Dystopian Literature AN INTRODUCTION… What is a Utopia? Utopia: A place, state, or condition that is ideally perfect in respect of politics, laws, customs, and conditions
In most dystopian movies and novels, the society starts out as a utopia. Over time, the controlling force(s) take away certain freedoms from its citizens turning it into a dystopia. What is a Dystopia? Dystopia: an imaginary futuristic world in which society lives under: the oppression of a totalitarian government a repressive society a force of technology a corrupt business corporation What is a Dystopia? Society itself is typically the antagonist Society is actively working against the protagonist’s aims and desires Main conflict is normally Man vs. Society
The best dystopian stories speak to a deeper meaning… What it means to be one small part of a larger civilization What it means to be an individual or human Focus of Dystopian Literature Dystopias often focus on a current social, technological, or governmental trend and shows us what would happen if this trend went too far Basically, it’s an exaggerated “worst-case scenario” This allows the author to make a criticism of a trend in the real world Focus of Dystopian Literature For Example: Throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, dystopian literature became a way for American authors to criticize communism and socialism Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1931) Anthem by Ayn Rand (1937) Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945) 1984 by George Orwell (1949) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957) Dystopian Genre Characteristics Control Information, ideas, choices, and freedoms are restricted or removed by the controlling power / government Surveillance Citizens are constantly monitored and watched by those in control Dehumanization Citizens are forced to live in a ‘dehumanized’ or animalistic state Dystopian Genre Characteristics Conformity Uniformity is expected All citizens are alike and the same Individuality is bad Limited World View Citizens have a lack of knowledge and fear of the ‘outside’ world Propaganda Messages designed to influence and control the attitude of citizens toward some cause, belief, or position by presenting only one side of the argument Dystopian Genre Characteristics Powerful Leader A figurehead or idea is worshipped by the citizens Controlled Environment Elements of the natural world is banished, removed, and/or distrusted Perfect World Citizens believe they are living in a perfect world – a utopian society They don’t want to see a need for change Traits of a Dystopian Protagonist Often feels trapped and is struggling to escape Questions the existing social and political systems Believes or feels that something is terribly wrong with society in which he/she lives Helps the reader/audience recognize the negative aspects of the dystopian society through his/her perspective Common Themes in Dystopian Literature Note: Theme is a statement or message that the author is making about a particular idea or topic within the context of a story. In essence, a theme is the main idea or some type of lesson or message that the author wants to convey to the reader/audience.
The Danger of a Particular Type of Government The Importance of Knowledge and Truth The Dangers of a Particular Policy The Danger of Allowing One Group Too Much Power Common Themes in Dystopian Literature The Importance of Free Will and Individuality The Danger of Technology The Danger of Desensitization The Importance of Humanity The Danger of Human Nature Characteristics of Dystopian Literature Control Traits of a Dystopian Protagonist Feels trapped and is struggling to escape Surveillance Questions existing social and political system Dehumanization Believes something is terribly wrong with society Conformity Helps reader understand the negative aspects of the society in which s/he lives Limited World View Propaganda Powerful Leader Controlled Environment Perfect World Look for… How are things different in “Harrison Bergeron” then they are now? Is the change made in the story progress? Why/Why not? What was affected by the changes made? What was negative and what was positive about the change?