My topic is YA Dystopian governments and how their actions are social criticisms of political issues today. The governments I studied and researched were those in my independent reading book, The People of Sparks. Along with the Hunger Games and Little Brother. My hypothesis states that the themes most common in YA dystopian literature as it applies specifically to the governments in each novel, reflect a real world event and showcase the debate and conflict in that issue. Each of these social issues: Immigration, Censorship and Surveillance are explored through the themes and conflicts of dystopian governments. The social and political issue of immigration is tackled in YA dystopian literature through the theme of the manipulation of resources; censorship is tackled in YA dystopian literature through the theme of the power and control and surveillance is tackled in YA dystopian literature through the theme of theme of law order. I’m relating The People of Sparks to the social criticism as the conflict is reminiscent of the debate on immigrants today. One side says that immigrants are subjected to high danger and low skill work, where they are subjected to terrible working conditions. However, the other side believes that immigrants “distract and take resources” and therefore should work for their fair share. I see this debate in the Sparks government where one faction believes that they should care for the refugees from the city of Ember as it is the right thing to do. While the other faction counters saying that doubling the population of Sparks is unsustainable and the people of Ember must relocate. The heated debated in this dystopian government shows the DuPrau utilizes the dystopian theme of resource manipulation to bring up the social and political issue of immigration. I’m relating the book The Hunger Games to social criticism because of the theme of control and power in the media. In society today, there is a conflict between the Executive branch of government and the free press. One side claims that the media is creating fake news and is therefore sensationalizing inaccurate stories and targeting subjects with an inherent bias, while the other side believes that the Executive branch is attacking the freedom of the press by banning them from press conferences and describing work that the branch doesn’t like as “fake news” therefore trying to delegitimize the media and create a government controlled press. The conflict of censorship in The Hunger Games shows that Collins writes with a purpose and utilizes themes of the Capitol’s dystopian government to warn of the effects of censorship. While not written in the same time period as the recent administration, Collins social commentary relates to many governments throughout history and her commentary is used a tool of foreshadowing and warning. Finally, I’m relating the social issue of surveillance to the book Little Brother due to its theme of law and order. Today, the social issue of surveillance is an important and volatile topic. One side believes that surveillance is a necessary evil to protect and defend the freedoms of the American people, while the other side says that all personal freedoms are compromised and disregarded. The hyped-up surveillance in the novel was stemmed from the panic and fear in the DHS over the imminent threat of terrorism. In the same likeness, the debate of surveillance came to a climax after the events of 9/11. Author Cory Doctorow utilizes the theme of freedom and control to conduct a social criticism on the hyper vigilant government surveillance of today.
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.