All posts tagged themes

This course is based around young adult dystopian literature, and how over the years, its origin as a utopia has changed and evolved into bestselling books, comics, and even movies. For me, my primary focus of research is the role that social taboos, which can include (but are not limited to) sex, drugs, alcohol, violence, abuse, and mental health, in young adult literature; specifically, in young adult dystopian novels. Narrowing down even further, I decided to pay close attention to the role that the social taboo of mental health (specifically, teenage suicide and depression) plays in young adult dystopian literature; or rather, the lack of role it plays thereof. In order to do this, however, its important to understand why dystopian literature is so appealing to young adults in the first place.

The source I’m highlighting is an analysis published Virginia Tech in the Alan Review (see Works Cited). Essentially, the researchers determined what themes could be appealing to young adult dystopian readers, and divided them into several categories including (but not limited to) platonic relationships, media manipulation, limited freedom, pressure to conform, etc. Then, they devised a list of dystopian novels that were published in 2000 or later and were considerably popular and best-selling, and determined the common themes that each of these novels had with each other. After having a list of themes with supporting novelistic evidence, each theme was analyzed even further with recurring trends in plots and twists of the respective novels.

The review established the role that adolescent development plays, whether it is isolation, the brink of adulthood, or relationships (platonic and romantic). Although the biggest takeaway from the review was to advocate for the necessity of young adult dystopian literature in the classroom, it makes a sound argument with a good indication of what themes, in fact, classify a piece of literature as not only dystopian, but successfully dystopian. For me, the purpose of this article was to support the fact that popular dystopian novels do not discuss mental health as a recurring theme, despite the role it plays in teenage lives on a regular basis. However, for those looking at the rise in the appeal of dystopian literature, or the role that technology or romance play as recurring themes in dystopian literature, this can prove to be an equally valuable and useful source.

Works Cited

Scholes, Justin, and Jon Ostenson. “Understanding the Appeal of Dystopian Young Adult Fiction.” Scholarly Communication Department, Research & Informatics, Virginia Tech Libraries, Scholarly Communication, Virginia Tech University Libraries, Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

Dystopia is defined as an idea in which a society does not function well1. A dystopia depicts negative traits and describes a flawed system; often, authors create dystopian worlds to highlight what they believe is wrong with their society. Margaret Cavendish discusses women’s education and gender in The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World (1666) while Gabriel de Foigny’s La Terre Australe connue concerns the topic of colonization2.

Dystopia is commonly misunderstood as science-fiction or apocalypse or horror, and it may have some similarities with these other genres, but dystopia is a completely separate genre. I think dystopia and science-fiction are related to each other; they both tend to contain characteristics of similar nature. However, I feel like dystopia is a genre whose focus is on social aspects, and science-fiction delves into deeper detail about the “how” the environment evolved into the scene they are setting up. Additionally, science-fiction does not necessarily describe an alternate world, but a situation made possible by science, not by social constructs while dystopias emphasize on the inner workings of a society.

When I think of dystopia, the Hunger Games trilogy, Uglies series, and Divergent books are my first thoughts. Some common themes include a setting in a futuristic time period, drastically different social norms, and a hidden discontent among the population. There is also an element of the prominent presence of order, whether it be government, a police force, or the social expectations. The protagonist in these YA dystopian books typically is someone who doesn’t really fit in with others; they may also be questioning the world they grew up in. The dystopia often collapses because of the actions, intentional or unintentional, of the main character. Perhaps the protagonist represents hope or change for a better way of life. Young adult literature has incorporated many themes of dystopia while also adding a modern twist to appeal to their target audience and to set a scenario appropriate to the current time period.

Overall, dystopian literature has effectively captured the main essence of the definition of dystopia, the addition of young adult literature broadened the audience spectrum and evolved the topics that are suitable for the appropriate time period.

Works Cited

  1. “Dystopia Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” Dystopia Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2017.
  2. Claeys, Gregory, ed.The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, 2010. Print.