WOOL, SHIFT, & DUST as Historical Allegory

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So…earlier today, I was talking back and forth with new WOOLwriter, Logan Thomas Snyder. We’re doing a back-and-forth interview that I’ll post probably later this week. Some really great stuff from an up-and-coming author. While we were tossing questions back and forth at one another, he threw this at me: “As someone who also has a background in history, do you think your background as a history teacher gave you a different perspective or insight into the (WOOL) series as a whole, or possibly even the way you approached your own history?”

As soon as I read it, I had an epiphany. I had thought about the historical context in some ways and hadn’t really even realized it until I gave it deeper thought today. Here was my answer about Hugh Howey’s books: 

(Warning — THEMATIC SPOILERS for WOOL, SHIFT, and DUST Ahead)

ImageInitially, that was one of the things I was really skeptical about in Hugh’s stories. How can a group of people so easily forget their own history? Obviously, he takes care of that with the medication dosed to the people of the silo, but it still has a ring of implausibility to it. 

That is, until you look at history itself. The Middle Ages — sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages — was a period just like this. The Roman Empire existed and was the dominant force in the world. They ruled with an iron fist and provoked all their enemies in every direction, eventually suffering at the hands of the Visigoths and Vandals because of it. In WOOL and SHIFT, you can see a similar thing happening. The United States has so much power that it is very much like the Roman Empire in the latter stages. While the Romans had the Germanic tribes to worry about, the U.S. has foreign powers like Islamic extremists and Russians. 

After Rome fell, the knowledge they had built up virtually vanished within a generation. All the Greek philosophers — Aristotle and Plato, Archimedes and Pythagoras — all the learning just went away. The world was “controlled” by the church and the bubble it established over the entirety of Europe, but eventually knowledge was re-discovered and Europe emerged stronger than ever. Obviously some stayed behind in the ignorance of the Catholic Church, but for the most part, Europe and the rest of the world were able to break free of the silos — I mean the “darkness” of the age. ;)

To build on that, I’ll toss this out there — that the WOOL books were in some ways a re-telling of the transition from the fall of Rome (SHIFT) to the Dark Ages where Europe is run by the church under the leadership of one man, the pope (WOOL) to the Renaissance, Reformation and the Enlightenment, when people across Europe began to realize the oppression they were under from Monarchical regimes and the rule of the Catholic Church (DUST). 

What do you think?

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One thought on “WOOL, SHIFT, & DUST as Historical Allegory

    Toby Neal (@tobywneal) said:
    September 16, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    The word “zeitgeist” sums up the massive appeal of the Wool series. As a culture and a world, it captures our deepest collective terror and imagination.

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