You may have heard about ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Divergent’, ‘The Maze Runner’ but have you noticed the elements they have in common? All represent a wretched state of society characterized by oppression, unhappiness, and rebellion. They all belong to the genre of dystopian literature.
In the 16th century, Thomas More dreamed of Utopia – an ideal state of things, people and society are happy and peaceful deprived of sadness and destruction. The following centuries proved it impossible for such a state to prevail. There were endless wars, revolts and rebellion,exploitation,unprecedented scientific discoveries, and disruption. All these provided endless materials for the new form of literature – the Dystopian literature.
Dystopia is contrary to Utopia. Dystopia characterizes a complete havoc and a wrecked state which is beyond repair. It portrays an imperfect world. The main themes of such a literature are extreme divisions in society, rebellion, environmental destruction, disaster and dehumanization.
As seen in the above mentioned fictions, there is an organization or a character with a propaganda to dictate people of the state. In such a state, there is a difference of power leading the citizens to an unfair treatment and are left to live in poor conditions. President Snow in The Hunger Games has complete control over the people and people lead their life adhering to his regulations. And so, there is a clear difference in the standards of living between the people of Panem and other districts.
There is no independence, free access to information and all are expected to be uniform leaving no place for individuality. People of the state idolize an authoritarian or an idea. The characters or the people live in an illusion that their society is an utopia. In the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, the state, which is set in Chicago, is divided into five factions namely Abnegation, Erudite, Amity, Dauntless and Candor. It is expected of all people to fall into either one of the factions. But we see that the protagonists Beatrice and Tobias, who don’t belong to any of these factions, are ostracized. In the beginning, the characters in the story believe such a division in society as ideal and necessary for an order in the state.
The characters are often monitored by some authority and nothing misses their watch. Being confined to their own little world, characters fear entering the outside world. They are ignorant of what lies outside their state. The outside world is either banished or not allowed to interact. In The Maze Runner series by James Dashner, the Gladers are constantly watched by some mysterious authority which is later found out to be WICKED. Being shut in the Glade, the characters don’t know what lies outside the maze for none has reached it and came back alive. They accept the challenge and make it out of the maze. They later notice that the outside state is in a state of ruin with a dangerous virus called Flare affecting people. So, the immune Gladers are not allowed to interact with the outside world.
Dystopian literature is also speculative literature. They hypothesize of a future which present conditions may lead to and warns of the imminent dangers. It also criticizes those aspects of society which may cause the downfall in the near future. Now look around and ask yourself if you are living in dystopia.
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