Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts


Sarah Biagiotti 

The Individualís Search for Independence in Burgessí Dystopian Societies

Jay Gould and the Robber Barons

Jay Gould and his fellow business associates epitomized the robber baron image in the nineteenth century, and their business leadership, risk taking, and deceitfulness forged their success. Each man started life with little money and a hope for a better life than their parents.They accumulated fortunes through illegal and duplicitous methods while facing many obstacles with the law and each other. Cheating allowed the robber barons to rise above their social status and amass their fortunes. Manipulation and corruption by the robber barons insured their success by allowing them to undermine current business owners in order to gain access to companies that they would later take over. For example, when Jay Gould acquired the Texas Pacific Railroad, he was brought in to help owner Thomas Scott, but instead drove him to sell. Predatory methods allowed the robber barons to gain their businesses and wealth. Robber barons took advantage of the economic system in place and gained their fortunes.

The robber baronsí deceptions harmed the lives of the lowly, an impact similarly evident in the dystopias of Anthony Burgessí novels. Throughout Burgessí work, a similar pattern appears: society advances technologically, but the social structures and morals of its citizens regress. Only when the individual realizes the depths to which they have been reduced, are theythen able to develop their own morals and it is thesethat aid them in escaping their circumstances. Burgess shows this through characters such as Derek in The Wanting Seed, as he can only attain power in the government through unethical means. When Beatrice-Joanna realizes that she is being manipulated by her brother-in-law and star-crossed lover Derek, she is then able to detach herself from him. Beatrice-Joanna struggles to understand her situation with Derek while she is being controlled by her love for him and her desire for a family. The lack of trust and overwhelming need for power in Burgessí dystopias cause the powerless to break away from their confines in order to lead more fulfilling lives, in accordance with how they wish to live.

Major Works Consulted:

Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. New York: Norton, 1963.
---. The Wanting Seed. New York: Norton, 1996.
Halstead, Murat, and Frank J. Beale. Life of Jay Gould: How He Made His Millions. New York:Books for Business, 2003.
Renehan, Edward. Dark Genius of Wall Street: The Misunderstood Life of Jay Gould, King of the Robber Barons. New York: Basic, 2005.
Photo Credit: "Anthony Burgess." +wo-mans.N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.