My upcoming paper is about how non-normative behavior occurs in popular sources of YA literature. This is shown by people acting irrationally in the never ending high pressure situations, how they act selfish and uncivilized in such situations. Also, even though they act this way, deep down they show signs of normative morals deep behind all the chaos.
In dystopian societies, the citizens who are subjugated to harsh conditions are put in a position where they have to struggle to survive or are just oppressed, certain immoral qualities appear in humans. This is seen in the 100 when a little girl interprets Bellamy’s advice to slay her demons as him telling her to kill Wells. In a normal situation, one would not go to such lengths to make themselves feel better. Especially when in a structured society, such act would be punished hardly by law, but in such a chaotic society structure the little girl thought murdering another person was completely justifiable even when he didn’t do anything wrong in the first place.
With such idea in mind, my paper will also discuss the topic of germ theory. Germ theory states how disease is caused my microorganisms pervading around. Then Harris relates germ theory to dystopia by stating “pathogens” live in the human mind that are constantly controlled by the government. Without this structure, it causes these “pathogens” to “spread” causing disorderly conduct by citizens which result in a ruined society. So basically, in an ordered society there is a structured body that regulates how society functions like in the arc in the 100. Without such structure, such as on earth, people act in irrational ways. The ways governments control or cure such diseases is through the use of control and in extreme cases of dystopias governments tend to use methods that strip away the individuality and freedom of its citizens for the “good of the people.”
This pattern is illustrated in a numerous amount of sources, which I will go into detail about in my paper. To learn more about germ theory and how it applies to a numerous amount of YA literature work or to learn about the commonalities of non-normative behavior in such sources, be excited for my paper on “The Non-Normative Behavior in Dystopian Literature.”
Harris, Clea D. “The Germ Theory of Dystopias: Fears of Human Nature in 1984 and Brave New World.” Scripps Senior Theses, Claremont Colleges, 2015, http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1652&context=scripps_theses.
What interests me the most about dystopias is how the new treacherous environment alters the how people behave and whether it just illustrates human nature or evolves the people into what they must become to survive. Over the course of the class this year, we have studied many dystopias. A common observation I try to make is how the people put in these situations react to their new place in society and if it alters who they are as a person.
When doing research, I came across one theory called germ theory. Harris describes this theory as how “…microorganisms pervade the world; these invisible and omnipresent germs cause specific diseases which are often life threatening.” When relating such term to dystopias, Harris explains how these “‘pathogens’ that furtively exist within the human mind. These pseudo-germs are various human tendencies that, when left ‘untreated’ by governments, create non-normative members of society.” This theory illustrates how varying behavior emerges due to the unregulation of people by a stable government. This can be seen in The 100 when all the people sent to the ground act almost savage like is some situations which lead to upright chaos. This caused a little girl to kill a teenager and for members of that society to want to kill a little girl. All very crazy.
Furthermore, it interests me how people react with each other in such situations. It seems to me that in such perilous situations, the people end up acting very hostile and irrational. In my independent reading selection, The People of Sparks, the people of the two societies end up almost destroying the city of sparks based on internal arguments when the people start to worry about their own safety. Does this mean that when times get rough, it brings out the selfishness in people causes them to be willing to sacrifice lives in order to last a little longer? Is this basic human nature or an evolution or “pathogen” that emerges because of such unregulation? Hopefully I will soon be able to answer these questions and more.
DuPrau, Jeanne. The People of Sparks. Yearling, 2005.
“Earth Kills.” The 100, The CW, Apr. 2 2014. Television.
Harris, Clea D. The Germ Theory of Dystopias: Fears of Human Nature in 1984 and Brave New World. Scripps Senior Theses, Claremont Colleges
Throughout YA literature, the author utilizes media and/or propaganda a source of gaining favor or support for a specific movement or ruling body. In such dystopian literature, people are in a society that is ruled or lead by an organization that might not have the total support of the people, but through the use of propaganda/media they keep the people blind, inline, or submissive using the messages they spread. By doing this, they retain control of the people through means such as inspiring hope, inspiring fear, or some other tactic of keeping the society in order or the people in line with their rule.
The Hunger Games exhibited these defining characteristics of dystopias as well. For example, when the Capitol displays the video at the District 12 reaping, it illustrated their use of propaganda. The video illustrates the message that the capitol’s regime is there to provide peace and security for the districts in exchange for their resources. They completely ignore the how they oppress the people and keep some of the districts in awful conditions. They also use propaganda to spread fear about how the previous time was filled with war and despair and that their rule prevents this.
The Capitol then justifies how the Hunger Games is a way to end all war and despair by each district offering up two tributes to fight to the death as a symbol of sacrifice for the greater good. If someone was to tell this idea to a person, they would think this it is completely crazy. Though through the use of propaganda and media, they illustrate how this idea is the only way of survival/peace.
Also, in the Mockingjay part 1, District 13 uses the symbol of the Mockingjay as a way to gain support for the revolution against the capital. They appeal to the emotions of the occupants of the other districts by illustrating the death, despair, and struggles of the people. This source of propaganda also gains their movement support but instead of trying to do it with submission, they gain support through inspiring people to be active and fight back. This illustrates both spectrums of how propaganda and the media are used to promote support for a group/movement.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. NY, Scholastic Press, 2008.
Ross, Gary, et al, director. The Hunger Games. United States: Alliance Film, 2012.
Dystopias seem to be defined in a plethora of ways. On a general basis, there are certain characteristics that seem to be common to most dystopian tales. A lot of the time, it starts off with a utopian goal, but something doesn’t go as planning and leaves the community in shambles. These dystopias usual occur in the future where some sort of disaster or uprising occurs that causes the community/society to be pervaded with characteristics like poverty, an evil government or power, hunger, and just basically unfavorable circumstances. They usually are hopeless throughout the literature they are in and the stories usual focus on someone or some people who challenge the way the society works or who refuses to put up with their current conditions.
When integrating dystopia with another genre, the basic characteristics remain, but some other characteristics specific to this addition genre come to light. For example, when combining dystopia with sci-fi, usually we see how humans have used technology to advance in society but such advances have caused unanticipated circumstances. These types of literature form as a cautionary tale to those who mess with things like artificial intelligence, interstellar travel, etc. When combining dystopia with a genre of something apocalyptic though, some traits you may find are hunger, lack of resources and safety, and a broken-down society. While the core elements of dystopias remain constant, the addition of other genres alter the features of the literature.
YA literature targets a younger audience. Due to this, by integrating dystopic literature with YA literature the author tries to appeal to what they believe intrigues those from 12-18. To appeal to them, usually these dystopic novels have main characters in the same age range to add a sense of relatability and connection. It also uses language and concepts that appeal to young adults and that they understand well. For example, in The Hunger Games the novel has young main characters who while dealing with the dystopic problems, also deal with things like young love, difficult parents and siblings, and a yearn for adventure and fun. It also contains a lot of action to appeal to the youth’s need for something exciting to keep their attention. Together, these are the defining feature of a YA dystopia.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. NY, NY, Scholastic Press, 2008.