Dystopian Fiction is a very important genre for our time, as it warns us of problems that could affect us in the future if we don’t change our ways. For this project, I compared three books; 1984, Hunger Games and Wall-E. Each of these books demonstrates different aspects about our society and they relate to the real world in different ways. The book, 1984, shows us how the government can take advantage of its people if they are content with their quality of life.
In The Hunger Games, we learn that if people give up their freedom in exchange for their safety following a catastrophic event, it can create a new dangerous government with too much power. Wall-E also sends us another message in a different light, showing us the importance of preserving our natural environment here on Earth. In 1984 the end game was a great war that left Oceania’s people in great fear, allowing the government become all powerful and oppressive. The horror that the people experienced during the war, and their desire for security, allowed the Party and Big Brother to take advantage of a situation that had weakened its citizens freedom of will.
After the great war the government of Oceania exploited it’s people’s fear. The inner Party used technology in scary and effective ways to manipulate their citizens into working almost 24/7. Unlike 1984, the end game event in Hunger Games was famine. This famine caused the government to reform and become authoritarian. The famine not only affected the government, but it also forced the people to give up their freedom and look to the Capitol for help. This led to a very powerful government with full control over its people because of the pain that the famine caused.
Wall-E’s end game conflict that led to mass exodus of earth was simply the pollution of the planet by the human race. Once the planet was uninhabitable, the humans left it up to one robot to clean up the mess that they had made. All three of these books were based on a conflict or problem that reshaped mankind, and the books were used to communicate with us about the problems, risks and dangers of human nature and our society. These three great examples of dystopian fiction demonstrate many things to the reader, but one commonality between them is the greed demonstrated by those in power.
In Hunger Games the Capitol government is a frightening example of abuse of power, oppression and above all greed.. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, follows a young girl named Katniss Everdeen. She lives in a futuristic nation called Panem, which is run by an all-powerful government called the Capitol. Located in the center of Panem, the Capitol rules over a total of twelve districts that surrounds and serves the people living in the Capitol. District 12 is where Katniss Everdeen lives. District 12 the poorest district filled with poverty. She struggles with providing for her family on a daily basis, while those living in the Capitol and other districts have an abundance of food and supplies.
This division among the different groups, or the class system, can be divided into three separate parts, the upper class, the middle class, and the lower class. The wealthiest class is the Capitol, which rules indefinitely over all of the districts. The districts must provide for the Capitol, and participate in the annual hunger games, which was created to show the power of the capitol, and how all other districts are inferior. Unlike the people of the districts, the Capitol people do not have to worry about having enough food; they have an “endless banquet that has been set for them”.
The people of the Capitol have been trained to think that “everything is about them” and are oblivious to the fact that others in their country are suffering greatly. The Capitol is therefore at the top of an oppressive class system. The lower class consists of the poor districts. Katniss herself lives in District twelve, the poorest of all the districts. For Katniss especially, it is difficult to provide food on a daily basis. Katniss must spend “days hunting and gathering for this one meal”. For the poorest people in district twelve “it’s hard not to resent those who don’t have to sign up for the tesserae”, which is a grain given to those who are starving. But when given tesserae, the person’s name is entered a second time into the the hunger games.
Unlike the people in the capitol who spend all of their time trying to look fit, “in District 12, looking old is something of an achievement since so many people die early.” 1984, by George Orwell is very similar to Hunger Games in that both societies are ruled by oppressive governments, and they both have rulers that will stop at nothing to crush a rebellion. Also, in both stories the protagonists act out against the ruling party despite the great danger doing so poses to them. Katniss Everdeen is the heroine in Hunger Games, while Winston Smith plays a similar role in 1984, although to a darker end.
Big Brother is the leader of the Party in Oceania, an authoritarian government that keeps its people in check at all cost. He shares many of the same evil traits as Coriolanus Snow in Hunger Games, most importantly the use of fear to control his subjects. One tactic that Big Brother uses to make sure that the people aren’t doing anything but working is Telescreens. These telescreens are tv monitors that are placed in nearly every public corridor in Oceania, but not only are they in public spaces, they are also in the living quarters of each citizen.
The telescreens watch over the entire population of Oceania 24/7 which has ingrained the idea in each citizens mind that they are being watched over. The telescreens also play propaganda that diminishes any thought of rebellion that might exist. The Party also uses violent methods to discipline it’s citizens. Similarly, in the Hunger Games, cameras are used by the Capitol to watch over all of the districts, and if the districts started to revolt, they are bombed, starved, or the Peacekeeper are sent to squash the rebellion.
Additionally, Snow uses the Hunger Games to focus the people’s anger on the other districts rather the oppressive Capitol of Panem. Big Brother uses the daily two minutes of hate in much the same way, as it focuses the people of Oceania on their external enemies rather than on the evil of the Party. Clearly, there are many parallels between these two dystopian novels, with the most common theme being the danger of an oppressive, greedy government, willing to torture, starve and kill to control the people and eliminate any threat to its absolute power.
Wall-E depicts a slightly different example of greed, but it still holds the same meaning as the other novels. In Wall-e, the people of earth have no desire to save the planet, and only care about the survival and comfort of themselves. The constant pollution, and dumping of waste onto earth showed how selfish the humans were, and once their planet was uninhabitable, instead of changing their behavior and trying to find a solution to aid the planet’s health, they flew off on a ship abandoning the planet all together.
Again in this example of greed, the humans were controlled by the thought of survival and material comforts, and they were blind to the consequences of their actions. In this dystopian novel, we are given other important warnings of what the future could bring to humans if we are not self-aware and empathetic. In Wall-e every aspect of humans lives on the Axiom are consumed by technology. It tells them what to do and when to do it. They are waited on by the robots so that they don’t have to walk or get up from their chairs. Their screens block them from the outside world, and even what is going on in the room around them. They are so dependent on, and addicted to their technology that they lose contact with the other humans around them including their families.
The robots control almost every aspect of their daily lives, but humans on the Axiom are lazy enough to let them. The passengers on the Axiom have the technology do simple things for them such as brush their teeth, change their clothes, and even walk for them, and this book makes us ask will the humans of today eventually live like this? We already have machines that do most of our work for us but will we stop walking completely? In Wall-e the passengers on the Axiom actually acquired a significant bone loss due to the fact that they were living in space so long and relying on technology to do their work for them.
Physical movement and contact with each other is what makes us what we are, and if we become that dependent on technology we will lose our sense of self and community. We will have almost no identity anymore and become all alike. At times it seems that our society is so focused on technology and what it can do to make our lives easier. We want the things we don’t have right now and will often stop at nothing to acquire them, especially if we believe it will make our lives better. Letting technology control every part of our world will change how we live in so many ways and unfortunately most could be for the worst.
On this front, Hunger Games is most similar to Wall-E, as it also shows what could happen if people give up their freedom for comfort and material happiness. By doing this the people of the Capitol give the government an unparalleled amount of power over it’s people which can lead to many problems. When the people in the book gave up their freedom for creature comforts, it immediately created a dependence and subservience to those that protected and fed them. The people who lived in the Capitol were the ruling class.
Not only were they treated better by the Capitol government for their loyalty, they lived a lavish life at the expense of their fellow citizens. Every other district was not in the same position as the Capitol and that was made clear. The only benefit that any of the other districts were given was “safety and security”, but even that was violated in the later books when the Capitol started to bomb the rebelling districts that saw how unfairly they were being treated. Hunger Games shows us the importance freedom, without it the world would become a corrupt place where only those with absolute, oppressive power benefit.
Dystopian fiction is needed in our society today because we constantly need to be reminded of the mistakes we are making, and the risks of taking the wrong path. Dystopian fiction opens up the eyes of it’s readers, it shows us problems that we may not even be aware of, just like the problem with freedom of speech. Without Dystopian fiction, our society may remain the same, and that may be fine for people, but by reading these books we are given an incentive to improve as human beings and be better as a community and society. Becoming too comfortable and content with what you have is one of the problems highlighted in 1984.
Because most of the people of the working class were comfortable and content with their quality of life, they were blind to the fact that their government was taking advantage of them. Always wanting and protecting our freedom and independence is critical for us to maintain a happy life. Whether it be on the athletic field, or in the classroom, or in any other aspect of life and community. Dystopian fiction shines a light on humanities imperfections and the risks of human nature. Authors need to keep writing books in this genre to make our society continues to improve as a whole, and to motivate each one of us to be a better person.