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Utopian and Dystopian Literature

09 Nov

Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal society, or utopia, as the setting for a novel. The biggest issues that cause conflict are solved in the novel: there is no longer war, illness, poverty, or inequality. Sometimes a more enlightened group helps guide the novels society to a better world.

        New Harmony by F. Bate, Example Of A Utopia

        Depiction Of A Utopia From By F. Bate

        Characteristics:

  • peaceful government
  • equality for citizens
  • access to education, welfare and unemployment
  • a safe environment

Examples: Utopia by Sir Thomas More and Erewhon by Samuel Butler

                                                                         

Utopia sets out a vision of an ideal society. As the title suggests, the work presents an ambiguous and ironic projection of the ideal        state.

Erewhon, like much of the Utopian literature, can be seen as Utopian satire. It is most notable in the inversion of illness and                   crime, with punishment for the former and treatment for the latter.

Dystopian fiction is the opposite: creation of an utterly horrible or degraded society that is generally headed to an irreversible oblivion, or dystopia.

        Characteristics:

  • usually a controlling, oppressive government or no government
  • either extreme poverty for everyone or a huge income gap between the richest characters and the poorest characters
  • propaganda controlling people’s minds
  • freethinking and independent thought is banned

Examples: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronic Roth and 1984 by George Orwell

                                          Front Cover

The Hunger Games is about a lottery in which children are picked to fight to the death. 

Divergent is about a society split into five factions based on five different personality characteristics as a method to retain control           over human nature.

1984 is an example of a dystopia in which British society, over time, became warped and transformed into an extreme totalitarian           state. In addition to controlling the press, the food, and relationships of the state’s inhabitants, the manipulation and control of               human thought itself is the goal of this regime.

Both the Utopian and Dystopian Literature is found in speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural, apocalyptic, alternative history, or other type of fiction that is not strictly realistic) or science fiction stories.

Subgenres:

        Combination is when the novel combines both a Utopia and a dystopia, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity           can take in its choices, ending up with one of two possible futures.

        Examples: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift and The Giver by Lois Lowry

                                            Front Cover                             Front Cover

        In Gulliver’s Travel, Lemuel Gulliver visits, Brobdingnag and Country of the Houyhnhnms approach a utopia; the others have                   significant dystopian aspects.

        In The Giver, the world is described as a utopia, but as the book progresses, the world’s dystopian aspects are revealed

        Ecotopian Fiction is where the author posits either a Utopian or dystopian world revolving around environmental conservation or             destruction.

        Example: Nature’s End by  Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka

                      

        Nature’s End posits a future in which overpopulation, pollution, climate change, and resulting super storms, have led to a popular             mass-suicide political movement.

        Feminist Utopias contrasts the present world with an idealized society, criticizes contemporary values and conditions, sees men         or masculine systems as the major cause of social and political problems, and presents women as equal to or superior to men.

        Example: Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle’s

          

         In Golden Witchbreed, gender is not chosen until maturity, and gender has no bearing on social roles.

        By Kari W.

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1 Comment

Posted by on November 9, 2014 in Thomas More's Utopia

 

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One response to “Utopian and Dystopian Literature

  1. eawrap

    November 10, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Why did Thomas More choose to write a utopia?

     

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