This Perfect Day Dystopian Novel Analysis by Ralph K Jones

This Perfect Day Dystopian Novel Analysis by Ralph K Jones

This Perfect Day: One Happy Family

Right from the beginning of Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day, we learn of a world that is chillingly uniform and impossibly pleasant. There is no war, no hunger, no turmoil of any kind; every single person seems to greatly enjoy their simple lives. Alas, the day could never truly be perfect, and we join the protagonist through a four-part journey of continually seeking out the truth and desperately trying to liberate humanity.

this perfect day book

In This Perfect Day, not only have the citizens been reduced to machine-like beings, but the entire world has as well. People have similar appearances and dress in bland white jumpsuits called “coveralls”. Instead of normal names, people have “namebers”, which consists of one of four first names and a lengthy number as a last name. Continents and countries are abbreviated and then appended by a number, serving to separate identity from both place and person alike. People are referred to as “members” of the larger Family, whose ultimate goal is to spread their will throughout the universe. Worst of all, the Family is subject to the will of an omniscient computer known as UniComp that governs every aspect of their lives, from profession, marriage, and even death. Regardless, every member still praises Uni as an all-knowing entity.

This Perfect Day In-depth Review

The story follows Li (more commonly known as Chip), a young member who is curious about the world. He lives a normal life at first, but his perspective is changed from his encounters with Papa Jan, his grandfather. Papa Jan feigns obedience to Uni, but actually dislikes how all-powerful it is. As Chip matures, Papa Jan subtly hints to him that the life he’s living is inadequate, and shows him the real UniComp in hopes of Chip going to destroy it someday. After learning from Papa Jan, Chip starts to question the nature of his life, but is subsequently given extra treatments that make these feelings subside.

“Being happy or unhappy – is that really the most important thing? Knowing the truth would be a different kind of happiness – a more satisfying kind, I think, even if it turned out to be a sad kind.”

― Ira Levin, This Perfect Day

In Part Two, Chip begins to wake up to the horrors of the Family. He grows to hate the sameness of everything and the lack of true purpose in life. Along the way, he is contacted by a secret group of people like him, and he starts meeting with them. He falls in love with a woman named Lilac and clashes with King, the group’s leader. Chip starts studying foreign languages and searching for a sanctuary for people like him, but King disapproves. Eventually, King reveals that he knew about an island of “incurables”, but withheld it from the group out of selfishness. Chip plans to tell Lilac and the others, but he is found out by his adviser, and they all end up getting treated.

In Part Three, an earthquake causes treatments to be delayed, which allows Chip to return to his former self. He devises a method to avoid treatments altogether, and then tries to locate Lilac so he can escape to an island with her. Chip essentially kidnaps Lilac using a gun and forces her to travel with him. They make it to a beach, and then travel to the island with a conveniently placed boat. Once they reach the island, they learn that the inhabitants treat immigrants poorly, but they decide to stay, and settle in a city called Pollensa. However, Chip develops a strong desire to fight back against Uni, and gathers a team to set out on a mission to destroy it.

To Feel Pain is a Priceless Experiance

In Part Four, Chip embarks on the mission with five others. Along the way, two group members mutiny, and are captured and questioned. Despite this, Chip goes on with the plan, but another group member, Dover, is revealed to be a spy who is working as a “shepherd” for the “programmers” who control Uni behind the scenes. Wei, one of the Family’s founders, is revealed to still be alive, and he tempts Chip with eternal life and luxury. Chip seems to ease into his new life as a programmer, and even changes his green eye to a brown one.

Most dystopian stories would end here, but Chip had other plans. After the programmers watch another attempt at destroying Uni get foiled, Chip deceives the shepherd and takes their bombs to finish the job. After a climatic confrontation with Wei in Uni’s inner chambers, Chip finally manages to destroy Uni, and flies back to his family in a helicopter as he enjoys the truly “perfect” day.

Despite its lack of an imposing authoritarian government, the world of This Perfect Day is much more terrifying than most. Everyone lives in a highly sedated state, but it is incredibly easy for this to change. It is the oppressed people themselves who enforce Uni’s rules, and they do so relentlessly. However, those who deviate from the norm are not punished or killed, but rather deemed as sick and in dire need of help. Perhaps the most horrifying example of this is when Chip was caught and forced to have his treatment. He was hitting and screaming at his captors, but they were not angry or aggressive in the slightest–they were only worried about their “brother”. Although Chip didn’t technically die after he got treated, going back under into a lethargic state is tantamount to death. In fact, it is f fate worse than death, which is why King chose to end his own life rather than go back to it.

The Perfect Day Ralph’s Wrap Up

All in all, Chip’s tale is one of never giving up or settling for less than what you deserve–it perfectly encapsulates the persistence of human nature. The desire to truly live cannot be tamed, treated, or persuaded against. Chip goes through multiple episodes of awakening to the true nature of life, only to have his attempts thwarted, but he never gives up or gives in. While everyone else around him was content with living a diminished life (in one way or another), Chip always aspired higher. Meeting in secret wasn’t enough for him, nor was living in half-freedom on Liberty, nor was eternal life and supreme power as a programmer–he wanted to liberate the entire world of its drab existence. Chip never let failure or complacency stop him from fulfilling his destiny, something that is rarely seen in stories such as these. It gives the impression that things can always be changed, no matter how desperate things may seem.


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2 thoughts on “This Perfect Day Dystopian Novel Analysis by Ralph K Jones”

  1. While you touch upon some of the most obvious themes, this really doesn’t feel like a full analysis. More rather a plot summary with a review at the end. I was interested in the poem they all recite that starts with the name “Marx…” and whether or not this book was a commentary against communism/socialism.

  2. I’ve loved this book since I read it back in the mid 70’s, but there is something that bothers me. Is Chip really the hero? When he blew up Uni, everything stops working, planes crash, ships drift aimlessly and nobody will know how to feed themselves as they all come off the sedatives. 90% will be dead within the year (similar to a solar EMP that hits our planet). Did he save the world, or destroy it?


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