I have always paid careful attention to current events. I like to know what’s happening around me, so I keep myself updated with articles from various newspapers and magazines from around the world. However, throughout the length of this course I have noticed a shift in the lens with which I read these articles. I’ve become more interested in reading news articles discussing policy; specifically, privacy and technology.
I believe that this shift is mainly due to Cory Doctrow’s novel Little Brother. While reading, I kept noticing simply how plausible of a future it seemed to be. Gait-trackers in schools, GPS trackers individual to a person, internet surveillance, wire-tapping, and so many more new (yet terrifying) technologies seem to pervade the novel. While some of these are not yet common around the states, I do worry that they may one day be considered the ‘norm.’
The other day, I was scrolling through Apple’s News feed on my phone when I came across an article detailing how the senate voted to revoke FCC privacy regulations. These rules were enacted as they “protect important personal interests—freedom from identity theft, financial loss, or other economic harms, as well as concerns that intimate, personal details could become the grist for the mills of public embarrassment or harassment or the basis for opaque, but harmful judgments, including discrimination” (Federal Communications Commission 2). Furthermore, a brief synopsis of the rules is that they are what require companies to tell you and get your approval for their privacy policies (for example, what information of yours that they may release), they require companies to protect your information and to notify you of security breaches.
Can you imagine your personal information being distributed without your knowledge? I’m sure the citizens in Little Brother couldn’t either; that’s why they were so surprised about being stopped by police when the rebellion mixed up all the data. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer my information to be protected. Yes, the smackdown still has to be approved by the House and the President, but it’s a slippery slope. If our government begins to believe that it is ok to distribute and collect information about our personal lives without reasonable cause, then where’s the end?
Link to the FCC’s broadband privacy framework: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-16-148A1.pdf
When reading books such as The Hunger Games and Little Brother in class, I noticed a common theme of teenage defiance, which got me thinking. What if middle schoolers read Little Brother and saw Marcus as a role model? What if they started poking around the dark web? These kids could get into some non-fictional trouble fast.
From there, I started thinking about authors’ intended messages in young adult dystopian novels and whether or not middle schoolers are really picking up on these deeper meanings. To figure that out it is important to figure out who is reading this book and how it is being read. For example, a college graduate politician is going to read and understand The Hunger Games much differently than a middle schooler at the beach.
I wanted to know how the readers who understood the author’s intended commentary responded. Were they so disgusted by the corrupt government in Little Brother that they started working for NSA to fight the system from within? Or did they get disillusioned with the world and decide to hide away in the woods?
Based on the research, I formed a thesis: Young adult dystopian novels, if presented correctly to their audience, have the potential to inspire teenagers to have a passion for social justice; however, if left to their own devices many will only read the novel at face value.
I will then launch into examples from novels with poignant commentary on society, and the way that it is often misunderstood. My first example is The Hunger Games. While Suzanne Collins intended for the novel to be a criticism of capitalism and consumerism in developed countries, it was published so soon after the Twilight phenomenon that the teenagers were still wrapped up in love triangles, and thus “Team Peeta” and “Team Gale” were born. It seemed that the movie producers and the internet users had grossly over simplified this novel and glossed over the sheer horror of the games. Ironically following the example of the capitol. In my presentation, I will highlight two other examples: Divergent and The Red Queen in which novel’s commentary on society was also derailed.
I go on to argue that most young adult dystopia novels could also be classified as coming of age novels. This means that as protagonist loses their childhood innocence and struggles to come to terms with the unfairness of the world, teenage readers are as well. Because the protagonist often refuses to accept the flaws of the world, they are serving as a role model to the readers. Therefore, even if teenagers are missing the author’s intended message, they are in fact learning to question the world around them and notice the injustice.
To back up this argument, I then cite references I have found throughout my research and explain their arguments. I will also reveal the results of the twitter poll I took last week. Get excited!
Before English 1102, I had never really been exposed to dystopian literature. The most I knew about it was that it was the opposite of utopian literature… I had only read The Hunger Games, and that was since 8th grade.
After having read The Hunger Games again, in addition to The Knife of Never Letting Go and Little Brother, I’ve realized that women tend to play significant roles in dystopian literature. More specifically, they use their leadership aptitude to lead oppressed members of a society. This is what’s most interesting to me about dystopian literature: the fact that women are represented as strong individuals who lead society in the search for freedom from oppression.
In The Hunger Games, for example, we know from the start that Katniss is a strong and driven character. She plays what would traditionally be known as “the man of the house” role by taking care of her younger sister and her weak mother. She then displays her courage by volunteering as tribute. It’s interesting that Suzanne Collins chose to make a female the one to volunteer; she’s definitely making a statement. Although some may argue that this was out of instinct, Katniss proves them wrong by further demonstrating her courage and bravery in the Games. One of the most significant parts of the book is when Katniss does the “three finger salute” because she inspires the citizens of District 11 to rebel against the guards at the screening of the Games. This is only one of the few instances in which we see Katniss’ leadership inspire rebellion.
As is the case with The Hunger Games, The Knife of Never Letting Go and Little Brother also include strong female leaders. Although Marcus is the main protagonist in the book, Van is sort of the reason why he feels the way he does. A lot of his ideas stem from Van’s thinking, so Van still indirectly leads the oppressed through Marcus’ actions. Additionally, Van courageously stands up to Marcus when she disagrees with him. In The Knife of Never Letting Go, Viola is the book’s Katniss. Since she’s literally the only girl in a society consisting of only men, she plays a significant role. Todd, the main character finds himself in troubling situations many times, (to avoid spoilers, I will be very general) and who do you think saves him? Viola.
In all 3 of the books I have discussed, it’s evident that the authors strive to make a feminist statement; strong and independent women can successfully play the roles of leaders.