The concept of utopia--a place of perfection--was first set to writing by Sir Thomas More in 1516 in a whimsical imagining of the ideal society. The birth of the dystopia followed over two centuries later during the French Revolution, when social commentators imagined governments toppled. In The Machine Stops (1909), E.M. Forster penned what is largely considered the first dystopian novel. In his work, Forster described a world in which humanity had lost the ability to live on the surface and were controlled by a vast "machine," representative of technology.
WORTH NOTING: Forster's novel, in some ways, predicted many of the effects technology would have on modern society, including: globalization, networked communications, and even the loss of face-to-face relationships as a result of technology and other social problems.
If literature is a reflection of society, the dystopian novel offers authors and their readers a decidedly pessimistic view. But dystopian literature is more than a dismal prediction. Rather, the "what if?" in this speculative genre interrogates the world, raising awareness to issue in a way that is both jarring and moving. Consider:
According to Chris Robichaud, an ethics professor at Harvard University, fiction has always allowed us to "work our way through problems by telling stories." Teens may gravitate towards dystopian fiction because they are, themselves, beginning to take on adult problems--to grapple with larger world they see messed up by older generations. Dystopian novels offer a validation that their perceptions aren't off...that things need to change. Dystopian literature prepares young adults to step into the world as problem solvers.
Great YA Dystopian Novels
Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin
Answers| Catalog | Guides | Resources | Teachers