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All posts by Solange Amigues

 

I once heard about adderall and other get-smart drugs on some news paper and it instantly caught my attention. The idea of a pill used to help you get better grades was both scary and tempting. It always made me wonder what would happen if a society began to depend on these drugs or make them mainstream. Young adults would flock towards them for sure since that would mean less time studying, higher grades and more time to party. My fifteen year old self wanted to write a story about it but the project was put off due to workload . At that time, I had not yet heard of the movie “Limitless” but when I did and eventually watched it, I thought that it too optimistic about the future of the main character with the drug. There is not a specific ‘event’ for this (unless if you count Aubrey Huff’s confession about using it to win for the Giants) but a series of investigations in schools that helped put this into the light. From the article, I realized that not only was it not as effective, but highly addictive and lethal, resulting in physical and mental health issues. You can also easily get large amounts of it too by obtaining it from a third-party, thus creating an underground ‘drug operation’ off of it.

Since more and more students are using it to enhance their studies (with mixed results for now), the question became: what would happen if it became effective? What if there were several kinds? What if the government promoted pills that each enhanced a specific property such as memory, flexibility, strength etc… Or to sum it all up: what if there was a dystopia who would thrive on it?

First of all, it is not for everyone, some thrive on it, some get immediate side-effects, some do not find it helpful at all. Therefore, for the lucky ones who could resist its side effects and rise up enough so that they could afford the expense while living an opulent lifestyle. It would almost be a game, a dangerous one too where you had to watch your intake, understand quickly how your body adapted to the pills. What about the rest who ‘fall out’ then? I was thinking, while reading many of the stories of those who got hooked upon adderall, that they would eventually reach a ‘peak’ and then spiral down into poverty, depression or worse, needing the pills more for physical and mental maintenance and for boosting their performance. Those who are prone to the lure of the pill (or pills I should say) would be the young, as competition is vital for survival or for a good job.

An interesting aspect about this dystopia is the involvement of the government. At first glance, it seems almost laid back, with a eery hand-off attitude because the pills are stealing the whole show. People fall in and out of grace everyday and those pesky rebellious teens are too caught up trying to top each other in sports and academics. However, it does have a few problems to regulate. The first one would be economics. This is where my idea of this dystopia gets slightly blurred ( I was never really good in economics), because if there are too many people getting accepted then fired, making the jobs unstable. How would it ensure stability? Especially if this is also threatening its own ranks? They have gotten to where they are because of their capacity to cope with the pill but that does not mean they do not depend on it. This is why I think it should be run by technocrats, people who deal and manufacture these pills so that the side effects are not too drastic for some, like a selective process.

A second problem would be how to deal with the unwanted, drugged population that is now wasting the dystopia’s precious resources? A good way would be to get rid of them or perhaps make all of these people useful for test trials (although their bodies might be riddled with drugs). This process will be secretive since one would barely notice the disappearance of a tramp or a miserable family. Also, due to poverty and the rest of the population fighting for smaller jobs, crime rates will be high so the police would be more worried in dealing with drug lords and underground organizations than the real issue. However, it is important to note that the results of the pills should not be too drastic, so that after you go over your peak performance, you can still deal with smaller, more lowly jobs until you become completely worthless.

There are still many problems and illogical ideas in this conjecture and I personally feel that the most tragic part of this dystopia is that it will eventually fail, crumble within itself but instead of reaping a new society, it might give way to the total destruction of its inhabitants.

http://dailycampus.com/stories/2017/3/29/rising-stimulant-abuse-a-health-risk-for-students

 

Why adderall might be the most dangerous drug on earth

Stimulant drug Adderall attracts student misuse at Norwich

http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/aubrey-huff-says-he-used-adderall-during-the-giants-2010-world-series-run/

http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/aubrey-huff-says-he-used-adderall-during-the-giants-2010-world-series-run/

 

I have always wondered why young adult dystopian literature clicked so well with its modern readers and I have come to the conclusion that it is because the novels understand what teenagers are going through in their daily lives and utilize that in their works. I decided to specifically look at Francine Prose’s novel After. The argument of my presentation is this: How Francine Prose’s young adult dystopian novel After, or a YA dystopian novel in general works as an exaggerated reflection of the trials and tribulations teenagers face in their lives. The title of the presentation will be called YA Dystopias: Distorted Mirrors of Teenage Life. 

Although the possibilities are endless in answering this question, I narrowed my main points to four. The first one will be about the parent-child relationship found in the novel as well as young adult books in general. This, by far, is my strongest point because all the other sources I have read seem to overlook this. I will be talking about how this already tumultuous relationship will be tested even further by the exaggeration of circumstances. Prose uses this idea of these bonds being tested by cutting them loose entirely as the parents of the students in her book remove themselves away completely from their children.

The second point will be how the dystopian world described by many young adult dystopian novels actually reflect the harsh environment of high-school. Although this point has been repeated by several of my sources, the interesting twist in After is that it is set in a high-school turning into a dystopia. The writer becomes almost literal with the idea of exaggerating all the old rules the school had before and implementing new ones to show the link.

My third point is about how the dystopian world in the novel impedes another goal many teenagers have: discovering the adult world. Again, this theme is prevalent in many YA books but here, what I found interesting was how the main character had to peel the layers of deceit presented by his school. His frustration is very real as it reflects the feelings of modern-day teenagers who are trying to understand the illogical world around them, also filled with lies and deceit.

My last point would be more of a contrast to the other points since the others were more about how dystopian novels reflect but exaggerate real-life issues. However, they keep the idea of teenage mentality of newfound emotions very real. In the book I am studying, the reactions the characters have to their environment is very real despite the absurdity of the situation. Their rebellious adventures are not well planned and daring while a romantic story is playing at the side. YA dystopian novels are still YA novels and therefore the echoes of teenage life are still rolling in the background.

My aim is not only to show common, recurring tropes in the genre, but to highlight why After is such an unique book despite heeding to them. It seems like Francine Prose is taking the idea of Dystopian novels as mirror images to our daily lives and making it more literal. The dystopia slides into the modern world and not vice versa.

 

 

 

Fresh Hell is an article from the New Yorker website that explains the appeal of newer YA dystopian novels while focusing the most on the Hunger Games. Its main argument is that these novels attract readers because they understand what teenagers are going through. Or in other words, they are allegories of our young adult lives, fraught with dangers and difficulties.

One of the main theories is that the dystopian worlds described are similar to the world of high school. This is most evident in the Hunger Games where children are thrown in an harsh environment by unfeeling adults and must survive. It also compares a main difference between adult and young adult dystopias which is the ending. The first is pessimistic and the second is more optimistic so it can be suited for a younger audience.

Its organization is effective as it goes from one point to the other while bringing examples first from the Hunger Games then from other books. These include The Knife of Never Letting Go and Little Brother. Each section first outlined a claim about young adults that related to an aspect of a dystopian novel, then it was backed up with references and examples. It had a formal tone but the diction was not ridiculously high so that everyone could understand: teenagers and scholars alike.

This source was especially important to me because it helped me with some of my points regarding the novel I was studying: After by Francine Prose. It helped me delve in deeper to some of the hidden themes the writer used. I also understood how it was an allegory to our daily lives but exaggerated. Instead of mirroring the world high-school, for example, the story was set in an high-school that turned slowly into a dystopia. That was an interesting twist that I had not realized. The negative world incorporated itself into daily life directly, which was very different from other young adult novels.

Sources:

Miller, Laura. “Fresh Hell.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 14 July 2015, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/06/14/fresh-hell-2. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

Media is perhaps the easiest way in controlling people into doing what is desired of them. Although very applicable in the real world, any dystopian novels show the severe effects of this weapon on unsuspecting citizens. It is an indirect form of control targeted at what the most elusive area: their minds. Mind control has always been an obsession for totalitarian governments: it plays with their fear and hints at the limits of their power. It is simple to monitor the everyday actions of a prisoner but can we really get into his head? Media seems to be the answer for this glitch.

A specific example of media slowly insinuating itself parasitically into people’s minds can be seen through the emails in the novel After by Francine Prose. The book takes place after a massacre of a nearby school, prompting the one the main protagonist (Tom) is attending, to implement a new authoritative figure charged with the safety of the students. The school sends out a series of emails to the parents with counsels of how to ‘help’ their children. However, the real malevolent nature of these emails starts to emerge when the school turns into a totalitarian society. Instead of standing up for their children, the adults passively watch the whole thing unfold, their minds under the influence of these mind-controlling emails. At first, the changes are subtle, but eventually they end up acting like robots, quoting and obeying the orders sent to them.

Media in this example is very effective in many ways: it strips away the sense of security the student have, alienate them from their parents, and indirectly insinuate itself into the homes of its subjects. By using the emails, the school is using the students to control the parents and but the other way around works as well. Media in dystopian societies functions to blind the citizens from the truth of their situation and filter into their everyday life. The parents become brainwashed and are thus are easier to manipulate. This gradual dehumanization is the perfect result. The citizens cannot think for themselves but can only obey and be used as tools in which to control others.