For my presentation, I will be discussing the effects that Dystopian novels have in influencing the minds of their young adult readers. Ever since we’ve been analyzing dystopia from the beginning of the semester, I’ve managed to catch onto the underlying subliminal messages that Dystopian novels try to convey to young adults in many of the different novels and films we have studied. Since this is a prominent aspect of the novels that I have found interest in, I thought it would be a perfect topic for my research paper and presentation.
The role of dystopia itself is a warning. It portrays a dysfunctional society which has some sort of qualities or aspects that are akin to our own society and shows us that if we don’t fix something soon, we could end up falling into a dystopian type society similar to the one in the book. In Little Brother and Homeland, we see the dangers on a society becoming too technology oriented. In the Hunger Games, we see the rise and revolution of a nation against an unjust and overly oppressive government. In the 100, we see the problems of a government keeping information from their citizens while trying to maintain a sustainable society. All of these have some aspect which subliminally warns the reader (or viewer) about our own society and now the writers and trying to cater this to their younger readers. The writers of these books and TV shows know that the younger generation is going to be the leaders of the future and if anyone is going to be able to make a difference in our society, it will be them.
One source that has been incredibly useful has been the charts off of the article, “Understanding the Appeal of Dystopian Young Adult Fiction.” They go very in depth on what aspects are added to Dystopian novels that make them appeal to young adults and they cover a fair bit of ground, analyzing 16 different dystopian novels and seeing what major themes and elements each one has. This has been a very useful source and I’m looking forward to synthesizing it into my essay and presentation.
Scholes, Justin, and Jon Ostenson. “Understanding the Appeal of Dystopian Young Adult Fiction.” Scholarly Communication Department, Research & Informatics, Virginia Tech Libraries, Scholarly Communication, Virginia Tech University Libraries, 2013, scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v40n2/scholes.html. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.
Dystopian Literature is becoming an increasingly prominent staple of the reading community, but what is the reason for this exactly? A dystopian novel may choose a negative aspect of a current society and utilize it as the causation for the setting to be dystopian, but I believe the purpose of Dystopian Literature goes far beyond this. Modern dystopia, and specifically young adult dystopia, has become an increasing popular conduit for authors to convey the problems associated with our society and allow the readers to think and develop their own ideas on what should be done.
In Homeland, Cory Doctorow’s sequel to Little Brother, the story is set in San Francisco in the years following terrorist attacks that happened in the previous story (Little Brother). The root of my argument stems from the story of Little Brother and transitions into Homeland. Throughout Little Brother, we are constantly reminded of the dangers of an increasingly digitalized world, where an influx of data is kept on record by the government, and is available to those who are smart enough to get past whatever security was put in place. I believe this issue was raised, not just as a plot point, but also to show the young adults reading, that this is potentially where we are headed as a society. We are becoming increasingly digitalized and the possibilities of this are limitless, but there is a high potential for abuse of this, whether from an overbearing government or extremely crafty hackers thinking what they are doing is for the right cause (I’m not saying what the hackers in the book did was right or wrong. That argument is for another time). Early on in Homeland, Marcus is given the opportunity to work for a politician along with being given information about the government that could bring them (the government) a lot of troubles. Much of the story is focuses on the moral dilemma of whether Marcus should release this information. Where Little Brother focuses on a course of action if problems do arise with an increasingly tech based society, Homeland serves more to convey how we should implement such a society. How do we make decisions about what information is public and what is private? These books aren’t just written to tell an interesting story of a digitalized society, but to show the readers that we could potentially become like this. We are, as a society, progressing in this direction, and if we don’t deal with it correctly, we could become the dystopian society shown in these two books.
In the vast majority of dystopias, propaganda plays a vital role in scaring and influencing the citizens of the society. Typically, in these societies, an overbearing government uses propaganda as a conduit to instill it’s (the government’s) own ideas or views into the minds of the citizens. In the novel 1984, propaganda is utilized heavily to console and “brainwash” the citizens into believing what the government wants them to believe. One medium of propaganda used throughout the book is the use of slogans such as “Big Brother is Watching You”, “War is Peace”, etc. While they may appear as just words, these slogans are extremely powerful in that they (the slogans) scare and console the citizens into listening and getting behind the government, regardless of if the people want to or not. Propaganda isn’t only an aspect of a dystopia, but rather it is one of the defining features that makes a dystopia, a dystopia (Wilkinson). Propaganda is the tool of the government that makes the government so powerful and likewise, can make the conditions of the society appear as dystopian.
In our reading of The Hunger Games, it’s apparent that propaganda is a big part of how the government controls and influences the 12 districts of Panem. One example of this is how The Capitol builds up all of the tributes before putting them into the arena. The Capitol parades them around and makes them into desirable people that the watching citizens can support when the tributes are eventually sent to fight each other. Instead of portraying the games as they are (a bloodbath of teenagers set forth by government order), the government portrays the games as a sport put on for the entertainment of the people. Even when the Mayor of District 12 was conducting the reaping, he says “It is both a time for repentance and a time for thanks (Collins 19).” The government is entirely aware of the severity of the games but they use the games as a tool to keep the citizens at bay. The entire process of the games (the reaping, the parade, the interviews) are as a whole propaganda. The government of Panem needed something to scare the citizens, and the annual Hunger Games is tool for doing this.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games, New York, Scholastic Press, 2008, Page 19.
Wilkinson, Alison. “Slogans, Propaganda and Mind-Control in 1984.” 30 April, 2014. Prezi Presentation.
Dystopian Literature is a relatively new and upcoming genre, so much so that its definition is still widely debated. Though the common factors that pertain to dystopias in most of their use throughout literature portray them as societies with overbearing and oppressive governments, that still doesn’t completely define a dystopia. A dystopian society can be described as one where conditions are incredibly bad and unpleasant for the inhabitants, whether due to an oppressive government, degrading environmental conditions, etc, but the type of dystopia portrayed can often be influence by the genre of the book. A sci-fi style dystopia be one where living condition on Earth are becoming less and less inhabitable due to some sort of environmental degradation, whereas a romantic style dystopia may put two lovers up against a powerful government type figure (such as in The Hunger Games). The concept of dystopia is constantly adapting, but as more dystopian literature emerges, the genre becomes more defined.
The genre as a whole has become increasingly popular among young adults, but why exactly is somewhat unclear. Dystopias tend to unveil or poke at some sort of pressing issue in a current society, making people see how pressing and important an issue really is. So is the reason for a rise in young adult dystopias meant to show young people (the future leaders of our world) the prominent issues at hand? Even if they don’t quite get it when they first read it, kids will subliminally absorb the meaning behind a dystopian style book. They will be able to see that this imagined place has problems and the problems with it are usually front and center through the duration of the story. After picking up on these issues, the only thing left for young adults to do is apply them. The story of a dystopia is just a façade covering the ever-present issues that impact a society and dystopias make these issues clear, such that when the readers of these novels grow up to be adults, they will ideally have at some point considered, “What needs to be done to remedy these problems.”