Blog Post 1

The word “Utopia” to me means celestial, ideal and or means an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect . So, dystopia to me means an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad. Dystopia can be used in different ways and in different genres. In romance dystopias, the definition could mean once true love turning into sudden tragedies, or even into heartbreakers. Batman Forever and The Maze Runner are the first books that come to mind because both of the books talk on how one of the main characters are searching for “the truth” and “lost loved ones” that were taking from them and how they try to get back to their “celestial” lifestyle they had before being brought into a new lifestyle of displacement. As for apocalypse dystopias, that could mean life threatening and or world-ending incidents in a terrible place. The easiest apocalyptic dystopia that comes to mind is the movie 2012. This movie was the perfect example of apocalyptic dystopian literature because it starts out as a regular sunny day, then the world comes to an end with natural disaster, killing millions of people unexpectedly and at the end thousands of people find security on traveling boats and they look for new settling areas. The combination of dystopia and young adult literature can alter the genre by having action, horror, or suspense. The most common altered dystopian action, the violence and pinnacles of the reading manipulates the reader’s perception of the dystopian by giving subplots with the protagonist that catches the reader’s eye, for instance, chases, fights, battles, and races. Horror dystopian readings alter the genre, but not as much as action dystopias because dystopias are unpleasant and horror is scary and mainly gruesome which makes the dystopian more unpleasant and terrifying.

Whenever I used to hear the word “dystopia”, my first thought was of The Hunger Games. Of course The Hunger Games is not the definition of a dystopia, but the novel combines many of the elements of what I would consider a dystopia. The majority of the people in Panem are living in what we today would consider an absolute nightmare. The living conditions are miserable, they lack basic needs, and lack the will to be independent and free-thinking individuals, and instead are forced to conform to the society, often in fear for their lives. The government that controls them would be the definition of corruption, as they feed off this never-ending fear from the citizens.  This exemplifies much of what a dystopia is: a society filled with unfavorable living conditions, governmental corruption, and an overwhelming sense of fear. Though the country of Panem may seem to be a dystopia to its citizens, others, particularly those in power, could think of it as their utopia, indicating one’s idea of a dystopia may differ from person to person.

 

Combining a dystopia with another genre such as sci-fi does not really change the fundamentals of dystopias in my definition, but rather expands the definition into new territory. For me, a dystopia does not necessarily have to involve science fiction, but often does, and when it does the circumstances of the society simply become more fascinating. People often misidentify one genre as the other, but there is a clear distinction between the two. Sci-fi does not necessarily include the chaos and corruption found in dystopias, but rather includes the scientific advancements that seem impossible and unimaginable in today’s society. Dystopian societies and governments that incorporate these scientific and technological advancements often seem to misuse them in order to maintain their control of the population, as in The Hunger Games.

 

Young adult literature generally has a target audience of 12-18, and I believe this younger audience generally needs something else to get them interested in reading a novel more than just a corrupt futuristic society. For this reason, the majority of the YA dystopian novels I am familiar with have young protagonists themselves, in order to appeal to this audience. For example, when I first read the Hunger Games, I, only a few years younger at the time, could relate to Katniss and her experience as a young adult. I was intrigued to see how someone my own age would navigate through the corruption and disorder of a dystopia while still facing struggles common in all teenagers.

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Webster defines a utopia as either a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions or an impractical scheme for social improvement. A dystopia, oversimplified to the extreme is a failed Utopia.

The mix of dystopian characteristics with other genres, such as, science fiction, romance, apocalypse, young adult, or any other do not work to diminish it as a genre. Each of these subgenres instead acts to expand dystopian characteristics. In the Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature, we look at the evolution of Utopian literature. The definition throughout it’s beginning with Thomas’s “No Place” has expanded to our perfect, advanced, futuristic society with unknown faults.

That being said, it is very easy to confuse dystopian literature with science fiction. They share some key characteristics: overly powerful governments, awesome technology, and the tendency to take place in the future. The constant overlap does not merge them into one genre however. Most dystopian novels may be science fiction but not every science fiction book is utopian.

Typically, in a Young Adult dystopian novel, we are introduced to a hero or heroine who is chaffing against the constraints of their too-strict , but otherwise ideal society. After their coming of age and joining the ranks of the society they live in, the protagonist then discovers some dark secret that makes them realize that their Utopia is in fact a dystopia and somehow they bring about it’s destruction.

The success of the YA dystopian genre can be attributed to it’s target group of 12-24. This is the group that identifies most with the want of rebellion. We emphasize with the lack of control the characters feel in their strict societies and when the protagonist takes the chance to rebel against their oppressors, we are empowered through. The message is sent to us that we, as young adults, can make the change we want in the world. This is especially important because we will be the architects of the future. This holds with the trend of Utopian writing being a warning.

 

Works Cited-

The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Edited by Claeys, Gregory, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

“Merriam-Webster.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dystopia.

 

 

I always felt like I knew what utopia and dystopia meant and didn’t put much thought into either of them. However, after CCUL readings and class discussions I have come to realize the depths behind the words. While utopia describes an ideally perfect society, dystopia presents us with a broken social atmosphere where the government paints this seemingly perfect view of society through oppressive control; however both of them make a criticism of a current social system, political tendencies or trends. We live in a world where the analysis of societal norms is not a foreign concept, and our trending YA literature is apparently shifting towards dystopian novels.

While dystopian novels may range from science-fiction, horror, fantasy, post-apocalypse…; there are many elements that are common in the majority of examples of this genre that should not be overlooked:

  • Propaganda is a very iconic feature of dystopian literature. Advertisements, pamphlets, television, posters, flyers… they are specifically design to control society while depicting this utopian society.
  • It is not surprising to read about citizens who have been stripped of their freedom, independent thinking and access to information. We usually encounter with descriptions of characters who are under constant surveillance and cannot exercise their free will, having to conform to a government-set uniformity.

  • Natural environment seems to have reached a point of near destruction and is scarce. Many dystopian novels set their plots in futuristic scenery with barely any greens.
  • It is also worth mentioning the fact that control is not only exercised by the government (The Hunger Games), but sometimes corporations (The Maze Runner) and even technology (The Matrix).
  • The main character prototype of this genre tends to be an individual who questions authority and the existing regimes that are oppressing society. The protagonist is someone who tend to realize the negative aspects of their dystopian society. It is not uncommon to find novels where the population is drugged or brainwashed to the point they do not understand the reality of their situation and it is often the main character the one who wakes up from this state due to diverse reasons.

In my opinion, the combination of dystopia with another genre definitively means a shift in the topics covered and how the plot unfolds, adjusting literature towards these other subgenres. I however do not believe they immensely change the definition because its basic traits continue to be present, mildly affected, but still there and creating the atmosphere previously discussed. Combining dystopia with YA literature probably means adjusting the context to a younger audience and making sure the reading is appealing to the younger generations that are picking up the book. One can notice the trends in slightly younger protagonists and the frequent apparition of young romance that tend to attract the public they are targeted at.

So, why is it that such a perfect word describes such an imperfect reality?

The “formal” definition of a dystopia according to Merriam-Webster, is “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.” Although this is correct, perhaps a better way to look at a dystopia is the opposite of what one would include in a utopia, which is why the definition of dystopia is open to interpretation.

“Utopia,” written by Thomas More dating back to 1516, created the ideal society of perfection–for the year 1516. Over time, our values and policies have changed, and with it, what we view as an “ideal” society. In fact, with this change in ideologies came the existence of the “dystopia,” and as such, authors utilize the concept of dystopian society to express their personal views on the worst version of society and humanity.

Although classic dystopian novels do exist (e.g.  Animal Farm by George Orwell, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, etc.), most modern day novels are written in the young adult genre. A simple Google search of “young adult dystopian novels” will yield 33 different titles, all written within the past decade.  In modern times, dystopian novels seem to reflect the fears that the current generation may anticipate for the future–hunger, depression, end of the world, etc.–so most current dystopian novels are written in the young adult genre to reflect growing concern and appeal to the audience that would relate to it the most. Furthermore, combining dystopian literature with young adult content allows for a larger fanbase of young adults that can take their appreciation with them as their generation grows older.

Most dystopian novels have another genre combined with them–horror, sci-fi, romance, apocalypse–that allow for an appeal to a certain audience. Some readers enjoy romance, so having a dystopian world where everything goes to hell except for the love of a couple is appealing and appreciated. For example, the popular series The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins holds many themes, but the overarching characteristic of it is the love between the two main characters, Katniss and Peeta, and we follow their ups and downs as lovers which seems to be the only aspect of the dystopian society that remains consistent. Other genres combined with dystopias allow for the double-appeal to young adult readers: 1) the appeal to a generation with fears of a dystopian world, and 2) the appeal to fans of other, more specific book varieties. In general, the success of a dystopian novel rides on its ability to appeal to the audience it was intended for.

 

 

Definition of a Dystopia: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dystopia

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. NY, NY, Scholastic Press, 2008.

From reading The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature and participating in in-class discussions, I have determined that a dystopia can be simply defined as the downfall of a utopia. More complexly defined, they typically embody the idea of a controlling government gone wrong-often times emphasizing the usage of propaganda to brainwash people. Going along with the idea of a utopia, a dystopia is a seemingly unattainable place on the opposite end of the spectrum. Often times, the people of dystopias are convinced that their lives are indeed perfect.

When combined with another genre, the background of the dystopia is often explained. In other words, the addition of concepts from the genre usually help to unveil the origin of the society. For example, Huxley’s Brave New World uses science-fiction concepts to highlight what will ultimately result from man becoming overly invested in technology. Simply put, it presents technology as a buffer that disables man from feeling emotion. Overall, it serves as a warning sign to future generations to come as well, letting them know how government-regulated technology is capable of degrading a society.

Combining dystopia with Young Adult literature enhances the genre by making it more applicable to the audience that will most benefit from it. People tend to learn the best at a young age. Therefore, making dystopian literature relatable to this age group gives them a glimpse at what their futures may hold if they allow unregulated technological advancements to take hold. Moreover, making young people aware of this possibility has proven to be more effective than trying to sway the older population. Elders in any society typically have already developed their own opinions over time, especially in terms of government and politics. Consequently, they are much less likely to change these long-standing opinions.

Ultimately, making millennials want to care about a pressing issue is the key to preventing its occurrence. After all, the youth of today eventually will be the bosses, politicians, and leaders that society will be looking up to for guidance. In addition to being a form of entertainment, Young Adult Dystopian Fiction serves a vital role in preparing young people for the future.

Citations
http://www.animatedimages.org/cat-warning-703.htm
http://snailonthewall.com/tag/brave-new-world/

I’ve noticed a trend in several Dystopias. All the societies are trying to create a perfect environment to live but they all have a similar flaw. The Hunger Games has the games to prevent further rebellion and have a peaceful society. In Matched, couples are paired up and jobs are assigned to create an organized and structured society. These are just a couple of examples, yet in both cases, the needs of the society are given priority over the needs of the individual.

If I were to define a dystopia, I would describe a world very similar to ours. However, one key difference creates an imagined place where everything has been tainted in a negative way due to this one key difference. In The Hunger Games and Matched the clear differences are child sacrifice and arraigned lives respectively. On a deeper level, these imagined places compromised the possibility of a pleasant society when the needs of the individual insignificant when compared to the needs of the society. Thus, my definition of a dystopia is an imagined place where individual needs are held insignificant by society.

But what about combining dystopia with another genre such as Romance. I still think the definition works, but the additional genre gives a different lens for readers to see the dystopia. For example, in Matched the romantic connections throughout the story are constantly in a state of struggle. The cause of the struggle is the societal rules on matches and assignments. There is no room to consider an induvial’s wants, needs, passions, or love. Those become insignificant in a romantic dystopian world. For Sci-Fi, it is very similar. You could have aliens, lightsabers, and powerful female roles (looking at you Leia and Ray) but still be in an unpleasant dystopian world. In Star Wars a totalitarian empire is seeking to control and rule the entire galaxy. For those who do not like that, they become the rebels and become the enemies to society. Although I do not fully consider Star Wars dystopia but you can see the point. When you add another genre to a dystopia you will have the same underlying issue but will see it in a different way.

If you focus on a certain age group, such as young adults, I do not think the world within the novel loses the core issue stated in my definition. A slight tangent to think about after my definition: if a dystopia places the needs of the society over the needs of an individual, how should society and individual needs be related to each other?

 

A utopia is defined as a perfect, unachievable society. All of the citizens are happy and it is typically an idealized version of our current state. Authors aim to improve upon the current state in which we live by offering subtle recommendations of change, either socially or politically. A dystopia is a society that has turned to the worst. Most often, dystopias are societies with little to no social justice and a general unhappiness among its citizens. Authors write dystopian novels to warn readers about the potential road to destruction they believe our society is on.

Dystopian novels often contain sub-genres such as science fiction or romance. Science fiction in dystopias reflects “our hopes and fears about the future, and more specifically, [links] those hopes and fears to science and technology” (Claeys 138). This is evidenced by Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The main character, Montag, is a book burner for a society that’s increased its reliance on technology has killed free thought. As a direct result, books are banned and burned. Montag one day develops a curiosity about books and begins to read them. The thoughts provoked by his reading made him even more intellectually curious. He begins to subtly take more and more books from houses he is sent to burn. Montag soon realizes that society is slowly becoming mindless as the people around him fail to engage in meaningful conversation and quiver with fear at the sight of a simple book. In the end, Montag barely escapes from his former coworkers turned enemies and helps to rebuild the city with rebel book readers, restoring free thought in society.

When it comes to Young Adult dystopian novels, the authors are trying to achieve the same goal. YA dystopian novels are a warning to future generations. It is interesting to note that many dystopian novels are commonly on the banned book lists for public libraries. Parents believe their children are not old enough to cope with the violence commonly featured in such books, yet authors target a youth audience. Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games series is a perfect example of this. The entire series has remained in the top ten most wanted banned books lists for the past five years, yet it is one of the most loved YA dystopian novels today. This shows that authors are trusting in younger generations, and although the books are targeted towards young adults, the major themes are lessons for everyone.

 

Works Cited:

Claeys, Gregory, editor. The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

A dystopia can encompass various ideas and multiple aspects of society, which contribute to the creation of an imagined universe where nightmares become reality. In order to criticize a certain aspect of society, authors create dystopias “through an exaggerated worst-case scenario” (“Dystopias”). In many dystopias, the leaders, or those in power, use propaganda to control the citizens. These rulers restrict freedom and information from their citizens. In The Hunger Games and in 1984, the government controlled all aspects of life and kept important information about their nation from civilians. One of the main characteristics of a dystopia is the concept of fear. People live in fear of the government and live in fear of changing any aspect of life. A dystopia is “an illusion of a perfect utopian world” (“Dystopias”). The citizens of a dystopian nation don’t know anything different from their respective dystopia, so they go along with the government, living in a dehumanized state.

watching you

Very often in dystopian literature, scientific innovation has led to the demise of an older society and the creation of a dystopian one. In The Giver, the government developed science to control how people think and what they see. Dystopian literature mixed with science fiction creates a world in the past or in the future in which something bad happened, so the government took over with scientific innovation. Suzanne Collins created Panem to reflect how the government has developed in science and technology in hundreds of years following the present generation. The leaders in The Hunger Games were able to create dogs from deceased tributes to eat those that remained alive. This can only happen in a dystopia affected by science.

When combined with Young Adult literature, the dystopia genre shifts to incorporate a protagonist that challenges the dystopian world he or she lives in. This character is meant to connect with young adults, rebuilding the community and making a better world for the citizens to live in as well as the readers to live in.

 

Works Cited

“Dystopias: Definition and Characteristics.” ReadWriteThink. NCTE/IRA, 2006, http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson926/DefinitionCharacteristics.pdf. Accessed 21 May 2017.