Before this course, I had minimal knowledge of dystopia and utopia. The only dystopia book I had read (at least from what I remember) was The Hunger Games. When I heard utopia, I thought of perfection; when I heard dystopia, I thought the opposite.
There is much more depth to the definition of dystopia, as there is for utopia though. In the CCUL, Fatima Vieira argues that “the study of the concept of utopia can certainly not be reduced to the history of the word coined by Thomas More […]” (1) Utopias are generally defined as paradise-like universes or societies with no flaws. Dystopias, on the other hand, are infested with flaws. For instance, in The Hunger Games, the Games are a result of the thirteen districts’ rebellion against the government. While the government believes that it is doing right, the districts and we, the audience, know that such a method is wicked, terrifying, and inhumane. The Games are only one of the many flaws in the book; some others are government corruption, unequal distribution of wealth, and a lack of individuality amongst the majority of the characters.
In addition to the flaws that distinguish dystopia from utopia, there are some recurring themes that we observe in the former that are absent in the latter. Hope and fear are the two major themes I’ve picked up on in The Hunger Games so far. Despite the oppression endured by the oppressed, they hope for something better in the future. Actually, it seems like fear directly induces hope. Whereas the flawlessness of utopias prevents such themes to arise, the imperfections in dystopia allow them to develop.
Finally, in order to etymologically define dystopia, we must take into consideration the where the word comes from. The prefix “dys” comes from the Greek origin, and it means “bad, ill, abnormal.” Dystopia itself is a neologism, as it derives from the original word, utopia. After scrutinizing the arguments presented in the CCUL, the major themes in The Hunger Games, and the etymology of utopia, I have come up with an improved definition of dystopia.
So, simply put, yes, dystopia is the opposite of utopia, but it is important to note why/how it’s the opposite.