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At this point in the semester I believe what mostly draws me in about dystopian literature is the general tendency to have protagonists that are generally younger that other genres. It is necessary to point out that I am looking more into YA dystopian books and that can be a contributing factor. In fact, this question is what my research paper is going to focus on. The use of younger protagonists in YA dystopian novels and how this is effective. It is not unknown that YA dystopian literature sales over the past decade have been undoubtedly rising and creating a revolutionary era for this genre.
My independent reading choice was Wither by Lauren De Stefano. I am thinking that this had a great impact on deciding my research project topic. For those who have not yet read the book, and not wanting to spoil the ending for anyone, this novel presents the reader with a reality where women die at the age of twenty and men at the age of twenty-five. It all started with scientists trying to find the cure to all illness and weakness in human nature, which spiraled out of control after the first generation was created, producing this virus that horrifyingly shortens the life of those new generations after them.
Not surprisingly the main protagonist and narrator of the story is a sixteen-year-old girl from New York. It really interests me how young main characters have the power to draw readers in so much and make the novels so effective and popular. Dystopian settings definitively help set a negative environment that the protagonist must learn to overcome, survive and sometimes even change. This is a particular are that I am interested in looking into for my research. How does the dystopian setting of the novels affect the young protagonists in a way that the authors pick them while disregarding adults and older generations that are also present in many of these novels? It seems as the elders in these books are usually those who either hold power and govern society, or are the figures that represent wisdom and are the ones who the here will turn to for help or advice.
I must say that even if I narrowed my research to the study of age patterns in YA dystopian literature, there are many more elements of dystopia that I believe are so interesting and hope to be able to learn more about through other peer’s papers. I have always been enthralled by the amount of action that seems to accompany dystopian novels, even more so those ones that are set under YA literature. Furthermore, it is not easy for me to overlook that they all seem to follow a trend where the protagonist tends to be the narrator. I find this overly powerful when stimulating the reader’s empathy for the protagonist’s actions, even if these are not always the best choice.
Do you believe age has an effect on the plot? Or you believe your favorite YA dystopian novels could have had an adult as a main character?
A dystopia can encompass various ideas and multiple aspects of society, which contribute to the creation of an imagined universe where nightmares become reality. In order to criticize a certain aspect of society, authors create dystopias “through an exaggerated worst-case scenario” (“Dystopias”). In many dystopias, the leaders, or those in power, use propaganda to control the citizens. These rulers restrict freedom and information from their citizens. In The Hunger Games and in 1984, the government controlled all aspects of life and kept important information about their nation from civilians. One of the main characteristics of a dystopia is the concept of fear. People live in fear of the government and live in fear of changing any aspect of life. A dystopia is “an illusion of a perfect utopian world” (“Dystopias”). The citizens of a dystopian nation don’t know anything different from their respective dystopia, so they go along with the government, living in a dehumanized state.
Very often in dystopian literature, scientific innovation has led to the demise of an older society and the creation of a dystopian one. In The Giver, the government developed science to control how people think and what they see. Dystopian literature mixed with science fiction creates a world in the past or in the future in which something bad happened, so the government took over with scientific innovation. Suzanne Collins created Panem to reflect how the government has developed in science and technology in hundreds of years following the present generation. The leaders in The Hunger Games were able to create dogs from deceased tributes to eat those that remained alive. This can only happen in a dystopia affected by science.
When combined with Young Adult literature, the dystopia genre shifts to incorporate a protagonist that challenges the dystopian world he or she lives in. This character is meant to connect with young adults, rebuilding the community and making a better world for the citizens to live in as well as the readers to live in.
“Dystopias: Definition and Characteristics.” ReadWriteThink. NCTE/IRA, 2006, http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson926/DefinitionCharacteristics.pdf. Accessed 21 May 2017.