Minority Report Unseen Commentary
Philip K. Dick – “The Minority Report” Unseen Commentary The science fiction short story “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick explores how autocratic societies lead to individuality being suppressed, with power replacing personality as the main defining quality of any identity.
This is all particularly evident in the passage where Anderton makes his way to Kaplan at the rally for a greeting before murdering him.Through the wide use of metaphorical language and other carefully chosen descriptors such as adjectives and adverbs, Dick conveys how autocratic power suffocates a population of free will and imposes extreme influence on the people. Since there is no presence of any kind of personality or individuality, the very thing exercising the suppression – power – also comes to define any identity.With this in mind, Dick suggests that power can be a threat in that it will inevitably become deeply ingrained into the heart of humanity, creating a seemingly lifeless and pointless form of society that exists for nothing but the wishes of those who wield the power. Dick expresses the strength of the oppression in taking away free will and individuality that autocratic power exercises on people through his description of the watching audience.
The “dense mob” of people is “packed tightly together”, as though they lack any will of their own and were squeezed together under power.Together with the adjective “rigid”, Dick enhances the image and feeling of oppression present as this particular combination of descriptors can be connoted to the arrangement of particles within a solid; solid particles have very strong forces of attraction between them and are not free to move, just like how the people are denied personal freedom – anyone who deviates away from this uniform system is therefore jarringly different and abnormal. Again, like particles, the arrangement and system of the people is neat, but lifeless.The fact that it is the “sense that something spectacular” – a sense implanted by the Army – that “held [the people] rigid” shows how they have lost individuality in the face of power and how it is ironically power too that holds them together; without power, they seemingly lack purpose and direction. So low have they sunk under the suppression of power that they have become nothing more than a “solid presence”; with the adjective “solid”, aside from describing lack of free will, Dick conveys the uniform manner power created for people to fall into.
Representative too of this combined identity but even more effective than “mob” is the use of the noun “presence”, which further expresses the loss of identity and individuality. Here, the audience is not even described as a body of people but as a mere feeling that something is existing there, much like how they themselves are; they exist physically, but are good as gone emotionally – all of Dick’s word choices in describing them give them no personality whatsoever, as if they could be objects.Even the Army officials, who at least hold some degree of power, have fallen under the absolute power of the ruling authorities; like the audience, they are a “tight knot”, as though manipulated and knotted together by the authorities, again without any hint of individuality present. Through all this, Dick shows us the capabilities of power to be oppressive, causing varieties of human personalities to melt down into one combined identity. Power can be dangerous in that it can take away freedom and threaten individuality for both those who wield it and those who suffer oppression in the face of it.
Dick then explores how power is the sole quality that defines and sets people apart in an autocratic society where individuality does not exist, with his description of Kaplan. He consistently uses symbols of power to describe Kaplan, with many of these symbols being objects of clothing. Kaplan, who initially wore “the vest, […] the conservative business suit”, is in this passage portrayed as wearing “his service bars, […] his visored cap”. Here, Dick chooses two lists of items of clothing – both representatives of two contrasting levels of power, with the latter being the higher – to describe Kaplan, as though power is what defines him.This is emphasized with Dick’s choice of pronouns: in the first list, he consistently uses the pronoun “the” to precede the business-like items of clothing representative of little power.
With the second list, however, he consistently uses the pronoun “his” to precede the military-like items of clothing representative of high power. By assigning the more personal pronoun to the second list, it is almost as Dick is implying that power gives Kaplan his identity; power is what defines him and brings him to life. When not describing him with power, Dick portrays Kaplan as just yet another person who has lost ndividuality as a result of the strength of power. Kaplan is described as having “steely” fingers and moving “stiffly”; both of these descriptors indicate a cold, unfeeling person incapable of emotion – the adjective “steely” has connotations to hard, cold and smooth metal, representative of a hard nature, while the adverb “stiffly” has connotations to not being changed easily. The only indication that he is capable of emotion is the fact that he has a “thin, mobile countenance”; however, the adjective “thin” suggests that this, too, has been slowly lost and corroded away over the years by power.Kaplan therefore seems somewhat like a robotic machine; just as impacted by power, he has lost his individuality like all others, but he does maintain one thing: power.
Power is the only defining quality that sets Kaplan apart from others. Dick comments how “amazing” it is how transformed Kaplan, a “bald man”, became with the change of clothes and the change of power; however, there is the slight hint of a mocking tone here. Kaplan is “bald” – nothing – without power; it is almost as though he relies on power for any kind of identity.Through this, Dick implies that being in control of power may mean allowing power to define and control you also. Power will come to define you, and although it can be a useful thing to have, there are more important things that you should have and that should define you – such as individuality. Amidst the iron-grip of power upon a population and the loss of individuality and free will from its oppression, however, Dick finds hope in the form of Anderton.
Anderton is the only character in this passage with any form of personal identity present, unlike everyone else.Not only does he have individuality and emotion, but he also differentiates starkly from everyone else in the manner that he is an anomaly in a trend; the fact that he is attempting to rise up against the oppression of Kaplan’s power by aiming to murder him instead of allowing him to discredit the Precrime system sets him apart as a distinctive identity. Whilst everyone else has fallen to power, becoming defined by it (or lack thereof, for the crowd of people), Anderton is going against power, refusing to allow it to control him.He is at first “engulfed” by the crowd, emphasizing his singularity in his actions. The meaning of the verb is particularly effective in describing him as a lone outsider due to how connotations can be made to a weaker entity being swallowed up by a larger, more powerful body; it is almost as if the powerless crowd in their oppression actually holds some degree of power just by conforming together into the system designed for them by the ruling authorities – a degree of power that Anderton does not hold by not being part of them.
Dick nevertheless singles him out as “forc[ing]” his way past the crowd to the platform; the particular use of this verb creates the image of Anderton being a sole rebel, fighting past oppression for freedom despite whatever comes in his way. His defiant rebel-like manner in his actions is shown in Dick’s selection of adverbs; Anderton meets Kaplan’s gaze “confidently”, as though determined not to allow Kaplan to ruin him, setting him aside as someone with a mind of his own.The fact that he then answers Kaplan “noncommittally”, combined with the slight mocking tone in his questions for Kaplan (“You’re going to read only the minority report? That’s all you’ve got there? “) as though questioning Kaplan’s intelligence shows his disregard for power and those who wield it; Anderton, unlike everyone else, believes in justice more than power. Through this, Dick shows us that power, with all of its glory, is not everything. Dick uses Anderton as an example of an uprising against power, suggesting that there is always hope in the face of suppression.The fact that Anderton was a single person amongst a wide majority who still succeeded in preventing the Precrime system from being discredited also shows us that hope, in whatever form or amount, is still hope and that it does indeed have the capacity to overcome a situation as long as it is acted upon.
In conclusion, “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick discusses the idea that power can be oppressive, resulting in the loss of free will and individuality for both those who wield it and those who are oppressed by it, creating a collective identity out of all human personalities.Power also comes to define people in such an autocratic society, when it really should be other qualities such as personality and individuality. The overall message is clear: power is dangerous, and while a certain degree of it is necessary for any society to function smoothly, it should not be autocratic and should not be a large integral part of society. Dick expresses to us the impact of power and its management – in a world where dictators such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao have exercised totalitarian power with disastrous onsequences, perhaps he was trying to convey that power has to be shared out more equally in order to achieve a successful system that will work for everybody, encompassing the joys of life simultaneously. In an everyday context, cooperation is key to success; everyone’s views and opinions must be taken into account for any kind of team to work with good results.
However, there is also a positive side to all of this that Dick integrates into the story: the concept of fighting for what you believe in.Anderton was a symbol of rebelling against an unjust system that exercised oppression – a symbol of not being conquered by evil, but conquering evil with good. With this, Dick expresses that in a situation that we may find wrong, we must not stay silent and withstand it; we must speak up and make it right, no matter how successful we think we may be. We might never achieve our goals otherwise. The world is not a perfect place, but it can be perfected as much as possible, and that will require cooperation from everybody and the courage to make it happen.