After reading Billenium, we discussed the story in class and analysed it altogether. After doing this last class, our Literature teacher, Pat, asked us to answer in groups some questions about Billenium. I did it with Bautista Buljevich and Olivia Obligado and these are our answers:
- 1. Write a detailed synopsis of the story.
This story, called Billenium, is situated in the future. There is overpopulation and for this reason people are forced to live in small cubicles. The population density is too high, so the government limits the people’s living space. People are forced to create bonds and friendships with people living nearby, as the old friends live far away and it’s impossible to visit them. Family traditions and relations are weakened for the same reason. Money loses value as, and richness is represented by having land. Ward and rossiter were close friends who decided to live together so that they could have more than one cubicle. They discover a hidden room which allows them to have more space. They invite girls to the room, who later on invite their relatives. They end up having the same space as before. For this reason, they decide to remove the wardroom. This shows that billenium is a circular story, as they want to have more space but when they get it, they buy furniture which occupies room and invite more people.
- 2. 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.
The term ‘overpopulation’ explains the reality of that society which lives without space, that is to say that there are more people than place where to live. It is ironic the condition of getting more place since to obtain it, you have to marry and have three children so that finally they give you an apartment with more place. However, not only the place increases but also the people, so the department ends up being small and oppressive due to the number of inhabitants inside.
- 3. 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.
In “Billenium”, people’s most precious and valuable thing was space. They have a quest for living space. When Ward found a lot of space to live, he reduced it by sharing it with other people, as he used to live in a very little place.
- 4. 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?
Ballard creates similarities about the inner world of the individual and the outer one. In the outer worlds, it can be seen that people hate to live like this, as they can’t visit their relatives, go to have lunch and spent hours travelling. The government can solve over-population by imposing different measures but instead decides to solve over-population by encouraging people to have more kids. In the inner world, meaning the way in which Ward and Rossiter manage the gift of space, something similar happens. They hate living in small cubicles but luckily they find a secret room which has lots of space. Instead of enjoying it, they overpopulate ir and invite people to occupy it. Both events show that Billenium is a circular story which will eventually lead to the same spot, overpopulation.
- 5. 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.
Ballard does attempt some sort of explanation of the social, political and economic causes of the extreme overpopulation that has beset the world by explaining that the resposables of it was the government as they said that if you wanted to have a more spacious place, you had to have three children. So, this made the problem of overpopulation develop, as by the time, the population increased.
- 6. 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?
I do not think that people in the future will live in cubicles at all. This Is because there are many people in charge of having that issue under control. Moreover, there are many measures are being carried out to prevent what happened in the story “Billenium”.
- 7. 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?
John Ward is the protagonist of the story and works at a library. He has a friend called Henry Rossiter and they both share a living space. Ward hates the government, the authority and the landlords, as they reduce their living space, and designate the slight cubicles in which people live. However, at the end, Ward ends up being the landlord who decides who should enter the room, what should be removed and how the space should be distributed. He becomes what he hated and Ballard chooses him as the protagonist to show this contrast.
- 8. What role does Rossiter play in the story?
Rossiter is a close friend of the main character, Ward. However he is a more aggressive character as it is the one who persuades Ward to let their girlfriends into the spacious room, affecting also the girls families. Rossiter also sacrifices the Victorian wardrobe, a symbol of total beauty at that times.
- 9. Describe the role of the female characters in the story.
There are two female characters in the story. They are called Judith and Helen. Their role in the tale was to bring their family to the cubicle that was found by their friends, Ward and Rossiter. As a consequence, the new space that was found was not beneficial to the protagonists and His friends although they had found it.
- 10. Discuss the effects that overpopulation 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.
The effects of overpopulation caused people to have more kids, as they would have a bigger cubicle. However, by encouraging people to have kids and reproduce, you are not solving overpopulation but fomenting it’s growth. For this reason, the ills of overpopulation, cause people to have more space and have a family life to acquire more space. Despite this fact, the having of a family means the sharing of space between five, which again reduces the space and increases the population density. This again shows that Billenium is a circular story.
- 11. What does the secret room symbolise in the story?
The secret room symbolises the urgent need of privacity. In addition it also represents the lack of freedom and therefore, of space.
- 12. 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?
Ward and Rossiter were unable to keep the gift of space to themselves because they used to live in cubicles, so when they found the new “gigant” cubicle they had to share it. They couldn’t take advantage on the new place to live.
- 13. What sort of living arrangement do they eventually end up allowing (and accommodating to) in their secret room?
Ward and Rossiter were willing to have more space so they moved together to a new place, where they find the secret room, which would bring them much more space. However, they invite people and people. First, some girls and then the girls’ relatives. In the end, they end up allowing the same or a worse sort of living arrangement. The large room was divided into seven people, so they ended up living in smaller cubicles. The finding of the room was non-sense and they wasted their chance of having a comfortable life, as they had adapted to a suffocating and uncomfortable sort of living arrangement.
- 14. 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.
Ballard uses different writing techniques to emphasize and explain to the readers his point of view about the overpopulation. The author uses oxymoron and hyperbaton to refers and depict his feelings towards the society and the conditions in which they lived. All along the story the word “cubicle” is named, emphasizing that that society was destined to live in an oppressive and extremely small place.