This Perfect Day – Ira Levin
Written in 1969, this dystopian classic from Ira Levin delves into the social science curiosity of political/social structure and population subservience. In a totalitarian society with mass surveillance, mandatory drug treatments, and complete control of everyone’s job, pastime, partner, friends and lifespan, a central intelligence system called Uni, is all-powerful.
Chip is the main protagonist but his nameber (not misspelt) is Li RM35M4419 and since the great Unification they belong to The Family, and their world does not know aggression, sadness, hatred, greed, and poverty. Their lives, however, do not experience curiosity, choice, love, or freedom, and if there are signs that any of these emotions or thoughts exist, the monthly Treatment will likely irradicate through higher drug doses or a few more potent drugs to bring members back into line. The relaxed and uninhibited nature of reporting on colleagues, family, and friends was unsettling and considered the duty to help treat a sickness. Through this process, Chip starts to feel guilt over the information he already provided about others and starts to withhold information from his advisor.
Chip works in the Institute of Genetic Engineering and we realise from the appearance of members of the Family that gradually the physical appearance of all the World’s races are slowly being genetically consolidated. He works as a genetic taxonomist, has his treatments once per month, has dispassionate sex on a Saturday with his appointed girlfriend, communicates regularly with his advisor and visits his parents twice per year. He notices himself becoming more creative and questioning in the last few days before his monthly treatments but when he returns after treatment he is once again a compliant member of the Family and can put the previous few day’s ‘sickness’ behind him.
Chip is approached by a group of free thinkers who explain how he can fool the system and become free to think throughout the month and do things beyond what is deemed acceptable. The more Chip learns, the more he wants to know and he explores ways of escaping or overcoming the control of Uni. Some people are ‘incurable’ and it is believed they live on Islands remote from The Family.
This Perfect Day is an allegorical story illustrating that peace and security in life is possible, if we forego, choice, privacy, individuality, and the capacity to create, to imagine and to love in all its different ways. The worst in our human nature may well lead us on a path to destruction and we can debate whether the ultimate price of compliance to Uni, is a price worth paying. There is, however, something in our nature that fervently refuses to consciously give up Our Freeeeeeeeeeeedom (as William Wallace would say).
Ira Levin’s novel is a profound book that explores what we understand by the individual and its uniqueness, and how totalitarian regimes exert control. It seems as we look at the World today, that while we seem incapable of securing all the requirements of how politics and society should behave, we need to treasure the aspects that mean most. This was a Buddy read with Julie. Her insights and discussion proved invaluable in fully appreciating this novel, not only because of its philosophical nature but also because it is an entertaining story with adventure, drama, relationships, and interesting characters. I would highly recommend this book and also thank Julie for her patience and discussion.