Examining Humanity in Bernard Beckett’s Genesis: Anaximander, Plato, Classical Philosophy and Gothic in Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults
New Zealand author Bernard Beckett’s young adult novel Genesis (2006) blends classical philosophy and Gothic tropes in a dystopian novel about the nature and ends of humanity. It is a curious work, presented in the form of philosophical dialogue and set in a future world known as The Republic, in which robots have triumphed over humanity and formed a new society based on rational order. Yet sinister underpinnings to their society and their emotional origin-story, which forms the core of this novel, show both that their rational world order is built on lies, deception, and murder, and that the human soul is harder to be rid of than they imagine. The clash between robots and humans is depicted as a clash between reason and passion, and also as a clash between a classical calm (seen in the Republic’s emphasis on classical philosophy) and the Gothic emotions associated with the dark, but emotional, side of humanity. Genesis is a compelling reflection on the nature of the human soul, aimed at young readers. This paper will trace how that reflection plays out through Beckett’s use of classical and Gothic ideals in an unusually thought-provoking dystopian work for young readers.
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