A seemingly ongoing debate back home in Spain is the ever-lasting discussion about Catalonia’s Independence and the Catalan language. I have always thought about what it means to be Catalan and what prejudices it seems to come with. We have our own views and the rest of Spain has their own. We are a “bother” but at the same time succeeding is never an option, after all we are the greatest source of tax money for the central government. The situation back home is obviously not a dystopian setting but there is certainly a lot of information masking and how the population of Catalonia is portrayed to the rest of Spain through the main TV channels and newspapers.
I have thought about this topic since we first started talking about propaganda and compared the situation to the different novels we have discussed. It amazes me just how many similarities the situations shared. While in the dystopian governments we have encountered along the semester focus on promoting their personal image and whatever favors their power stance, this is not only a part of the fictional world. Government image and marketing is obviously very important in nowadays political world, now so more than ever maybe, since a lot of debates and issues appear to arise every other day.
I came to believe that Catalonia’s population stand against the situation definitively reminded me about the role that the “rebels” have in the novels we have discussed. In the past decade we have got to manage a referendum and the pacific demonstrations that are held every September 11th have become famous worldwide. It is amazing the amount of people that get together to support “La Diada” that day, and fill the streets of Barcelona. Every year there is a different approach to make the biggest impact and send the most powerful message. However it always revolves around the idea “we want freedom, we want our rights, we are our own people”.
Another issue that makes me think about how propaganda and the government oppress their citizens in our dystopian novels can be compared to this situation, is how many people in Spain and a scarily substantial number of the politicians of opposing groups believe that the Catalan language should be banned. This idea is so frightening to me and it would completely shatter me and my values, since practically my whole persona revolves around my language. It would be something that certainly would be a direct attack against the freedom and culture of the people back home.
Overall, I think that this whole semester has helped me learn about dystopian literature and understand many concepts much more in depth, but what I have learned didn’t necessarily stay inside the classroom in my case. These ideas have been in my mind, especially when I thought about home and the whole situation that been unfolding these past few years. It can be scary to think our reality holds parallels with fictional dystopian plots, but in the end, we all hope for the best.
Why are we as readers interested in dystopias? Is it the fact that we are prideful in our societies and are able to laugh at the imperfect and impossible dystopian societies that we read about? Or, perhaps it is that we fear for the future of our society and see these novels as plausible futures. It might be that we read these novels as precaution. Whatever the reason, dystopian novels, many of them YA dystopias, have become increasingly popular throughout the past decade. A timeline of dystopian popularity is shown below in the infographic by goodreads. It shows that dystopian novel sales are as high as they have been since The Cold War.
It would seem that the increase in popularity of this genre is in response to tighter government controls and security threats. Often times dystopian novels are written in response to these changes in society and present commentary and a new perspective on societal and governmental flaws. These criticisms are often displayed as underlying themes in dystopian novels where the plot of the book is often to overcome an obstacle. Many times, these books present challenges to the characters that are extremely intense and often deeply saddening. These challenges range from killing 23 children in an arena as seen in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins to fighting to keep your memories as seen in The Program written by Suzanne Young.
My question still remains: why are young adults so interested in dystopian novels? Many scholars have devoted time to researching this interest including Justin Scholes and Jon Ostenson of The Alan Review at the Virginia Tech online journals. These scholars suggest that teenagers are able to relate to the characters in these novels because most are written from the teenagers perspective. They also explain that the protagonist’s willingness and ability to assert him or herself and to bring about change in a place that dampens individualism and rebellion appeals to and empowers the reader. The Program clearly demonstrates this stolen individualism through the program itself. As there is a depression and suicide epidemic across the nation, this program is instituted in order to reduce the number of suicides by taking away all painful and potentially damaging memories. But, the protagonist Sloane does all that she can to fight the program and regain her memories from before, although they may be painful. When the government tries to suppress her, she resists. This quality is found in most protagonists of dystopian novels and the idea of defiance and independence of rule may be what attracts so many young adults to these types of books.
Though the reason behind the attraction to YA dystopias has been speculated, there are many other factors ranging from gender roles to youth empowerment that also play into this interest. The Program as well as other popular dystopian novels are great examples of rebellion within an oppressive society that allow readers to imagine themselves in such a position to defy their own authority. But, what exactly rallies thousands of young people around these similar stories? Stay tuned to find out.