Why do people have conflicting opinions? How is the same society viewed in opposing ways? What makes a society a dystopia or a utopia in someone’s head?
I know you can’t fully answer these because I am not a psychology student and don’t know everything about the way people think. But, these are some of the questions I hope to bring to attention in my conference presentation regarding the duality of opinions on character’s societies in YA dystopian literature. We have discussed in class that most dystopias are a result from a failed utopia, but there are still people who believe that their society isn’t failed at all. Usually this is the societies leaders, or government. Their opinion is based on their opinions of human nature. So, what makes people change their opinions? Is it that something happens to make their minds change? Is it that they’ve felt this way the whole time? My argument is that it is based on their upbringing and personal environment that makes the see the world differently. This is most present in the protagonist character because in the stories they are the main ones who see their world as broken and want to fix it. We also look at the dual side, and why people believe that their society is perfect the way it is, and want to get rid of the people trying to change it. Do they want to keep their idea because it keeps them in power? Do they deep down think their society is wrong but are too lazy to change it?
With my argument, there comes a lot of opinion questions and I am to give my opinion and ideas to answer these questions. I do believe that others will have conflicting ideas because this is such an open for discussion topic. While people have their opinions and ideas can change from different examples in novels, I want to give the overall outline to the duality shown between whether someone views their society as a dystopia or a utopia.
Dystopias are complex and simple at the same time. There is one main concept: the world is bad, and someone wants to change it. Though they have this transparent side, the hidden intricacy of dystopias is what intrigues me. As I have stated in past blog posts, I want to research the duality that one person’s dystopia can be another person’s utopia based on how you were grown up, or your social standards. For example, in my independent reading, Pandemonium in the Delirium trilogy, most specifically in the first book Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Lena the protagonist thinks that her society is correct, and wants to follow the rules, until Alex comes along. First a background on the series. In this trilogy, love is considered a disease and when you turn 18 you are “cured” and your family, husband, and number of kids is decided for you. You aren’t allowed to show affection towards anyone. So back to Lena, and all of the authorities, their society is considered perfectly correct and is helping people because love is considered a disease. On the other hand, Alex, the “Deliria Free America”, and the people of the wilds believe their society is unfair and should be changed; love can be a good thing.
My question regarding this duality is simple: why is there such a strong duality. I’m not saying that a dystopia evolves from a utopia, but I wonder how people can believe that something is correct based on their social standards or expectations and there are only few who either state their disagreement (usually the protagonist) or try to change the situation to be fair. The oblivion in some characters in the society surprises me. They believe that nothing is wrong, and that life is the way it should be. How can people have such different beliefs? Is it all for a good story? Is this prevalent in our society today and some people aren’t just speaking up? It intrigues me that such an opinion divide is present in so many young adult dystopian novels.
Oliver, Lauren. Delirium: Delirium Trilogy. HarperCollins. 1 Jan 2011.
Oliver, Lauren. Pandemonium: Delirium Trilogy. HarperTeen. 28 Feb 2012.
The effects of propaganda and media in the novel The Hunger Games is key in the development of not only the story line but in the discussion of Panem as a dystopian society holistically. Throughout the novel, the differences in portrayal of the actual Hunger Games is evident between the Capitol and the different districts. Also, the way the Capitol shows the “backstory” behind the games, and how they are a good thing is propaganda in itself. To the Capitol, the games are viewed as “punishment” for the uprising that happened years ago, where the districts rebelled against the Capitol. Especially in the reaping, it is expressed that the games are a punishment to the districts and a way to keep “peace” in Panem. Using propaganda, the government has convinced the Capitol people that the games are a good thing. Most are oblivious to what is actually happening; Cinna is the main exception. The Hunger Games is expressed as a celebration and a holiday. This also shows the juxtaposition between the Capitol’s utopia versus the district’s dystopian world.
There is also a difference in the way the Capitol uses media to portray the games to the districts and the Capitol. To the capitol, the tributes are looked at like celebrities, like they aren’t even real people. This is to strengthen their ignorance to what the government is controlling behind the games. It is used a ploy to take the attention off of the cruelty behind the games and the Capitol’s manipulation, and turn it toward a reality, “entertaining” TV show. The districts are the ones who know that they are real children, especially in districts three through twelve. This is especially evident in Rue’s death, because it was the first time one of them was viewed as a real person and not a pawn in a game.
Even though dystopias are commonly confused with science fiction or apocalyptic novels, it has its own deep meaning that makes it very specific. In my eyes through reading so many especially Young Adult dystopian novels, they almost always have three completely different mindsets based on the setting or problem at hand. These three views shape the level of interaction and connection between the different sides of the world, for example Panem in The Hunger Games.
There is always one side that fully supports the new created world, or rules. In The Hunger Games, the Capitol is consumed with the games and their “forgiveness” to the districts. They think that the games are a “compromise” and that they are keeping the districts happy. Their narcissistic belief overshadows the underground communications of an uprising that is discussed throughout the entire series.
On the other side, there are the people who hate the rules, but learn to live with it because they believe they cannot do anything to change it. In almost every YA dystopian novel, these are the normal people living out their common lives dealing with the situation.
And the third group, is the rebels. They are the ones who realize that the world is wrong and unfair and try to fight back and change it, or defy the rules completely and do whatever they want, trying to not get caught. In The Hunger Games series, this is Katniss, and eventually all of her followers as the series progresses, who try and overthrow the Capitol and President Snow. Also, in every YA dystopian novel I have ever read, these rebels are always the protagonists or main characters, because their journey is followed in the main plot line.
These three groups of people combined show the different elements of a dystopian novel. They also show how a dystopian is another person’s utopia. The Capitol people believe that their world is perfect; the hunger games solved the rebellion problem within the districts, and now everyone is happy. In their minds, the world with the revolting, and war was the dystopia, and the “new and improved” Panem is the utopia. Of course this is the exact opposite for the districts because their life has always been horrible since the natural disasters destroyed Panem and the Capitol went into power.