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?