From 2000 to 1887
Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward belongs to the well-known tradition of utopian fiction. That is fiction that attempts to portray an ideal human society from the author’s point of view. In this vision, the ideal society is one where the government remains a respected, powerful force of social order. Under this national governance personal freedom is not threatened, but enhanced. An individual worker’s merit is recognized and valued through a complex ranking system, and citizens are encouraged to choose the careers that best suit them. Consumer choice is well catered for because every consumer demand is met, and every citizen has easy access to the full range of the nation’s products. Bellamy’s vision was of a modern society free from social ills, competition, and protected and cared for by the state. It was in stark contrast to the excessive Gilded Age of his day. This may have been one of the reasons for the book’s tremendous success.
I first saw the light in the city of Boston in the year 1857. “What!” you say, “eighteen fifty-seven? That is an odd slip. He means nineteen fifty-seven, of course.” I beg pardon, but there is no mistake. It was about four in the afternoon of December the 26th, one day after Christmas, in the year 1857, not 1957, that I first breathed the east wind of Boston, which, I assure the reader, was at that remote period marked by the same penetrating quality characterizing it in the present year of grace, 2000.