In Scholes and Ostenson’s article, the two identify the components which make up dystopian literature, and why the dystopian genre has become so typical in the young adult generation. In the article, Scholes and Ostenson make their work easy to follow along by recognizing which elements frequently appear in dystopian fiction and analyzing why these methods are significant to dystopian literature. The authors also include a chart of sixteen popular dystopian novels, and the characteristics which are key to the creation of the books. For example, in the row containing Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, the authors point out that the book contains elements of “Excessive Measures to Police Safety,” “Media Manipulation and Propaganda,” “Measures to Cover Up Flaws and Lies in Society,” and “Limited or Complete Lack of Individual Freedom.” The authors then proceed to describe which elements are used in order to catch young adult readers’ attentions.
This source was incredibly useful in looking for other features which seem to be essential to the development of the young adult dystopian novel. The authors convey solid points as to why dystopian novels have become so integrated into young adults’ reading habits and how a variety of components create enthusiasm and interest in the youthful crowd. I find it intriguing that the authors are able to explore what is going on the young reader’s mind as the children become introduced to the adult world and slowly leave their childhood behind. The authors point out the settings, themes and characters which also seem to be undergoing serious changes as the dystopian plot progresses which overall draws correlations to the young reader’s situation of growing older. Scholes and Ostenson argue that dystopian stories allow the young audience to become engaged with the author’s world of romance, fighting for freedom and manipulation which occurs in the dystopian novels. By presenting the young reader with a world wrought with unethical and immoral standards, the reader is able to address these types of problems, forming their own values.
Scholes, Justin and Ostenson, Jon. “Understanding the Appeal of Dystopian Young Adult Fiction.” The ALAN Review, vol. 40, no. 2, 2013, https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v40n2/scholes.html.
If anyone has any comments or questions, please tweet me: @GTRedPandaCal
The City of Ember is based in an underground world created hundreds of years ago to preserve humanity after famine, war and disease overtook the Earth. At the end of the first book, the main characters, Lina and Doon, discover the outside world. The city of Ember was dying, so our protagonists needed to find another home for their people. This leads to the second book in the Ember series, The People of Sparks. The second book showcases that while the new world brings salvation it also brings issues. The problem of adapting to the outside world is what I find most interesting about this dystopian novel.
A fascinating aspect of The People of Sparks is how the residents of the city of Sparks utilize and manipulate the Emberites. When the people of Ember escaped the dying city, it was Torren, a resident of Sparks, who first encountered the refugees. When he sees the numbers of the Emberites Torren is appalled, “Four hundred! In [his] village, there were only 322. He swept his gaze out over this vast horde. They filled half the cabbage field and were still coming over the hill, like a swarm of ants” (DuPrau 10). The hateful comparison foreshadows the tensions between the people of Sparks and the people of Ember.
Furthermore, the people of Ember are out of their element, therefore, more susceptible to manipulation. Lina becomes homesick and realizes that “[i]n Ember, everything was familiar to her. Here everything was strange” (DuPrau 42). The Emberites are shown as very ignorant when it comes to many basic elements of the Earth. For instance, while touring the city of Sparks, Lina is blown away by the sight of pine trees, goats, and bread (DuPrau 26-30).
The three leaders of Sparks meet the night of the refugees’ arrival to work out a system that will allow the city to continue to function even after the inconvenience of doubling their population. They unanimously decide that “[t]hey work—they help in the fields, they help with building, they do whatever there is to do […] As far as I can see, they know nothing (DuPrau 45). This method is how the people of Sparks would leverage control.
The conflict comes to a climax when “[i]nstead of getting easier as the days went on, work for the people of Ember got harder. It wasn’t just the work—it was the heat they had to work in” (DuPrau 104). The Emberites lived off of “…nothing but scraps to eat” and become hostile towards the people hosting them (DuPrau 110).
This conflict demonstrates a similar theme in many dystopias: the battle for control and power. The people of Sparks hold all of the supplies, rations, and necessities that the people of Ember need to survive and therefore there is building tension between the two populations as they try to cohabitate. The people of Sparks utilize their control to make the people of Ember work long and hours to survive. This idea creates the basis for a dystopian society.
DuPrau, Jeanne. The People of Sparks. A Yearling Book, 2016. Print.
One of the most impactful and ever-present pieces of propaganda used during The Hunger Games is the Treaty of Treason video that is shown during the reaping (in this post, I’ll be referring to the version from the movie and the visuals that are portrayed along with it):
Not only is this video issued by the Capitol in an attempt to justify the Hunger Games, but it is also a way of making the citizens of Panem feel as though the Hunger Games’ existence is their fault. In my opinion, the message and its delivery are masterfully crafted; it idolizes the Capitol (“Thirteen districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them…”), showing what the country suffered without explaining what terrible things the Capitol responded to the rebellion with, one example being the complete obliteration of District 13. The video makes it seem as though the districts destroyed each other, stating, “Brother turned on brother until nothing remained.” The Capitol then goes on to blame the districts for their current situation without defining the Capitol as the villain by using collective words such as “we” in, “We swore as a nation we would never know this treason again…” and uses the passive to avoid fault, such as in, “… and so it was decreed…” when discussing the founding of the Hunger Games.
Propaganda is defined as, “The spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.” In this instance, the Capitol is picking and choosing words out of Panem’s history in order to make the districts look like the problem and instill a trust in the Capitol’s actions. However, this does not stop the children from District 12 from appearing stressed and upset at their potential death sentence. The Hunger Games have been accepted as a part of life after so many years since its founding, and though the people in the higher-numbered districts have realized its severity, those in the Career districts are able to take pride in the video and accept that the reward of “our generosity and our forgiveness [in the form of fame and riches]” is worth the risk of death. Does this mean that this warped explanation of history has taken its toll in changing the outlook of those districts on the Capitol, or are the people in those districts indifferent to the games because those that don’t want to participate will never have to due to the high amount of volunteers? Does this allow them to take advantage of the tesserae system by placing names in the jar that will never get picked? This specific propaganda film within The Hunger Games is one of the great ways in which disparities between districts and their attitudes towards the Games may have been formed, and has acted as a manipulative way for the Capitol to save face on the events that occurred in Panem’s history.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. NY, NY, Scholastic Press, 2008.
“Propaganda.” Merriam-Webster.com, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/propaganda.
The Hunger Games. Directed by Gary Ross, Lionsgate Films, 2012.