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Dystopian Literature Introduction

Dystopian Literature
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
 Information, ideas, choices, and freedoms are restricted or removed by
the controlling power / government
 Citizens are constantly monitored and watched by those in control
 Citizens are forced to live in a ‘dehumanized’ or animalistic state
Dystopian Genre Characteristics
 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
 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
Limited World View
Powerful Leader
Controlled Environment
Perfect World
Traits of a Dystopian Protagonist
Feels trapped and is struggling to escape
Questions existing social and political system
Believes something is terribly wrong with society
Helps reader understand the negative aspects of
the society in which s/he lives
Look for…
 How are things different in “Harrison Bergeron” then they are
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?