Thursday, April 7

The Giver & Dystopia

There's no shortage of young adult dystopian literature these days, and many students are eager to try their hand at writing a dystopian novel of their own, but how to begin?  First we begin with the differences between dystopian and utopian fiction...

While 'utopia' is considered the perfect place, the perfect place for one is never the perfect place for all.  Some people use the term 'utopian' to negatively describe a belief as somewhat naive and idealistic. 

A utopian society is characterized by:
  • Peaceful, benevolent government
  • Equality for citizens 
  • Access to education, healthcare, employment, and so forth
  • Citizens are free to think independently
  • A safe, favorable environment 
  • Set religious beliefs guide peoples’ actions and organization
  • Life is easier, more convenient, we are healthier and live longer
  • Money is abolished; citizens only do the work they enjoy
  • Back to nature – humans live in harmony with nature and reject industrialization
  • Governing body is equitable, fair, and beneficial to its citizens
On the other hand, a dystopia plays upon our deepest fears - a loss of life, liberty, and happiness.  Because dystopian literature takes place in the future, it often features technology more advanced than that of the time and place in which it was written.  

Typically, a dystopian story has a back story of war, revolution, uprising, a spike in overpopulation, a natural disaster, or some other event which resulted in dramatic changes to society.  Authors can use a dystopia effectively to highlight their own concerns about societal trends.

A dystopian society is characterized by: 
  • Propaganda replaces education and is used to control the citizens of society
  • Information, independent thought, and freedom are restricted
  • Citizens are perceived to be under constant surveillance
  • Citizens have a fear of the outside world
  • Citizens live in a dehumanized state
  • The natural world is banished and distrusted
  • Citizens conform to uniform expectations. Individuality and dissent are bad. 
  • Corporate control: One or more large corporations control society
  • Bureaucratic control: Society is controlled by a mindless bureaucracy through a tangle of red tape, regulations, and power-hungry officials
  • Technological control: Society is controlled by technology
  • Philosophical/religious control: Society is controlled by philosophical or religious ideology
  • A protagonist who questions the society
When writing a dystopian story, there must be some familiarity for the reader.  The story needs echoes of the reader’s own experience in our know world.  If the reader can identify the patterns or trends in their modern society that might lead to the dystopian situation, it becomes a more involving and effective experience. 

Our spine read for this unit is The Giver (Lois Lowry)

Access the entire unit with the Literary Elements Novel Study Bundle!!

Five unit studies covering literary styles and elements. Each unit addresses a new topic and includes introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.
  • After this text, you will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.

  • Literary Elements with Dragonwatch (product sample)
  • Creating a World with the Phantom Tollbooth
  • Writing Dystopia with the Giver
  • Writing Fantasy with the Hobbit
  • Writing Surrealism with Tuck Everlasting

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