Blog Post 3

What interests me the most about society in YA dystopias is how Technology effects the interaction between a government and it’s citizens, specifically in the Ender’s Game and in today’s society.

Most YA dystopian novels feature a society with extremely advanced technology, owing, perhaps, the fact that sophisticated technology enhances the control aspects of utopian literature.

Inevitably, as time goes on we are dangerously close to attaining the technology to recreate the overbearing supervision found in books like Little Brother and  Ender’s Game. The problem with this advanced technology is that it is often used as a tool in controlling and monitoring it’s citizens rather than advancing the lives of said citizens.

Take the Ender’s Game sage for example. Gifted  children were scouted by the government in search of a child to “end “ the war with the Formics. These children with such potential were then equipped with a “monitor” that allowed the government to effectively watch everything that the child saw. By stealing Ender’s perspective, Gaff was able to manipulate his interactions with his classmates and family. This  therefore, was what  gave him  the power to  mold Ender into a weapon for the IF.

Very few people would take it upon themselves to disagree that Technology blunts human interaction. It’s depersonalizes it. Gaff was able to manipulate Ender because he had the power, the technology, and the willingness to see Ender as a tool as he had so many children before him. That ties into another question I’m interested in asking. What is to be said about the willingness of an advanced society to use children as perpetrators of the future they will inherit. Ender killed the Buggers unwillingly, unwittingly through  ignorance. He had no knowledge whatsoever of what was actually going on in the command room because they were just images on a screen.

 

Citations:

Card, Orson Scott., and John Harris.Ender in Exile.  Tor, 2008.

Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tor Books, 2008.

Card, Orson Scott, and Alan Smithee. Enders Game. Boekerij, 2013.

The thing that interests me most about dystopias is how they portray what we fear most for the future of humankind. Along with this come many different themes of our society’s downfall, but the one that I personally think brings to light one of the more relevant apprehensions of humans today is that of technology.

It all seems harmless at first, almost trivial. We love the ability to have access to immediate knowledge at our fingertips, to communicate across thousands of miles effortlessly, and of course, to order things from Amazon and have them delivered the next day. These things are a result of the ever growing presence of technology in our daily lives. However, along with the benefits of these numerous advancements comes many unforeseen complications. Things like lacking security and privacy in a world of increasingly big amounts of information are real issues, and continue to worsen. We see a dramatic take on this in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, where surveillance is taken to the extreme and is depicted as outright oppressive. We enjoy the freedom that the Internet gives us, but we don’t want our information used against us. Another aspect of the technological dystopia is technology gone too far. With new advancements being made regularly, where do we stop? Can we keep developing, or is there a point at which our inventions surpass us and become our downfall? This idea is explored in For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund. In this novel, we see a society that’s been torn apart by their own innovations in genetic engineering that went too far. With genetic modification of humans becoming more and more realistic, it’s no surprise that we see it portrayed in this post-apocalyptic scenario. It’s a concept that many are wary of, and thus the worst is often imagined.

Works Cited:

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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.

images:

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sources:

Oliver, Lauren. Delirium: Delirium Trilogy. HarperCollins. 1 Jan 2011.

Oliver, Lauren. Pandemonium: Delirium Trilogy. HarperTeen. 28 Feb 2012.

POST 3: What interests you the most about dystopias (specifically the dystopia you have read independently)? Use this post as an opportunity to explore possible questions or avenues of inquiry for your own research project. At this stage, your ideas may only be as developed as “I think it is really cool/interesting that dystopias do XYZ” or “What I don’t understand about this book is…” Aim to articulate an open question related to your independent reading that you hope to be able to answer after weeks of research (and one that you don’t feel you can answer now). Consider this an informal research paper proposal.

 

While all dystopias take place in a near or distant future, what I find most interesting about some dystopias is the regression of society into a more primitive community. And I’m not talking about the 100 in the way that they have to survive a desolate environment using whatever resources they can find- that is a post-apocalyptic setting. For example, in my independent reading novel, Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano, everyone on the floating city of Internment has betrothed from the moment they are born. Arranged marriage is alive and well in their society, a practice that has been all but eliminated in countries like the United States, which is where we assume Internment came from when it was wrenched out of the ground and sent to the sky. Similarly, while women are never directly addressed as lesser than men, most of the women we do meet (besides our heroine and her best friend), are weaker, more fragile, and in charge of homemaking. While society gets more and more progressive with the passage of time for the most part (*cough*cough*), in some dystopias, the opposite becomes true. Since a fundamental component of the dystopian novel is a corrupt government, perhaps the author is trying to show that the regression of societal morals can come with a regression in societal structure.

Another aspect of dystopia I find rather interesting is the small measures of common brutality that take place and are considered normal. Instead of the Hunger Games- that is a large, pageant style event that celebrates mass fatalities-  I’m more concerned with things like the choosing ceremony in Divergent. They could just announce their faction and be done with it, but instead the teens have to cut their palms and pour their blood over the symbol of the faction. In Perfect Ruin, teens who are betrothed wear a wedding ring around their neck until their wedding ring. But this isn’t just any ordinary ring- it’s filled with the blood of their fiancée. Authors probably choose to do this to fully drive home the brutality of every aspect of the dystopian society. Every part of dystopian life is painful, and these small acts of violence are the way the government keeps its citizens in line.

 

And here’s a lovely dystopian meme for your troubles:

Incarceron, written by Catherine Fisher, is a YA dystopia about a world divided into two worlds. One is during the Era. The Era is basically similar to living during the 18th century. There is a hierarchy consisting of monarch, elites, and commoners. Technology, such as cell phones, computers, and even modern medicine, is banned because it is non-Era (meaning it came before the switch to the “ideal” society). The Era is set above ground in the natural world.

 

 

 

Opposite the Era, there is Incarceron, a giant living prison. When the kings created the Era, they took half of the population, for example the undesirables, the criminals, and the ill, and locked them in Incarceron. To the people in the Era, the prison is supposedly a paradise, and according to the elites it is. In reality though, it is a nightmarish landscape. Since the only contact between Incareron and the people in the Era is through the Warden, no one is aware of this.

 

 

 

One of my favorite things about dystopian literature is its criticism of a social ideal. One of the ideals being criticized in this book is “the good ol’ days,” and how even though things may have seemed perfect in the past, they are not actually perfect. Trying to recreate them, as one can see in Incarceron, creates more problems than benefits.

 

This criticism of social, cultural, and political ideas is present in every dystopia. Through them we can form an opinion of a piece of one’s own society or society as a whole. Sometimes this spurs within each individual a spark and one thinks “Wow, I never even thought about that before”. Or maybe the reader has thought about the criticisms but is now able to see it from a new perspective. The point is, readers are able to draw parallels between the traits of the fictional world in the dystopia and use them to critique their own society.
So how has dystopia literature influenced the views of readers? How will the criticisms of these book, particularly those brought up in YA dystopia, affect the future political and social climate?

Sources:

Fisher, Catherine. Incarceron. Penguin Group, 2007.

Dystopias often provide a critique of our own society and it interests me what this critique is and what we, as a society, can learn from it. Obviously, our society is far from perfection and it seems the only way to make any sort of progress is to identify and examine our society’s flaws. Dystopias in general seem to propagate the idea that we must cooperate and collaborate with each other to prevent the extremities of such corrupt societies from taking shape.

My independent reading book, The Selection, follows 35 girls who compete for the love, or rather wealth, of the prince, in a series of highly-controlled, televised updates. The quest of the women is televised, and provides yet another instance of propaganda in which what is being shown is not at all like reality of the situation, but rather what those in power wish the population to believe. This contest has obvious parallels to reality TV shows popular in today’s society like The Bachelor, a highly scripted, unauthentic reality love show. The Hunger Games also provides a similar critique as the games are televised and controlled by the Capitol, similar to how reality TV today is controlled by producers and writers. In The Selection, The Hunger Games, or even in today’s society, television is not the only thing controlled, but rather its control suggests that if something so seemingly insignificant as television can be used to manipulate the population and propagate the ideas of those in power, it evokes the question of what else can they be in control of?

This displays the 8 main castes in The Selection and how members of the society’s roles are split.

Though I am not a huge fan of the dystopian world set up in The Selection, an important thing it does is show the flaws in of societal structure and the division of classes. In The Selection we are introduced to a world of different castes, from 1, the royal/extremely wealthy class, to 8, the homeless, poverty-stricken. The divisions are so strict, people deemed a certain caste can only work certain jobs and hold specific roles in the society. The lower caste you are, the more likely you will not be able to feed yourself or your family. A higher equates to more wealth and therefore a greater possibility of survival. Corruption like this is often central in dystopian societies, whether at fault of the government or from utter lack of one. This corruption affects the shapes a dystopian society takes. In The Selection your worth is considered as high as your caste and it accentuates the idea there are only eight type of people in the society.

With that being said, I wonder how the class systems in novels like The Selection or The Hunger Games are affected by the dystopian societies they are part of. Do the circumstances that drove the dystopia’s creation play any role in the class system that thereafter developed? Do the class systems today in our society share any commonalities with those of such dystopias? I look to research questions much like these to better understand the classes in our own society.

Formally, young adult novels are generally categorized as novels written toward a target age group of 12 to 18 years; however, in the past decade, loads of novels have been written under the “young adult” novel genre gathering an audience from the range of 15 to 25 years of age. When looking specifically at young adult dystopian novels, the same trend can be observed, with novels like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Divergent by Veronica Roth gathering a massive fanbase from an older age group. In order to do this, young adult dystopian novels seem to have sub-genres of recurring themes–romance, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic–that appeal more specifically to modern-day interests of young adults. The idea is to find a present-day fascination or issue facing the millennial generation, and building around it as a common theme throughout the book to make it more engaging and ‘relatable’ to the reader; however, more sensitive subjects are not necessarily always discussed in novels.

One of the biggest issues facing the current generation of young adults is depression, a common cause of suicide. In fact, in the
United States in 2015 alone, the suicide rate among 15 to 24 year olds was 12.5%, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The sensitivity toward the topic and the social blacklist surrounding its connotations has made it a topic difficult to discuss, despite the importance of understanding it and the ways to combat it. As a result, despite parenting books and psychological journals, there is a lack of written works about teen depression; however, Suzanne Young manages to expose the dangers of teen depression and our societal neglect of its importance in an interesting way. Published in 2013, The Program follows the life of Sloane Barstow, a teenager living in a dystopian, suicide-ridden society. Essentially, in this society, students are closely monitored for depression; once any signs of it are detected, they are flagged down and sent to “The Program,” where their memories are erased and the person is returned to their family without a trace of the memories that triggered the depression. However, as seen in the book, this program backfires; not only do students lose a part of who they are, but they are so terrified by the thought of The Program that they hide their sadness even further to avoid being sent off. Not only does this shed a light on the dangers of repressing depression, but it exposes the other factors that make younger people susceptible to suicide, including the lack of understanding from adults. Additionally, Young integrates other thematic elements more characteristic of young adult dystopias, including romance, which makes the novel even more appealing to her targeted audience. Overall, although a sensitive topic, teen depression and suicide is a huge and recurring issue of everyday life–so why isn’t it a recurring theme in young adult literature?

Work Cited:

Young, Suzanne. The Program. New York, Simon Pulse, 2014.

Me, About. “The Program by Suzanne Young.” The Program by Suzanne Young, 18 Jul. 2o13, librisnotes.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-program-by-suzanne-young.html. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

“Suicide Statistics .” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

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

Every year, the American Library Association publishes a list of banned and challenged books. Banned books are books that have been removed from library shelves because they are deemed unreadable for particular audiences. This is most common in public school libraries, where parents will challenge books that have various content they do not approve of. The book is then reviewed by a board and they decide whether or not to leave it on the shelves. YA dystopian novels are commonly featured on the banned books list. Titles such as Brave New World, The Hunger Games, The Giver and Fahrenheit 451 have all been on the list a number of times.

My independent reading novel, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, was not on the ALA banned book list, although there have been some sources claiming that the book has been on a ‘commonly challenged list’. Within the story itself, however, books and poems that promote the idea of love are banned from society. The government in the fictional society also censors the media and songs to ensure that the idea of love is not promoted in their society. In addition, Oliver participated in a YouTube live video a couple of years ago in which she discusses banned books and censorship. I am interested to learn more about Oliver’s motives for such active warning against censorship. Is it to promote sales for her books by making teens think they are being rebellious by reading explicit content, or is Oliver worried about our current society?

The idea for my research paper is to understand why censorship still plays a role in society when so many authors, such as Lauren Oliver and Ray Bradbury, have warned us from extensive censorship. Additionally, I want to understand what makes YA dystopian novels so dangerous in particular. Is it the idea of rebellion, profanity, the sexual content, or a combination of each of these elements?

 

Works Cited:

Peters, Patricia. “Frequently Challenged Young Adult Books.” American Library Association, August

2016. http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/YAbooks

One of the things that interest me the most about dystopias is that they subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) critique the United States. In Little Brother, the constant surveillance creates an image of the future United States where people are always being watched and tracked to keep civil order. Constant surveillance is not a farfetched idea because even today the government can track our every move. This capability is creating paranoia among many people. Little Brother makes the reader think about our current state of surveillance and how our country is one tragedy away from constantly being surveilled.

In The Selection, the book critiques multiple facts about today’s American society. The most obvious criticism in the book is about the popularity of the TV show The Bachelor. The whole series is based around a prince having to pick between 35 girls to find his future wife. There are many scenes throughout the book where girls turn on each other and attack one another verbally, and even physically, to fight for Prince Maxon’s affection. Throughout The Bachelor, there are often moments where the girls do the same thing. By drawing on this plotline, the author created a book that appeals to our society as well as a book that makes readers rethink their enjoyment for the TV show. Another criticism in The Selection is about the stability of the United States government. The Selection takes place after multiple future World Wars which has caused the United States government to become a monarchy. Returning to the government structure that the founding fathers condemned is a criticism because it leads the reader to believe that the United States could be on the path to failure. This criticism of the United States is what I want to focus on for my research paper. Many recent events have led people to organize nationwide protests against actions that have been taken to “protect” them. Although it is unlikely, recent events could be the gateway to the failure of the United States government.

Below are some links that are going to be useful in my research paper. This includes a website about Thomas Jefferson’s ideas and how he believed in creating a perfect United States. There is also a newspaper article about how the United States government is now considered a flawed democracy. These resources are going to be useful in writing my research paper about the way the United States was created to be a utopian society, but in reality is a dystopia.

http://www.businessinsider.com/economist-intelligence-unit-downgrades-united-states-to-flawed-democracy-2017-1http://www.ushistory.org/us/20b.asp

Cass, Kiera. The Selection. HarperTeen, 2012.

The Bachelor. Produced by Mike Fleiss and Lisa Levenson, written by J. Holland Moore and Mike Fleiss, American Broadcasting Company, 25 Mar. 2002.

Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2008.