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'Billennium' by J.G. Ballard

Analysis of the 1961 dystopian short story 'Billennium' by J.G. Ballard
by

Tom White

on 11 November 2013

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Transcript of 'Billennium' by J.G. Ballard

'Billennium' by J.G. Ballard
Background
Techniques
Characters & Author's Purpose
Plot
John Ward and Henry Rossiter live in a dystopian futuristic society where there is huge overpopulation. They live in small cubicles, so it is a marvellous surprise when they find a forgotten room which is (relatively) very big. They proceed to live in the room. However, they eventually start to let out the room for the sake of money, becoming the greedy landlords they so despised at the beginning.
Themes
– Power
– Population (Over-)
– Planning
– Privacy
– Problems
Story's Background
Written in 1961 by Englishman James Graham (J.G.) Ballard, and published in the January 1962 edition of 'Amazing Stories', a science fiction magazine. He was ~31 at the time of writing it. Ballard wrote predominantly about dystopian situations, for which the adjective, 'Ballardian' was created.
Imagery
– "braces tied to his trousers with string"
– "luggage piled around the floor at the foot of the beds"
– "bang his head on the shelving"
– "broth"
– "...partition pressed against his knees and he could hardly move"
– "crude hook of bent wire"
Diction
"cubicle" used many times. A cubicle belongs in an office, or restroom, not as someone's living space!
"narrow"
"partition"
"only" when Mr Waring says, "they've only got six to our seven" links to irony, and also lack of space and freedom
"broth" shows how poor quality of living is
Symbolism
Wardrobe "symbolizing [sic] whole private world". Symbolises the space they found, and such an ability to have a wardrobe. Destruction of wardrobe shows the loss of freedom and space they had
Destruction of the "beautiful wardrobe", a "beautiful piece of furniture" symbolising slow destruction of the world
Cubicle symbolises lack of freedom and power (and space)
Number of people represents what the future holds
Humour (namely irony)
Final sentence is ironic
"only got six to our seven" (use of only)
"How did we ever decide to buy it?" Ironic because they used to have the space, before they gave it up for money. Links to modern day society in that we so quickly forget what we once had (here, space) in search of more money.
John Ward
Referred to as 'Ward'
Middle-aged
Unmarried
Worked as a librarian
Protagonist
Responsible for finding room after he punched the wall
Becomes the very thing he despised at the beginning of the story in his search for wealth
Henry Rossiter
Ward's closest friend
More self-interested than Ward
Urged Ward to let the girls move in, who then brought their family members in
Author's Purpose
To convey thoughts on human nature through the medium of the problem of over-population in a dystopian futuristic society
Rossiter
"perspiring heavily"
"irritably"
Ward
"softly"
"vaguely"
Mr Waring
"fussily"
"swore loudly"
"meaningly"
(with particular attention to the use of adverbs)
Judith, Judith's aunt, Helen Waring, Mr & Mrs Waring
Rossiter urged Ward to let the girls move in, who then brought members of their family into the room
Passage Analysis Essay on 'Billennium'
Full transcript