covered by the Gov'ts long hand. Truly Im free. However, I'm powerless to make others think like me. That's the source of frustration a lot of time. Feeling stifled by differing opinions. But remember what the preacher says, "Vanity of vanities, all things are vanities." That's one thing I learned from reading "It Can't Happen Here". The difference between a varying opinion and a steel-toed boot.
    Excellent! Our program is working as intended. People think that they are completely unrestricted, so they don't notice that the government has taken over most industiries and is in the process of taking over the medical industry. We will have everything in our hands by the end of this decade. Happy, ignorant citizens are what we want.
    Last edited by PeterL; 09-22-2012 at 03:58 PM. Reason: typo

  14. #14
    Registered User ZTay's Avatar
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    To PeterL,

    Yet if they didn't, someone else would; and it wouldn't be me. So my sphere is unchanged. I'm free to pursue all things, that is except controlling those industries you named. I miss out on some money, have to readjust my ego, yet can pursue intellectual things I love. I suppose the business man will hate it much more than I do. Funny, Doremus Jessup the bookish hero of "It Can't Happen Here" blames himself when first in the concentration camp for waiting to do something, for letting it develop so far until it was too late. Yet the intellectual interests bear fruit in the way that they preserve Truth. There's value in not being fooled, even if you are not so ambitious as to want the World. If people want to fight for money, compromising their immortal souls, I say go nuts- tho I could regret that some day. Yet I know from scripture that God raised up Pharaoh so he could make an example of him by casting him down. Men are like the withering grass of the field, and men are the principle parts of regimes. Don't worry too much good fellow.
    Nothing resting in its own completeness
    Can have worth or beauty; but alone
    Because it leads and tends to farther sweetness,
    Fuller, higher, deeper than its own.

  15. #15
    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZTay View Post
    To PeterL,

    Yet if they didn't, someone else would; and it wouldn't be me. So my sphere is unchanged. I'm free to pursue all things, that is except controlling those industries you named. I miss out on some money, have to readjust my ego, yet can pursue intellectual things I love. I suppose the business man will hate it much more than I do. Funny, Doremus Jessup the bookish hero of "It Can't Happen Here" blames himself when first in the concentration camp for waiting to do something, for letting it develop so far until it was too late. Yet the intellectual interests bear fruit in the way that they preserve Truth. There's value in not being fooled, even if you are not so ambitious as to want the World. If people want to fight for money, compromising their immortal souls, I say go nuts- tho I could regret that some day. Yet I know from scripture that God raised up Pharaoh so he could make an example of him by casting him down. Men are like the withering grass of the field, and men are the principle parts of regimes. Don't worry too much good fellow.


    I am sorry to learn that the fascists did such a good job indoctrinating you. Remember thsat organized religion has been a tool of the rulers for about 6000 years. Don't lean on the broken reed for support.

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