Previously, when I thought of the genre of dystopia, I would think of a futuristic society with a strict government and fearful citizens. All of the books and movies I had witnessed focused on these aspects. But, the more I research and learn about dystopias, the more I realize there is more to it.
One characteristic of a dystopian society that never fails to exist is that the fear of some citizens is not the same for all. There always seems to be a class system that dictates the oppressed and acts favorably to others. This characteristic makes it difficult for some to see the society as troubled and for others to see it as perfect. One example of this is how in The Hunger Games, citizens of the lower districts see the unfairness of games and distribution of food, while citizens of the Capital may see the society as perfect.
While the cause of the hierarchy may differ from scenario to scenario, this significant detail creates a separation between the citizens that leads to tension. The higher class is convinced the society has no flaws and the plight of lower classes is their own fault. The lower class is forced into uniform expectations where their freedoms are restricted and they see the upper class as untouchable. Usually in dystopias, the government enforces this tension and uses propaganda and fear to contain the lower class, but there always seems to be a rebellion.
Because I feel this aspect of dystopia is so essential, my definition of a dystopia is based on its truth. I define a dystopia as an imagined, futuristic society that is illusions to be perfect, but in reality favors an upper class creating tension throughout its citizens.
While there are many other aspects that characterize a dystopia, the illusion of a utopia is the most important in my opinion. It outlines a division in the citizens that eventually results in discontent and rebellion.