Dystopian Societies in Literature

Updated May 15, 2021

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Dystopian Societies in Literature essay

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“The life where nothing was ever unexpected. Or inconvenient. Or unusual. The life without colour, pain or past.” (Lois Lowry, The Giver) Dystopian societies are produced in literature and media to express the necessity of change in our modern world. They can come as a warning sign to help people rethink decisions that can lead to a more secure future. Dystopian societies in modern books and movies such as Idiocracy, The Giver, Uglies, Harrison Bergeron, Fahrenheit 451, The Hunger Games, and 1984 all show signs of a nightmarish image that may occur in the near future of our society.

These futures could turn up in 1 million years, or even tomorrow… In Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the reality is an idea of the person living in it. There are no books and firefighters who burn books instead of fighting fires. Children aren’t taught core values and basic human morals, instead they are taught basically the opposite.

During a conversation with Montag about her friends, Clarisse responds, ‘I’m afraid of children my own age. They kill each other’ (Bradbury 27). The government became an overpowering force for evil. A clear dystopia can be very transparent for someone involved in it, this is because most dystopia’s started out as an apparent utopia. The utopia in Fahrenheit 451 started out trying to enforce equality, however, to stop people from getting too intelligent they removed books. They couldn’t make everyone the same without bringing people down, and they brought down the intellectuals to the level of a normal person.

The same thing happened in the story Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., except in this story the handicaps were more physical. ‘George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.’ (Vonnegut) People were required to wear handicaps that would make everyone equal.

People who were stronger than normal would have to carry weights strapped down to them; people smarter would have to wear transmitters to slow down their thinking and the people who are prettier or more handsome would have to wear masks to cover up their beauty. ‘All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.’ (Vonnegut) A great example of a dystopian movie would be Idiocracy, directed by Mike Judge. In this movie, a government test on human hibernation went wrong.

The two test subjects in this movie were put to rest for 500 years. They eventually woke up to a world of stupidity. The average intelligence of a human had dropped down so low, the world was turned into a dystopia. People had stopped learning and reading and were turned into mindless dummies all to make life ‘easier’. The land was turned into a dump, the people ate dirt and were unable to talk normally. ‘You know, there was a time in this country when smart people were considered cool… well maybe not cool, but they did things like build ships and pyramids and they even went to the moon.’ (Judge, Idiocracy)

Lastly, the book Uglies by Scott Westerfeld shows another form of a dystopia. In this story, children are forced at the age of 16 to undercome a series of plastic surgeries where they would be turned from an ‘Ugly’ to a ‘Pretty’. This is again a way to make everyone equal. They remove the characteristics that set everytone apart and turn everyone into people that look the same. The pretty surgery isn’t just about making everyone nice to look at. It’s also about making everyone equal in the city.

This is why Uglies believe the pretty surgery is so crucial, they make the people equal so people don’t get mad or hurt. This all seems good, but behind the curtains of the operating table, they are secretly implementing brain lesions that make you lose intelligence. These lesions will be removed if the pretty goes into a mentally demanding career. In this dystopia, they are removing individuality and creating basically mindless robots. All of these dystopias were started for a positive reason, they were believed to be utopias. Although not all of the characteristics of these dystopian societies are too far-fetched from present-day society.

For example, in Uglies people receive plastic surgery to remove any of their physical imperfections. This is a trait that people even today have, celebrities and people all around the world go to plastic surgeons to make them look ‘pretty’ just as the people in Uglies did. Even the movie Idiocracy has some similarities to everyday American culture. New inventions and ideas are being invented on a daily basis to make life easier. This is exactly what happened in Idiocracy, and maybe in 500 years could happen to us. Harrison Bergeron, the society with physical handicaps is very different from our society today. Today, smart people are not told to act dumb. The intelligent people have their mind power appreciated. We have competitions where people show off their strength, instead of being forced to hide it.

Beauty is shown off nowadays. We have jobs for people to show off their beauty or handsomeness professionally, models. Fahrenheit 451 seems to be a total opposite of our society today. People today are encouraged to read and get smarter. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss. Reading today is a way to learn new things and further advance an individuals vocabulary, and firefighters, they are not sent to burn books.

Today firefighters are heroes. They are the people that save people from burning buildings, cats from trees, and people from car crashes. I don’t think that if I hadn’t read Fahrenheit 451 I would have ever imagined a firefighters job to burn books. All of these similarities and differences of dystopias are what we experience each day. In the future so much will change, and we have to wait until then to realize which of the dystopian characteristics will actually become implemented into this reality. The world is changing every day and we will never know the state of our future world. Societies can differ in many ways, especially when comparing fictional work to real life non-fiction. We now know that when comparing societies, there are multiple societal elements and pros and cons to all different societies.

A dystopian society such as the ones mentioned above has many oppositions against our modern day society. Most importantly, in the areas of academic or intellectual, cultures and social skills. When you think about it from a higher perspective, choosing whether a society is utopian or dystopian is really in the eyes of the beholder. My dystopian society could be your utopian perfect society. Choices in societal perfections are in your eyes and is for you to decide. I challenge you to determine if your utopian society is someone else’s dystopian society. You might just learn something new about your community if you open your eyes to new ideas.

Dystopian Societies in Literature essay

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Dystopian Societies in Literature. (2021, May 15). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/dystopian-societies-in-literature/


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