Themes in Fiction #12 – Chaos and Order

Picture by Sebastien Wiertz

Picture by Sebastien Wiertz

“According to the philosopher, Ly Tin Wheedle, chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order, because it is better organised.” ~ Terry Pratchett

About

Order and Chaos are a little like good and evil, only less clear cut. One is usually posed as fighting against the other, but there are usually arguments on both sides that seem ‘right.’ The ‘bad guys’ in Order vs Chaos stories are usually doing things for good reasons, though they may have at some point strayed from the righteous path somewhat. Therefore, the theme of Order and Chaos often poses difficult moral questions about the need for balance between the two. How much freedom to do what you choose is too much? And when does control over the populace stop being for the ‘greater good’ and become about power?

Examples

Delirium by Lauren Oliverdelirium

In which love represents the great chaos that the government is trying to control. Love makes people do crazy, unpredictable things. Love overrides common sense and lawfulness. So the government of a future America creates a cure for love.

But is it better to live without it? Does the sort of life you lead without love make things better? Or without love is life not worth living at all? Oliver’s trilogy explores all these questions, and doesn’t pose any easy answers. While the narrative does suggest that Love should ultimately be the choice, even though it comes with a load of problems, it’s the exploration of those problems that makes this a powerful tale. You can see the arguments from both perspectives, and it’s surprisingly difficult to chose between them.

the cat in the hatThe Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

In this classic children’s tale, the titular Cat represents Chaos. He comes into the children’s lives on a boring, rainy day and proceeds to make all sorts of mess and chaos, playing dangerous tricks on the poor fish.

Again, there’s no clear cut right and wrong here. While the Cat is a problem, and does make a mess, he’s funny and brightens up the day for the children. Without him, they would have had nothing to do. Order is returned in time for their mother to come home to a house as she left it, but it’s the Cat who tidies away the mess he made, eliminating the chaos he caused.

Everything Is AwesomeThe_Lego_Movie_poster

It’s hard to talk about Order and Chaos without discussing the runaway hit The Lego Movie. In the film, the evil Lord Business wants everything to be perfectly ordered – following the instructions to the letter. To make things this way, he superglues all the pieces together and has his townspeople destroy everything creative and unique, replacing them with uniform buildings. It’s an example of how Order – usually perceived to be good – can go much too far.

Without going into overt spoilers, the reason for Lord Business’s behaviour is explained, and in a touching finale is persuaded that a little bit of chaos can be good. Once again, there’s no clear cut here – order is shown to be good in that everything looks good and runs smoothly, but it’s boring, and a bit of chaotic creativity is needed to make things fun.

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