Utopia, the ultimate society, and the impossible dream.
Dystopia, the harsh reality, and the inevitable outcome.
The origins for these terms go all the way back to the 1500s when Sir Thomas More wrote a book entitled Utopia, and as time went on, the concepts of utopian societies and its opposite, dystopian societies, were found more commonly in the written world. Specifically in the past few decades, a relatively new genre has surfaced: Young Adult Dystopian Novels. A typical book in this genre will involve an attempt at creating a utopian society only to have it fall apart with the underlying reason being humanity’s own failings. This genre is centered around the idea that utopian societies are not in fact utopian but instead dystopian.
A great example of this genre is shown in the book series The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. In these books, the people of the Capitol are shown to be living the perfect life, the utopian life, whereas everyone else in the nation of Panem, specifically those living in the 12 districts, see life as a dystopia. The concept of attempting to create a utopia is clearly present in the novel; however, the society’s own faults end up leading to its downfall. Because of the oppression of the districts, the unfair treatment the districts receive, and the harsh punishment for an outdated crime, the districts unite against the Capitol to overthrow the society which they see as a means to end the dystopia that they are living in under the Capitol’s rule.
In reading many dystopian novels including The Hunger Games, I have come to the conclusion that most if not all dystopian novels have roots in both history and society today. Many dystopian novels address inequalities based on who you are and where you were born, or serve as a warning to those who have obtained power through unjust means and use it for unlawful purposes.
The genre of YA Dystopian novels in particular seems to be a means of educating the youth of today on the proper ethics of society without directly stating what is right or what is wrong, but instead relating experiences from their own lives (from what they’ve seen or heard) to what they have read and to apply it to their lives as they grow older and become a functioning part of society.
This concept might not be the main reason people enjoy reading dystopian literature, but it could have contributed to the recent explosion of YA Dystopian Literature as a genre, and hopefully to a society that is closer to a true utopia in the future.