Post-Apocalyptic Fiction: Holocaust as Metaphor




This table goes with the second half of part three of Holocaust as Metaphor.

The works of fiction examined on this page are post-holocaust societies that have fallen back into a world similar to something from the earth's past. One of them -- Planet of the Apes-- is similar to the theme of the false utopias, in which a controller imprisons the inhabitants in a closed-in world of illusion and refused to let them grow up and be free. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome includes a variation on this idea in the form of a society of children lost in a myth and false hopes, but here they are all children, with no parent-figure trying to control them.

But all of these, once again, depict closed-in habitations of humanity hanging on, amid desert, barbarism or a desert of water. In Planet of the Apes they are held in illusion; in Mad Max and its double, Waterworld, they are just hanging on. And in the other movie (to be named) there is a benevolent high-tech bastion versus an exploitive slave society that is divided vertically between rulers and slaves who are beneath them, underground.

Into many of these habitations, the heroes arrive and disrupt and destroy. In all instances, they are trying to bring, or end up bringing, about a new and better order of society. In Planet of the Apes, the effort fails.

Once again, the reader can only completely appreciate these ideas by reading the essays -- the Mad Max essay in this case, which is an example of how these works simultaneously tell stories of mind, family, adulthood and society, in each case depicting our effort to attain a more authentic life.


REPLAYING THE TAPE OF HISTORY --  BASIC ELEMENTS Planet of the Apes Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Waterworld
What kind of world is this?
(Semi-barbaric, primitive, Medieval and Roman-like bastions, amid barbarism.)
It is a society of apes who live in a cloistered Medieval-like town that is a false utopia of ignorance, order, and stasis. This society lives inside a religious world view defined by a sacred book, in which they were created in God's image. They refuse to recognize that they took their civilization from humanity. This movie depicts two societies. One is Bartertown, a barbaric, walled-in trading town in the desert, modeled after various trading towns in history. The other is what has been referred to as Crack in the Earth, an oasis with children who live a primitive, aboriginal life. This movie depicts two societies. One is a barbaric, walled-in trading town in a desert of water, modeled after various trading towns in history. The other is a pirate ship.
What catastrophe or forces created this world?
(Nuclear war and ecological catastrophe)
Nuclear war destroys the world. Human beings become like animals and apes found a society. Nuclear war. Ecological catastrophe -- a reversal of the poles and equator -- inundates the world with water
What are the primary bifurcations?
(The ape city is defending itself from the truth outside. In the others, the hero sees contrasts between two kinds of life -- benevolence versus slavery, a secular world without dreams versus a place lost in dreams, and a brutish trading town versus a criminal pirate ship.)
The medieval ape town, enclosed in its own false world view, versus the forbidden zone, where the truth about history can be found in an archeological dig. Bartertown, which is corrupt, secular, based on commerce, and without dreams versus Crack in the Earth, which is innocent and immersed in myth. A second division is between the three levels of Bartertown: the ruler's "throne room", above the city, the surface of the city and the underworld. The enclosed, floating, town versus the pirate ship; the town versus the expanse of water; the world of water versus dry land.
What are other significant bifurcations? The present time that the space/time travelers come from versus the future. Ape society versus human animals. The past of civilization versus the present of barbarism; Bartertown versus the desert; the desert versus Crack in the Earth; all of it versus the ruins of the city. Above water versus below water; Above water versus floating in the air.
Who or what is the controller of this primitive world?
(the hero must struggle against exploitive dictators.)
A governing class made up of Dr. Zaius and other orangutans In Bartertown, Aunty Entity, in the throne room, is in a struggle for power, with Master-Blaster, the two-person unit that runs Underworld and supplies Bartertown with methane for energy. A necessary dictatorship governs the town. A thief and liar governs the pirate ship.
What pathologies does this world suffer from? They have a childlike ignorance of the truth of their history. In Bartertown life is brutish, undemocratic and without dreams or ideals; in Crack in the Earth, people live in myth, in childlike ignorance of the truth. Humanity is lost at sea.
What is the palliative people are given to make up for the pathologies? An orderly world. Not relevant. Not relevant
What is the essential illusion. How is their view of reality structured, limited and constructed? As noted, they believe they were created in God's image. They perceive the world through their belief system. The human hero is also in an illusion -- he believes he is on another planet. The children in Crack in the Earth are lost in a mythology in which they believe a savior named Capt. Walker will come and fly them home, to a world of skyscrapers and wonders, which is really the world of the past that they have mistaken for a heaven they descended from and can return to. On the pirate ship, the leader tricks his drunk crew into believing they have the way to dry land.
What are the means of control and separation of the domains? As the name implies, it is forbidden to go to the Forbidden Zone. Later, Zaius uses force to cover up what was found there. In addition, this society practices extensive thought control - to stray beyond what is acceptable is heresy. Distance and the desert separate the two places. Bartertown is walled-in. Water separates places. The town is walled-in.
REPLAYING THE TAPE OF HISTORY - THE PLOTS Planet of the Apes Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Waterworld
Where does the hero come from The hero is an astronaut who comes from the earth's past. The hero is ambushed and lost in the desert when he comes to Bartertown. On two more occasions, he is stuck in the desert and ends up in Crack in the Earth and then back in Bartertown. He is a traveler.
How does the hero become involved He's taken prisoner by the society of apes. He is recruited by Aunty Entity to kill Blaster, one part of the two person unit that governs Underworld. Later, he is saved by the children and then must go out into the desert to save them. He is recruited to help find dry land, in exchange for his life.
What spaces and domains does the hero travel through. He travels from the past to the future, from the Forbidden Zone to the ape city and then back again and then down the beach where he learns that the apes aren't the only ones who are ignorant of the true history of the planet. He lives through the holocaust, into the barbaric present, and travels from the desert to Bartertown, up to the throne room, down to underworld, out into the desert, to Crack in the Earth, and back to Bartertown. Then some of the other characters travel to the ruins of a city to found a new society. Each step is drenched with meanings, described in the essay. He goes from the town, which is the current state of society, out onto the ocean, which is freedom, under the water to the ruins, which are the past; onto the pirate ship, which is another way of life based on criminality; up in the air in a balloon, which is their salvation and to dry land, which is a paradise of a regained nature and the future.
What is the bridge between domains. A space ship and then horses. Conventional travel. Boats and a balloon.
What do the characters do that brings this world as it is to an end or what do they try to do, if anything? He tries to force them to recognize the truth about their history and goes with two ape scientists to the dig to get proof. Max is the disruptive force. When he fails to be Captain Walker, some of the children leave Crack in the Earth in search of their heaven, which breaks up that society. He goes after them and they end up destroying Bartertown to escape. Then he sacrifices so a new society can be formed in the ruins of a city. The town is destroyed by pirates so the characters who seek dry land have to escape. The hero then destroys the pirate ship.
What is the new society that is created at the end? It isn't. Zaius wins and they will cover up the truth. At the end, Max's ethical development allows him to save a remnant, which escapes to the ruins of a city to found a new city that now has the story of history right, like Bartertown does, and has dreams, like Crack in the Earth, but isn't lost in them. A handful of people regain a place to stand, to start the progress of civilization.
REPLAYING THE TAPE OF HISTORY - THE MEANINGS Planet of the Apes Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome Waterworld
What is the depiction of mind Ape society is a mind that is hiding from the truth of its origins, which, in traditional psychoanalytic thinking, would be the truth of procreation and birth, and perhaps the proof of its primitive animal nature. (That second idea is in fact fairly close to the manifest idea in the movie.) The human hero represents a disturbing influence from outside that challenges this mind. The two ape scientists represent the thinking rational part of the ego that wants to know the truth. The information can be dug up from where it is buried, in classic Freudian style, but Zaius, as censor and the force of repression fights that and even after the truth is revealed, covers it up. At the end, the human hero is forced to recognize his own truth that he had hidden from himself -- about human destructiveness and how it ruined the world. The conscious will, embodied in the throne room towering above Bartertown, is in a struggle for control with the unconscious, embodied in Underworld. Both seek to control the surface of the city, which is the conscious mind. Later, Max goes to Crack in the Earth, which is a mind lost in dreams and illusion.  
What is the depiction of the family Zaius is a controlling father who refuses to let his children grow up and learn the facts of life and their nature, and make progress. Aunty Entity and Master Blaster are corrupt parents. She involves Max as child in their struggle for power. Later Max tries to be a good parent to the children in Crack in the Earth. In the end, he is a good parents and makes it possible for a new family to be created in the ruins of a city.  
What is the depiction of birth      
What historic model are used: Ape society is an amalgam. It is medieval, in essence, a closed world based on religion, with a ruling hierarchy in which Zaius is in charge of religion and science at the same time. But it has the beginnings of an industrial revolution with guns and other forms of technology. And they do brain surgery suggesting a higher level of science. Bartertown is based on trading cities of the past and it is a depiction of the past of Australia. Crack in the Earth is based on aboriginal culture.  
What from contemporary society (contemporary with the writing of the story) is used as a model The movie is also a depiction of the battle between the youth and liberal culture, on the one side, and more traditional culture, on the other, over society, religion, and the Vietnam War. Zaius is the older generation. They are trying to get society to recognize the truth about the war and open up to liberal, secular, influences. Contemporary Australia.  
What does it take from ideology and political philosophy The liberal secular belief that closed-in, religiously based societies are bad and should be opened up to progress and free thought.   Waterworld is an eco-myth, based on visions of ecological catastrophe, pollution, recycling (everyone recycles everything, especially water); and shortages. The pirate ship is the Exxon Valdez.
What are the parallels from mythology and more ancient works of imagination.   Max is Moses who gets his tribe to the promised land but can't get their himself. And he is Christ. The hero is Moses who leads them to promised land but doesn't stay because, as a mutant with gills, water is his home.
What more recent imaginative works appear to have influenced this? The Flintstones: the apes live in a rock city.   The movie translates the Mad Max movies into a story about a post-holocaust desert of water.
What ironic reversals are in the stories Apes have civilization and hold their own version of the Scopes monkey trial in which they deny apes could be descended from human beings.. Bartertown passes sentence on criminals through a Wheel of Fortune type spinning wheel. it collects the junk of the past and puts it back together in new combinations. The children mistake a photograph of a city for "tomorrow-morrow land", which they think is a heaven they can return to. People live on, and grow things on, boats. Land is something you can buy in small quantities


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