Dystopian Novels and Their Appeal

According to Merriam-Webster, dystopia is defined as “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.” It is opposite of utopia, a slightly more common word, which is defined as “a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions.” Today, there are so many pieces of literature that capitalize on the idea of a dystopian society. Many of them are good pieces of literature. The Giver, 1984, The Hunger Games and Divergent are just a few.

My Creative Writing teacher had a good question in class on Thursday. His question was this: Why does the younger generation find dystopian novels and movies so appealing? Are we that pessimistic about our future?

My answer was the idea or the allusion of the Phoenix. We aren’t pessimistic about the future, rather, we want to know how we will rise above adversity when the world falls apart. We want to see how low the human race can go before it rises from the ashes and rebuilds itself. I think it is this idea of rebirth that we enjoy reading about and watching about, especially since we do not ever think to be in those situations ourselves.

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer here. This is just the first thought that popped into my head when I gave the matter some thought. What do you guys think? Why is the idea of a dystopian society so intriguing?


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3 thoughts on “Dystopian Novels and Their Appeal

  1. katpersephone says:

    That’s a really good question. I love dystopian novels and I think it’s for a similar phoenix reason. I like to know how far a society will go before the people start to fight back and want something better or different. It’s interesting to see what people will allow others do to them and their lives before they either can’t function without it or long enough for a different way of life that they have to go against the grain. And before a society can be rebuilt, it must fall.

  2. abdul j. says:

    I sort of agree in a way. To me, dystopias serve as warnings. Society seems to trend towards improved conditions as a big generalisation imo, but at any point we can slip into any one of those extremist regimes or worlds that novels show us. Things get worse before they get better usually. Darkest before dawn and all that.

    I personally dont read much dystopian stuff, but I do enjoy those sort of settings. But then again I’m a sucker for bittersweet (or outright sad/bad) endings too and also stories where friendships fall apart so maybe I just enjoy seeing the tension as things fall apart in general lol.

  3. bejamin4 says:

    It’s a good question and I think you’re basically right. We like to see things rise above the worst conditions. Hope is one humankind’s favorite words.

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