All posts tagged flaws

Dystopias, as a genre, contain a huge amount of content. They consider all that is in a society, and pushes them to the extreme. A dystopia represents a stratified socio-political state that exercises total (or near-total) control at the price of their subjects’ individual rights, and uses deceptive appeals in the form of slogans and propaganda to maintain order according to a corruptive governing doctrine.

(1) Organized Division

The atmosphere of a dystopian world is characterized by the presence of a caste or divisive mandate.  In the Divergent series, we see that to maintain order and control, hope is only placed on the “ones that know” and have a place in society. We witness a division of friends and even family members, based on character and individual qualities, into four groups that accentuate an individuals primary trait (knowledge, bravery, selflessness, honesty, kindness). This separating and hierarchical influence is also established in the in-class text The Hunger Games in which Panem is divided into 12 districts that have distinct cultures, customs, and commodities, while only interacting with one another through the televised bloodshed between their tributes.  Both texts show how divisive measures are placed on the populaces in efforts to maintain order, and, in other ways, limit communication.

The 12 Districts of Panem illustrating dystopian division. (http://mysims3blog.blogspot.com/2013/02/districts-of-panem-by-beaverhausen.html)

(2) Control

Dystopias are NOT societies run per the govern. These are communities that have essentially given up on human nature, and therefore do not trust the decisions made by their citizens. In dystopias, this control is presented as security and protection from the unpredictable flaws of human nature. This heavy hand has its grasp on every facet of an individual’s interactions. Individual rights do not exist in a dystopian society, and if they do, they are limited or an item of deception. Dystopian control also extends further to surveillance and forced uniformity. In dystopian text like  The Giver, everyone is denied knowledge, sexual relationship, and even to see visual color. This “sameness” illustrates the control that is relinquished by the individual to the “betterment” of a society.

Quote from The Giver on the topic of “sameness”. (http://www.azquotes.com/quote/503944)

(3) Doctrines and Deception

Dystopias are also a socio-political entity, and are run by a governing doctrine. Looking through the eyes of a radical socialist, one would see many similarities. Dystopias often thrive on exaggeration. A slogan is often the core of the verbiage within these society doubling as the source of deception. These doctrines and mandate are usually contradictory to their method of execution. For example, in The Hunger Games, in efforts to maintain peace, the Capital established violent gladiatorial combat between teenagers while simultaneously pinning the 12 districts against one another. Even looking at a classic dystopian text like 1984, we are presented with a term called “double think” which is the act of holding two contradictory opinions at once and simultaneously believing in both of them, which is said to be a talent every Party member was required to possess.

1984 Party Slogan (http://s192.photobucket.com/user/Lucky13_Albums/media/1984_by_hybrid17e.jpg.html)

These are just three core principle that go into defining a dystopia, but there are many more. Dystopias are fluid concepts, and, depending on what is exaggerated, can appear in many different forms.


Work Cited (Books):

  • Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008. Print.
  • Lowry, Lois. The Giver.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993.
  • Roth, Veronica. Divergent.HarperCollins, 2011.
  • Orwell, Georgia. 1984.Harvill Secker.1949

Dystopia is defined as an idea in which a society does not function well1. A dystopia depicts negative traits and describes a flawed system; often, authors create dystopian worlds to highlight what they believe is wrong with their society. Margaret Cavendish discusses women’s education and gender in The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World (1666) while Gabriel de Foigny’s La Terre Australe connue concerns the topic of colonization2.

Dystopia is commonly misunderstood as science-fiction or apocalypse or horror, and it may have some similarities with these other genres, but dystopia is a completely separate genre. I think dystopia and science-fiction are related to each other; they both tend to contain characteristics of similar nature. However, I feel like dystopia is a genre whose focus is on social aspects, and science-fiction delves into deeper detail about the “how” the environment evolved into the scene they are setting up. Additionally, science-fiction does not necessarily describe an alternate world, but a situation made possible by science, not by social constructs while dystopias emphasize on the inner workings of a society.

When I think of dystopia, the Hunger Games trilogy, Uglies series, and Divergent books are my first thoughts. Some common themes include a setting in a futuristic time period, drastically different social norms, and a hidden discontent among the population. There is also an element of the prominent presence of order, whether it be government, a police force, or the social expectations. The protagonist in these YA dystopian books typically is someone who doesn’t really fit in with others; they may also be questioning the world they grew up in. The dystopia often collapses because of the actions, intentional or unintentional, of the main character. Perhaps the protagonist represents hope or change for a better way of life. Young adult literature has incorporated many themes of dystopia while also adding a modern twist to appeal to their target audience and to set a scenario appropriate to the current time period.

Overall, dystopian literature has effectively captured the main essence of the definition of dystopia, the addition of young adult literature broadened the audience spectrum and evolved the topics that are suitable for the appropriate time period.

Works Cited

  1. “Dystopia Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” Dystopia Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2017.
  2. Claeys, Gregory, ed.The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, 2010. Print.