What I consider fascinating about a large portion of dystopias is how they play with the definition of a dystopia. In a lot of young adult dystopias, the author will often include a region, or class, that has a ‘utopia.’ What purpose does this bubble serve? Does it have to do with defining a dystopia and/or a utopia, or does it serve as a contrast?
In Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, The Capitol serves a dual purpose. The first purpose is easy to see; as the residents of The Capitol lead an easy and luxurious life, they are considered the utopia by the residents of the districts. However, what only a few Capitol residents understand is that their utopia is, in actuality, a dystopia. The incredible amount of government surveillance and manipulation could not allow for The Capitol to be a utopia.
Similarly, Lauren Destefano’s Wither contains a significant class distinction. The richest members of society seclude themselves from the chaos of a world ridden by genetic disease, and kidnap young women from outside the walls of their immense properties to provide themselves with wives. The hidden power struggle, however, is between members of the First Generation (those who live endlessly long lives due to genetic manipulation) and their children. The dystopia within the elite class is showcased through the actions of the First Generations. Those who remain exert immense control the lives of their children. In Wither, Linden Ashby has no idea that the world outside his bubble is in ruin: his father, a First Generation, keeps every possible imperfection away from his eyes.
What I also found quite intriguing in Wither, specifically, was the impact of dystopian and utopian elements on the progression of age. As soon as a woman can bear a child, she may be kidnapped to be married off and do so. Furthermore, those who manage to escape the clutches of the Gatherers live quite a hard life. Finding food and safety is a constant struggle, which leads to premature maturation. Since individuals are forced to enter adult roles earlier (as there are virtually no adults), they mature faster.