Utopia is defined as “an ideal place or state [or] any visionary system of political or social perfection” (Dictionary.com). It derives from the Greek, literally translating into “no place.” Strange how utopian novels and stories have been around for 500 years, and yet people still think an utopian society is possible to create. Please welcome into the argument, the dystopian novel.
I believe that the word “dystopian” is viewed in a negative light. We read these stories of children murdering each other, burning books, deciding factions, and rewriting the 1980s as strange worlds we would never live within, but that’s a lie. The real reason we cling to dystopian novels is because dystopian is a fancy term for the real world, our world. You know, the one you live in right now? This is a dystopian society. Just because people don’t go out and shoot their neighbors in the night or live in tight cliques doesn’t mean we aren’t a dystopian society.
Wait, people do both those things, and many more ridiculous examples of human behavior on a daily basis. And trust me, none of those actions are dauntless in any way.
We’re humans and we’re flawed. I think those are the lyrics to a song, probably by Lady Gaga or something. I’m so behind in the pop music scene. Trying to stay on track (get it? Track, like a song track? Or are we too digital to get that reference?), dystopian novels have become a large part of the mainstream literature, and it’s taken too dang long to get there. Authors have been paving this path for decades and centuries because too many think we can create a perfect society based on our political and social approaches and we can’t (I’m looking at you, Foucault). Dystopian novels are the closest things we have to crystal balls to glimpse our future world; we’re just too terrified to admit which one we’re the closest to sinking into. Personally, The Giver is the only one I’d be okay with, probably because there aren’t dying children.
Seriously, why are children always our torture subjects in this genre?
Perhaps the scariest image of all would be to see an utopia in action, going perfectly well, because then we would realize we could fit into categories and get along with everyone we see. By then, we’d be no better than androids without a personality chip, and a world without sarcasm would be very dim indeed. Plus, imagining a world where I get along with all my co-workers… never mind, I refuse to finish that thought. It’s too irrational.