By Ben Szemerenyi

Modern titles such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, Matched, Gone, Uglies, The Giver and Enders Game, are so popular these days, but why? What is it about the illusion of a perfect world, and living in a dehumanized state that attracts us to these books? Maybe we live in fear about what the world could possibly become one day if society goes off the rails and ends up just like the stories we read. 

The definition of a dystopia: An imperfect world or community in which not all individuals are satisfied with the way the community functions. In literature, a futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst-case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system. 

Take a modern classic for example, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury lived during a time when television was so popular; color TV had just come out. The saying had always been: “If you saw lights on, you knew a family was home.” However, as technology evolved, you could joke that you knew a family was home if the lights were off — with original televisions you had to have complete darkness to get the best picture. Bradbury’s reality inspired his world in Fahrenheit 451, and he asked himself the question, “If the world ends up with everyone stuck watching TV, would anyone read books anymore?” Books, being such a constant and important part of an ever-changing modern world; how would it feel to live without them? These extreme dystopian situations make us wonder how if one tiny thing was taken out of our world what the consequences would be. 

Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior, two iconic dystopian protagonists, both fight against their society for what they believe is right; they fight for their beliefs and their morals that the government doesn’t care about. We look up to these characters in times of hardship or depression, and they give us hope and encouragement. We think about how good we have it now, and how in the past we have had times of immense cruelty— how we can’t ever have it like that again. We become drawn to these books not just for their plot, but for their immense themes and depictions of insane worlds that bear many alarming resemblances to our own; they are fascinating. Just think, “What if…?” Maybe the implications of these dystopias spark a greater resilience in us, and make us hope even more that we will never end up in a world like the stories we read.

1 COMMENT

  1. Ben, this is a clear and engaging description of why Dystopian literature is so alluring to so many of us. Your last paragraph is a sophisticated musing of how contemplating the negative may make us more empowered to draw strength from the positive. Bravo.