All posts tagged rebellion

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.


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What if we lived in a world where we were told what to think, who to be, and our expectations of the future? In Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” series, this is the role that propaganda plays. Beginning with the reaping day video, which pushes the idea that each of the twelve districts are traitors to the Capitol, we, as outsiders, can see clearly the Capitol places all blame of the rebellion on the districts. This has created feelings of oppression and tension between the two. History is written by the victors, and since the Capitol emerged victorious from the district uprisings, they dictated how the entire society would view the rebellion. The history they wrote consists of the betrayal of the districts, which in turn leads to the creation of the hunger games.

The Hunger Games are in and of themselves a form of propaganda. They convey the message that the Capitol will always win. By forcing each district to sacrifice their children, who symbolize the hope and future of their families in each district, the Capitol reinforces their power.

Children of the districts live in continual fear of the Capitol. Each year, the televised blood sacrifice of children remind the districts the Capitol is in charge and their only option for survival is to do completely as they say.

Even if you do survive past the childhood terror of being sent to the games, you are expected to support the Capitol in whichever industry they have assigned to each district.


Another form of propaganda the Capitol uses against the Districts is Caesar Flickerman’s pre-game interview with the contestants. During this time, he gives the Capitol an air of relatibility and humor. He embodies the Capitol and all its people, so when he jokes with the contestants, cries for the contestants, and rejoices with the contestants, the Capitol claims the stance of regret and empathy towards the Districts.

Through their use of propaganda, the Capitol hopes to keep the Districts under its control. They have rewritten history in their favor; they have broken the fighting spirit out of many of the Districts by continually claiming their children for contestants in their game. The Capitol, as many dystopian societies, has used propaganda to further their own agenda and keep the citizens in check with mind games and force.

Propaganda plays a big role in many dystopian novels and movies. Wherever there’s an authoritarian government or any kind of oppressive system, both of which are commonly seen in this genre, there’s an exchange of biased information between whoever’s in charge and those who are being controlled. However, throughout Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay, this trading of persuasive campaigns comes from not one direction, but two: from the Capitol, who already has control, and the rebels, those who represent the people of the districts and are trying to take power. The differences in the type and style of propaganda that we see from either side give us a look into the goals of either side and to whom they’re trying to appeal.

Capitol propaganda is always very slick, clean, and designed to be visually pleasant. It often makes use of negative space, and the color white is common throughout. This gives the impression that they’ve got everything under control, and dissuades the idea of chaos. A government that’s got everything handled is one that’s easier for people to look up to, and it makes the idea of a rebellion seem out of place. They also never forget to remind the districts of the power differences between them, always showing certain districts as “better” than others.

Rebel propaganda, however, is most successful when it’s less clean, but more emotional and real. The leaders in 13 quickly realize that scripted and sculpted messages are the least formidable type for their cause. They’re trying to elicit a powerful reaction from the districts and show the capitol that they’re strong and aware of their corruption. They don’t have the means to produce widely broadcasted media, therefore they need to make a point with whatever time they get, however little it may be. This means they often show direct proof of the corruption and malice of the capitol, and take advantages of the symbols of the rebellion, such as Katniss, to help get their message across.

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Previously, when I thought of the genre of dystopia, I would think of a futuristic society with a strict government and fearful citizens. All of the books and movies I had witnessed focused on these aspects. But, the more I research and learn about dystopias, the more I realize there is more to it.

One characteristic of a dystopian society that never fails to exist is that the fear of some citizens is not the same for all. There always seems to be a class system that dictates the oppressed and acts favorably to others. This characteristic makes it difficult for some to see the society as troubled and for others to see it as perfect. One example of this is how in The Hunger Games, citizens of the lower districts see the unfairness of games and distribution of food, while citizens of the Capital may see the society as perfect.

While the cause of the hierarchy may differ from scenario to scenario, this significant detail creates a separation between the citizens that leads to tension. The higher class is convinced the society has no flaws and the plight of lower classes is their own fault. The lower class is forced into uniform expectations where their freedoms are restricted and they see the upper class as untouchable. Usually in dystopias, the government enforces this tension and uses propaganda and fear to contain the lower class, but there always seems to be a rebellion.

Because I feel this aspect of dystopia is so essential, my definition of a dystopia is based on its truth. I define a dystopia as an imagined, futuristic society that is illusions to be perfect, but in reality favors an upper class creating tension throughout its citizens.

While there are many other aspects that characterize a dystopia, the illusion of a utopia is the most important in my opinion. It outlines a division in the citizens that eventually results in discontent and rebellion.