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All posts by Elise Holland

I have always paid careful attention to current events. I like to know what’s happening around me, so I keep myself updated with articles from various newspapers and magazines from around the world. However, throughout the length of this course I have noticed a shift in the lens with which I read these articles. I’ve become more interested in reading news articles discussing policy; specifically, privacy and technology.

I believe that this shift is mainly due to Cory Doctrow’s novel Little Brother. While reading, I kept noticing simply how plausible of a future it seemed to be. Gait-trackers in schools, GPS trackers individual to a person, internet surveillance, wire-tapping, and so many more new (yet terrifying) technologies seem to pervade the novel. While some of these are not yet common around the states, I do worry that they may one day be considered the ‘norm.’

The other day, I was scrolling through Apple’s News feed on my phone when I came across an article detailing how the senate voted to revoke FCC privacy regulations. These rules were enacted as they “protect important personal interests—freedom from identity theft, financial loss, or other economic harms, as well as concerns that intimate, personal details could become the grist for the mills of public embarrassment or harassment or the basis for opaque, but harmful judgments, including discrimination” (Federal Communications Commission 2). Furthermore, a brief synopsis of the rules is that they are what require companies to tell you and get your approval for their privacy policies (for example, what information of yours that they may release), they require companies to protect your information and to notify you of security breaches.

Can you imagine your personal information being distributed without your knowledge? I’m sure the citizens in Little Brother couldn’t either; that’s why they were so surprised about being stopped by police when the rebellion mixed up all the data. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer my information to be protected. Yes, the smackdown still has to be approved by the House and the President, but it’s a slippery slope. If our government begins to believe that it is ok to distribute and collect information about our personal lives without reasonable cause, then where’s the end?

 

Link to the FCC’s broadband privacy framework: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-16-148A1.pdf

 

Rebecca Carol and Noel Totaro question what it means to be a utopia in their insightful article detailing suffering within supposed utopias. The authors begin their introduction by questioning the idea of an ideal society and what it means to be a utopia. They continue with analysis of various famous texts, many of which carry important literary significance in today’s culture. These include novels from Rowling’s Harry Potter to Lois Lowry’s The Giver.  They then analyze how the utopias within each novel cause the protagonist (as well as others) significant levels of suffering; after discussing these themes in detail, the authors go on to state comparisons between the manuscripts and to identify how the authors meant to educate their readers on utopian theory in an entertaining fashion. Specifically, the author asserts that any steps towards betterment of society are slow and lengthy, and that utopian suffering can lead to change in the real world.

This chapter of Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults offers an intriguing depiction of how utopian suffering can be used to motivate young adult readers to improve their own societies. The emphasis of many lengthy steps is important to note as many young adult dystopias illustrate such methods towards societal betterment or escape from society.

This source is important because it begins the discussion towards the idea that utopias are, in themselves,  merely fiction. What is also helpful about this source is that it specifies how suffering within utopias can be used to influence young adults. This is interesting to note in how suffering in utopias can be compared to dystopias overall, and can be used in a number of researches besides my own. Specifically, those that discuss how to captivate young adult audiences and how mental trauma can affect juveniles. 

Works Cited:

Carol, Rebecca, and Totaro, Noel. “Suffering in Utopia: Testing the Limits in Young Adult

Novels.” Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults, v. 29, Routledge, 2003, pp.127-138

What I consider fascinating about a large portion of dystopias is how they play with the definition of a dystopia. In a lot of young adult dystopias, the author will often include a region, or class, that has a ‘utopia.’ What purpose does this bubble serve? Does it have to do with defining a dystopia and/or a utopia, or does it serve as a contrast?

In Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, The Capitol serves a dual purpose. The first purpose is easy to see; as the residents of The Capitol lead an easy and luxurious life, they are considered the utopia by the residents of the districts. However, what only a few Capitol residents understand is that their utopia is, in actuality, a dystopia. The incredible amount of government surveillance and manipulation could not allow for The Capitol to be a utopia.

Similarly, Lauren Destefano’s Wither contains a significant class distinction. The richest members of society seclude themselves from the chaos of a world ridden by genetic disease, and kidnap young women from outside the walls of their immense properties to provide themselves with wives. The hidden power struggle, however, is between members of the First Generation (those who live endlessly long lives due to genetic manipulation) and their children. The dystopia within the elite class is showcased through the actions of the First Generations. Those who remain exert immense control the lives of their children. In Wither, Linden Ashby has no idea that the world outside his bubble is in ruin: his father, a First Generation, keeps every possible imperfection away from his eyes.

What I also found quite intriguing in Wither, specifically, was the impact of dystopian and utopian elements on the progression of age. As soon as a woman can bear a child, she may be kidnapped to be married off and do so. Furthermore, those who manage to escape the clutches of the Gatherers live quite a hard life.  Finding food and safety is a constant struggle, which leads to premature maturation. Since individuals are forced to enter adult roles earlier (as there are virtually no adults), they mature faster.

 

Wither follows Rhine Ellery, a sixteen-year-old girl, through her capture and imprisonment by the upper class. In Rhine’s world, women die at the age of twenty and men at the age of twenty-five— unless, of course, you’re a first generation (the first wave of unnatural births leading to the genetic disorder characterized by premature death).

The effects of media in Lauren Destefano’s Wither show striking similarities to the effects of propaganda; in fact, they are this dystopia’s version of propaganda. Propaganda is more than just a poster or just an advertisement; it is a way of manipulating others to conform to your standards and desires.

In this alternate reality, there exists a severe caste system among the few humans remaining from the genetic disorder. Women are captured and either killed, sold into prostitution, or sold to the elite as a wife. If one of the captured women is lucky enough to become a wife, she gets provided with safety, comfort, and a steady food source. ‘House Governors,’ as they are called, and their wives often attend luxurious parties, which are filmed and either broadcast live, or are recorded and broadcast at a later time. These recordings paint a picture of luxury and lack of want.

Because the populations’s majority suffers from scarcity in every sense, exposure to the recordings from a young age gives them a sense of purpose and hope. Since the population mostly consists of later generations (who have been denied love, nurture, and full bellies by the early deaths of their parents), these young men and women view the lives of the elite as a utopia. A large percentage of them grow up in an orphanage and are ‘trained’ to be wives of the elite; they see images of sparkling, beautiful women dancing at parties where food is prolific and yearn for a better life.

Wither demonstrates this problem through Cecily, a thirteen-year-old wife. She is incredibly eager to please their husband and have children—it seems to be her only desire. From a young age, she was convinced by the recordings that covered TV broadcasts that to have freedom from want she needed to become a wife of one of the upper class. Furthermore, to pay for the luxuries she receives, she should produce babies and be the ‘perfect’ wife. Essentially, she should cater to her husband’s every need.

Rhine, the novel’s main character,  is an outlier among upper-class women. She remembers her parents, and grew up in love’s warm embrace. When Rhine attends her first lavish party, she is shocked by how thrilled all the other wives seem to be with their new lives. But what she begins to realize is that it is because these women have never experienced love and nurture that the propaganda and media of the elite is so powerful. If, like Rhine, they grew up with loving parents, then it is likely that they would be less susceptible to the lure of captivity and complacency found in the mansions of the upper class. However, since such an upbringing is impossible under the conditions found in their society, it is likely that the cycle will continue, and young women will continue to idolize the elite and their society.

 

Works Cited:

Destefano, Lauren. Wither. New York, Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2011.

Imagine living in a society where good anything is rare. Where people are afraid to smile and laugh, afraid to speak their mind, and afraid to take most any other action than to exist. It is here that there is no true freedom, where people wonder what independence means or stands for, and where personal choice is a luxury most all cannot fathom. It is here that the government seems to watch your every move, and instills a fear so deep in your bones that you could hardly think about rebellion.

This is a dystopia. They represent a specific society’s concept of a society-gone-wrong, and often the gradual degradation of society. A lot of novels contain elements from other genres. For example, science fiction deals with the impact of new technologies or scientific innovations, and in the case of dystopian science fictions, its the new technology gone wrong in some way that impacted the world or society. Furthermore, other genres such as romance can also be used to create a more interesting plot and also allow the author to appeal to a wider audience.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collin similarly incorporates elements of other genres to weave a more interesting story. It incorporates romance (between Katniss and Peeta, and also Katniss and Gale) and science fiction. Science fiction is shown in the incredible technological and scientific advances made by the Capitol; the mutts they can create (for example, the tracker jackers) and the machinery such as the hovercraft. It also hints at an apocalypse; the bombing of  District Thirteen resembles a post-apocalyptic world, however in the first book, the reader only hears about the revolution from the Capitol’s point of view.

Dystopias are characterized by an aura of despondency that seeps into the corner of every page. The characters within the novels seem to always have a desperation following their every movement, and then when they’re presented with a “utopia,” similar to the Capitol in The Hunger Games, they cannot help but advertise their disgust and disbelief.