- Write a detailed synopsis of the story.
The story is set in the distant future as the name Billenium suggests. Nearly twenty million people are squashed into a city putting tremendous pressure on space. The city council has restricted the space that an individual can occupy to mere 38 square feet. John Ward and Henry Rossiter are friends who share living space. They are both employed but find it hard to get by in the crowded city where traffic can last for days with no one being able to move due to congestion. While knocking about their cubicle, Ward discovers a forgotten room close to their cubicle. They are euphoric in this new space, thrilled due to the extense space. They buy a Victorian wardrobe which is the only valuable piece of furniture in the place. Soon, Rossiter has the idea of inviting their girlfriends to share the extra room with them. The girls in turn ask their families to move in and take advantage of the space. Ward who had hated the greedy landlords soon becomes a landlord himself, with making money becoming more significant than enjoying their new room. In order to make more space, Ward and Rossiter break up the beautiful wardrobe, and the increased amount of people living in the space makes it become smaller and smaller.
- Discuss the theme of over-population and the effect it has on both the way of life and quality of life of the inhabitants of the city.
Overpopulation changes the way people live. Life is awful and the quality of life is incredibly low. There’s so much oppression people can’t even walk on the sidewalk without getting bruises. Pedestrian jams can last for days without cars moving due to congestion. Even in their houses or cubicles people cannot be freed from this oppression, as the space they have is incredibly reduced(this was a consequence to overpopulation). The quest for living space becomes an ambition and obsession lot the citizens. People lack privacy and even have to share bathrooms and kitchens. Hygiene and privacy were completely lost, which drove people crazy in the search for them.
- The quest for living space has become an overriding obsession with the people of the city. Discuss this theme in detail. Include in your answer some discussion of the ways in which Ballard makes the quest for space dominate the characters’ lives.
The quest for living space is absurd and almost impossible to achieve as to have some extra space you need have to a family and at least three kids, which is crazy. By doing this, the people living in this society are contributing to overpopulation instead of finding a way to reduce it. When the character’s find a bigger space, they have the need to occupy that empty space with big furnitures or having more people live with them. When the characters do this, it shows how they aren’t able to have an empty space because their minds are framed in living in a small and cramped space. Becoming used to the idea of oppression, once people are a little bit more free, that aren’t able to take advantage of it and end up wasting the extra space they have(as the main characters of the story).
- What sort of relationship does Ballard put forward between the inner world of the individual (as represented by Ward and Rossiter) and the outer world in which they live. In other words, how does Ballard conceptualise the effect of surviving daily life in a hopelessly over-crowded city on the consciousness of the individual as demonstrated by the ways in which Ward and Rossiter manage the gift of space in the secret room they discover?
Ward and Rossiter hate the way that they have to live due to the overpopulation of society. They deeply despise the lack of privacy and space. For example, Ward hates landlords, but he ends up becoming one. They can’t help but follow the flow of things no matter how much they hate it.
- In the story, Ballard does attempt some sort of explanation of the social, political and economic causes of the extreme over-population that has beset the world. Explain his views as they are presented in the story.
- G. Ballard thinks that the population is selfish, that they think about only about of themselves and their families. We believe this because people instead of wanting and contributing with the reduction of population, they instead do anything to have some more space for living, which only happens if they have at least three kids. So this is ironic, because also the government does not stop overpopulation, as a result of this, the population have more than three kids, and they receive more space, however as they have more kids, the population increase.
- Do you agree with his argument? Do you think that current population growth projections indicate that we are likely to end up in the situation portrayed in the story?
Yes we agree, because nowadays the population is always growing, and some countries have many children. As a result, it is very possible that we could end up like the characters in the story, with overpopulation, because of the increase of children that is happening nowadays.
- Describe and analyse Ward’s character in some detail. What values does he hold? Why does Ballard make use of this type of character as the main character for this story?
Ward is one of the protagonists of Billenium, maybe he is the main character. He works as a librarian and he shares the small room with his friend Henry Rossiter. He was very affected when the wardrobe was destroyed to have more space. He does not like, or he hate the landlords that reduces the size of the cubicles to have money.
- What role does Rossiter play in the story?
Henry Rossiter is Ward’s friend. He is the one that made the terrible mistake of convincing Ward on inviting people to live with them in the double cubicle, that was big and could be felt by more people.
- Describe the role of the female characters in the story.
- Discuss the effects that over-population and its attendant ills has had on the nature of family life in relation to Ward’s family as well as Judith and Helen’s family relationships.
- What does the secret room symbolise in the story?
- Why do you think Ward and Rossiter are unable to keep the gift of space to themselves? Is Ballard making a comment on how our inner world ultimately reflects the shape of the external world in which we live?
- What sort of living arrangement do they eventually end up allowing (and accommodating to) in their secret room?
- Discuss Ballard’s style and language in the story? Consider also in what ways it is appropriate to the nature of the story being told.
5- J. G. Ballard thinks that the population is selfish, that they think about only about of themselves and their families. We believe this because people instead of wanting and contributing with the reduction of population, they instead do anything to have some more space for living, which only happens if they have at least three kids. So this is ironic, because also the government does not stop overpopulation, as a result of this, the population have more than three kids, and they receive more space, however as they have more kids, the population increase.
9- The role of the female characters in the story were of friends that they took advantage of the space that their friends gave to them
10- What the effect of overpopulation has had on the nature of family is that the overpopulation was caused by how families wanted to have some more space that they decide to have kids which contribute with this.
11- The secret room next to Ward and Rossiter’s cubicle symbolized freedom, it was a leak or a crack that let them escape from living in a limited space.
12- Ward and Rossiter are unable to keep the gift of space to themselves because they were used to live in a small place called “cubicles” and when they found a big place, they started putting big furniture and then inviting people to live with them so they started reducing the space that they had. For me Ballard making a comment on how difficult is to change and adapt to places for all the humans and in this case, the protagonist didn’t take advantage of all the space that they had.
13- At the end of the story, there were seven people living in the secret room, and they divided that room in seven parts so all the people have their own “room”. At the end, they end up living in a smaller place than the cubicles.
14- Ballard uses different techniques of speech to emphasize his point of overpopulation. He uses hyperbaton and oxymoron to make the reader understand how he feels towards the society in his time and he wants to prove a point. The story also names the word “cubicle”, by doing this it emphasizes that we as a society are destined to live in a place meant to be in an office.
The video shows how small and uncomfortable the cubicles are. Both, the story and the video explain that living in cubicles is the result of having overpopulation. This must be very hard to live in since they have so little space in their cubicles.
I did it with Francisco Montya, and Trinidad Porretti