“By examining the way dystopian novels, in the past and present, reflect a society’s view of their problems and their fears of what these problems could grow to in the future, we can determine what each society values and hopes to preserve; by determining what our society holds valuable, we can trace what the root causes of the threats to these values are and compare them to the root causes of the problems each dystopian novel faces. Going through the major problems faced by the protagonists in Gathering Blue, The Hunger Games, and Little Brother, we will find that each dystopia mirrors problems in our own society, predicts a possible future as the outcome of these problems, and depicts the ideals valued in the society.” My research paper, “Looking into the Dystopian Mirror: Discovering Our Dystopian Selves”, will be covering the problems of dystopian societies and how these problems can be connected to the ones readers face in their own societies. I will also be looking at how the ideals of a society can be derived from these problems.
The three novels I will be using as my examples each contain a specific set of problems which can be traced to problems in our own world. In Gathering Blue, the government has decided to take control of several talented children, and they are attempting to use these children to control the future. The same problem of our government trying to control the future is evident in the real world. The Hunger Games presents the problems of a dictatorship, violence, oppression, slavery, and a large division of wealth. All of which can be found all over the world today. Little Brother touches on the very sensitive issue of government censorship and surveillance. Each issue also holds the flipside of a value lost by the society. By covering each of these topics, I hope to convince my readers that the YA dystopian fiction genre is a reflection of many aspects of our own society.
For my conference presentation on Monday, March 13th, I will be presenting the highlights of my research paper How an Author’s Perception of Perfection Influences His/Her Dystopian Society. I believe that “perfect” is a term that is relative to an author’s own unique life. I will use contextual examples from our readings thus far to point out where I see each author’s values showcased in their writing. I will argue that what a given author perceives as a “perfect society” will ultimately determine the type of dystopia that he or she creates. Consequently, I will bring up the fact that a lot of what authors prioritize in shaping a dystopian flaw is developed from their backgrounds, the way they were raised, and their beliefs. Additionally, I will give an overview of the key discoveries I have made, simply because there has not been much prior research done on the topic.
My presentation will begin with an outline of my thesis and my overarching thoughts. I will then give a brief summary of the origin of dystopias and the idea of “perfection.” I will then segue into literary examples that I use in my paper, such as Shatter Me, The Hunger Games, and Little Brother. In my presentation, I will analyze the societal flaws that I see present in the novels and I will consider how those relate to the authors’ backgrounds and upbringings. I also utilize two different samples of forums where people of varying ages have shared what they believe a perfect society to look like. One shares responses from a college-level English class while the other presents opinions from the older adult population, which helps me to contrast the varying values that different ages possess. With the ideas presented in the forums, I will extrapolate what I believe their dystopias would look like based on what they value when creating their utopias.
I hope that the synopsis of my research is intriguing to you, and that my usage of both concrete evidence and inferred material is interesting to you. In order to see where my research thus far has brought me, you will have to listen to my conference presentation and read my paper. I encourage you to reach out to me about any questions or suggestions you may have regarding my research-especially considering that much of it is being developed based on my own ideas.
Dystopias are interesting because so much of their characteristics are left up to interpretation by writers and readers. They are similar to The Constitution in that there are groups of people who strictly interpret its roots and those who stretch them to fit into other categories. That is why dystopian fiction has bled over borders into the realms of science-fiction, romance, and apocalyptic ideas. These variations in theme, setting, and plot have caused different interpretations of what is considered a “perfect” utopian society, and alternatively its anti-perfect, dystopian counterpart. For my research project, I am hoping to research how each society’s idea of “perfect” differs, and how these ideas shape its culture.
In the dystopia The Hunger Games, the Capitol maintains control of the twelve districts by forcing them to participate in the games. By portraying this to be a dystopia, one can infer that the author’s idea of a utopia would be a society where people are free to do as they please without a ruling autonomous government. Alternatively, in the book Shatter Me, Juliette lives with a touch that is fatal. The society is made up of rampant disease, food shortage, and dreary conditions. The government uses Juliette’s supposed flaw to for their own betterment. She is ultimately left with the choice of either giving into the government’s orders or fighting for what she believes in. Overall, this society seems to be flawed in the way it emphasizes the government’s manipulation of weakness for its own strength. One can infer from this that the author’s idea of a perfect society may be one where people are applauded for their differences and accepted for their disabilities.
I think that discovering how authors’ different ideas of “perfect” influence the way that they shape their dystopias will be interesting. However, I know that basing their ideas of “perfect” solely on the opposite of their dystopian novels is not an effective form of research. Dystopias come out of present day society, so finding out more about how this relates to a perfect society would be interesting. I hope to research more in detail about the history that brought about dystopias as seemingly anti-perfect societies. Moving forward, a question that I hope to answer about Shatter Me is how a certain period of time may or may not have influenced the author to write the book, seeing as it focuses on such an imperfect society.