societal commentary

All posts tagged societal commentary

Dystopias often provide a critique of our own society and it interests me what this critique is and what we, as a society, can learn from it. Obviously, our society is far from perfection and it seems the only way to make any sort of progress is to identify and examine our society’s flaws. Dystopias in general seem to propagate the idea that we must cooperate and collaborate with each other to prevent the extremities of such corrupt societies from taking shape.

My independent reading book, The Selection, follows 35 girls who compete for the love, or rather wealth, of the prince, in a series of highly-controlled, televised updates. The quest of the women is televised, and provides yet another instance of propaganda in which what is being shown is not at all like reality of the situation, but rather what those in power wish the population to believe. This contest has obvious parallels to reality TV shows popular in today’s society like The Bachelor, a highly scripted, unauthentic reality love show. The Hunger Games also provides a similar critique as the games are televised and controlled by the Capitol, similar to how reality TV today is controlled by producers and writers. In The Selection, The Hunger Games, or even in today’s society, television is not the only thing controlled, but rather its control suggests that if something so seemingly insignificant as television can be used to manipulate the population and propagate the ideas of those in power, it evokes the question of what else can they be in control of?

This displays the 8 main castes in The Selection and how members of the society’s roles are split.

Though I am not a huge fan of the dystopian world set up in The Selection, an important thing it does is show the flaws in of societal structure and the division of classes. In The Selection we are introduced to a world of different castes, from 1, the royal/extremely wealthy class, to 8, the homeless, poverty-stricken. The divisions are so strict, people deemed a certain caste can only work certain jobs and hold specific roles in the society. The lower caste you are, the more likely you will not be able to feed yourself or your family. A higher equates to more wealth and therefore a greater possibility of survival. Corruption like this is often central in dystopian societies, whether at fault of the government or from utter lack of one. This corruption affects the shapes a dystopian society takes. In The Selection your worth is considered as high as your caste and it accentuates the idea there are only eight type of people in the society.

With that being said, I wonder how the class systems in novels like The Selection or The Hunger Games are affected by the dystopian societies they are part of. Do the circumstances that drove the dystopia’s creation play any role in the class system that thereafter developed? Do the class systems today in our society share any commonalities with those of such dystopias? I look to research questions much like these to better understand the classes in our own society.

Before analyzing the role that propaganda can acquire in a dystopian novel, it is first important to define the term. Simply put, propaganda is the transmission of ideas and information, intended to incite a specific response or emotion within the receiver. Therefore, as you could assume, properly placed propaganda can profoundly help or hinder the respective “good” and “bad” characters of a dystopian novel based on its intention.

Candor, a dystopian novel by Pam Bachorz, is centered upon a small town characterized by white picket fences, ivy league students, respect for elders, and most importantly, absence of any disruptive behavior, illegal activity, or issues of any sort. Essentially, it is an ideal town, a “utopia” if you will; this “perfection” is the product of constant music infused with subliminal messages, feeding the townspeople cliches such as “Respectful space in every place” (Bachorz, 60) and “The great are never late” (Bachorz, 20). Infallibly, though, even in a seemingly perfectly crafted town, humans still have the ability for error, leading to a decent amount of propaganda reinforcing the “correct”, as seen by the town’s founder, way to live. For example, when graffiti suddenly appears in the perfect town, a campaign rapidly begins known as TAG, Teens Against Graffiti. TAG, as a unit, then constructs a propaganda-based initiative by painting the sidewalks with phrases reestablishing the importance of a clean, pretty environment in order to immediately halt any opinions the townspeople may have on graffiti, and instead supply the socially appropriate opinion to have.

However, as far as consequences go, what I think is even more important than the propaganda that is being created, is the propaganda that is not. I realize this is an odd way to look at it, but a dystopian society will not necessitate persuasion, through propaganda, unless there is a flaw in the system. In lieu of this, where propaganda is created highlights what is wrong and where it is not created portrays what is, comparatively, right. Through this, the author has an effective way to clearly show their personalized commentary on society. For Candor, there is minimal propaganda pertaining to the importance of education, as most of society tends to acknowledge this as a timeless fact; in contrast, there is a multitude of propaganda relating towards the pleasures of life, notably movies, art, games, etc, portraying it as bad and inferior to other aspects of life. This could then be interpreted as the author making commentary about the regard with which society places imagination and creation of the arts, looking down on them as a lesser way of life.

Essentially, then, the function of propaganda is to realign the dystopia with the blueprint it is designed to follow, as someone, or something, has disrupted its structure. It is important to note that in some circumstances, propaganda can adversely be used to align the dystopia instead with what is desired, shifting the society from the order it previously had, effectively overthrowing the entire system. Through this process then, by looking for the propaganda in a work of dystopian literature, the reader will be able to also find the societal critique the author has hidden in the novel, serving as an effective means of analysis and understanding. Analogous, it is similar to applying a magnifying glass to the work to focus on the relevance of the work, the dystopian elements and perspective.


Works Cited

Bachorz, Pam. Candor. Egmont USA, 2009.

Bachorz, Pam. Candor Book Trailer. Youtube, 9 Jul 2009.

“Homer Simpson Animated GIF”. Giphy.

“In this town, you are what you hear”. CrushingCinders: Odd Ramblings of an Obsessed Reader. 5 Mar 2015,