Man and Beast

Utopia, written by Ahmed Khaled Towfik is a dystopian novel that explores the dynamics of a society split decisively between those who ‘have’, and the ‘have-nots’. Those who reside in ‘Utopia’ within the wall, are those who have wealth, status, security, and power. Whereas those without the wall are simply known as ‘Others’, the poor who struggle day-to-day to survive and fight at every turn for their longevity. This separation between the two distinct classes is stark, and well-enforced by ex-marines from America.

Yet these two classes reflect each other in ways that are not immediately apparent, ways that make flaws obvious, and the humane easily noticed. A large part of that arises from the dichotomy between the humans being human, or humans being beastly. The Utopians for example, are enamored with the grotesque, the violent and the unusual. This arises because they are separated from these things, violence, death, struggle even are artificial to those who reside within the walls.

This sort of ambivalence is amusing in a way, seeing as they are essentially caged within their paradise. They’ve become figuratively house-broken, the prized cat or poodle with a diamond choker who hasn’t seen any part of the wild beside from their owners television, or perhaps from the windows of their home, their cage. This separation breeds a fascination within Utopians with things that are not clean or perfect, and reflects in the way they behave. Recklessly taking drugs, wounding themselves in an artificial manner to evoke a sense of savagery. They become men and women dressing themselves in the skin of the Big Bad Wolf.

Without the wall however, the Others are well acquainted with struggle, with savagery. Beauty has no real place outside the wall, among the Others practicality is key, the respect and safety that arises from being genuinely dangerous becomes a shield between the poor man, and the man starving next to him. The Others unlike the people residing within Utopia are walking a knife’s edge every day of their lives. No one gives their lives any worth so they are easily ended, and so they struggle with all they can.

This primal instinct, the base desire to survive makes these people more akin to beast than man, yet in such an environment the humane thing becomes a weakness almost, even as it is the genuinely good thing to do. That is why the Other, Gaber is exceptional in this story, he seeks something more than the base, he carries himself as more than a beast, he behaves human.

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