Definition of Dystopia
Dystopia is a world in which everything is imperfect and everything goes terribly wrong. Dystopian literature shows us a nightmarish image about what might happen in the near future. Usually the main themes of dystopian works are rebellion, oppression, revolutions, wars, overpopulation and disasters. On the other hand, utopia is a perfect world exactly opposite to dystopia.
Characteristics of Dystopia
- Generally there is no government, or if there is, it is an oppressive and controlling government.
- Either there is a huge income gap between the poor and the rich, or everyone faces extreme poverty.
- Propaganda takes control of human minds.
Examples of Dystopia in Literature
Suzanne Collins depicts a government Panem and future society in her novel, The Hunger Games. Consisting of a central Capitol and twelve remote districts, Panem displays a model of dystopian society due to harsh separation and discrimination between the unkind Capitol and the poor, enslaved outlying districts. We notice throughout the novel that right from the Games to the physical reminder of the Avox servants, Panem’s Capitol makes use of intimidation and violence to control its people living in the Districts. Though Capitol itself might appear utopian due to availability of great quantity of consumer goods; however, its abundance of riches comes at the expenditure of the remote Districts.
In his classic novel, 1984, George Orwell shows a dystopian society. He has written this novel to describe the future and the ways government takes advantage of new technologies in order to rule and control the people. Leading character, Winston Smith, falls in a trap where Big Brother, a leader of the party always watches him and other low-grade members of that society. Inner party members live a luxury life, while outer members live in dirty apartments. Besides, there is no emotional and mental freedom. The party does not allow anyone to rebel, even by using their minds. We see violence everywhere in the society, and majority of people are poor which further proves it as a fine example of dystopia. We notice everything goes decrepit, and its scenes are often dreary and dark.
Aldous Huxley, in his most challenging novel, Brave New World, depicts a futuristic society where individual sacrifices for the cause of state, science controls and subjugate, all types of history, and arts are outlawed. Shortly, this book perfectly fits into a classic form of dystopian literature. Huxley draws dystopia on emotional and political events. He brings dystopian setting by the mention of technology and higher authorities. With the increased use of technology, the need of human work force decreases, leaving them with a great deal of depression. The novel explores dark side of apparently successful world, where everyone looks satisfied and contented with excessive pleasures of technology, which they achieve by sacrificing their personal freedom.
Lois Lowry wrote a dystopian fiction, The Giver, because she thought it could be the best way to express her dissatisfaction about the unawareness of human beings about their dependence upon each other, their surroundings and their environment. By using ironical situations of the utopian appearances, she exposes dystopian realities in order to provoke the readers to raise questions and value their individual identities and freedom. In this novel, Jonas community has no starvation, poverty, lack of housing, unemployment and prejudice and everything seems perfect. However, as the novel advances, Jonas gets insight into people’s personal lives and notices that they have given up their individualities and freedom. Besides, community is a hypocrite conforming to false ideas and becoming a bad place to live in.
Function of Dystopia
Through dystopia, authors express their concerns about issues of humanity and society and warn the people about their weaknesses. Authors use dystopia as a literary technique to discuss the reality and depict issues that might happen in future. Thus the role of dystopia in literary works is to educate and give awareness to the audience. Dystopias also serve as warnings about the current state of affairs of a government, or of those in power. In dystopia, authors point out the wrong doings in a society or a system – the reason that it is often called a critique.