The City of Ember Essay - Critical Essays

Jeanne DuPrau

Literary Criticism and Significance

The City of Ember, published in 2003, is the first novel written by author Jeanne DuPrau. The book is part of a series of four Books of Ember, which also includes The People of SparksThe Prophet of Yonwood (a prequel), and The Diamond of Darkhold.

Ember is an underground city created to preserve the human race in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. The author, who grew up during the Cold War years, says she drew her inspiration for the books from events of that time in history. The City of Ember is a skillfully rendered work of science fiction with an intriguing mystery at its core. Written in the same vein as Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Gathering Blue, it is included frequently in lists of educational resources for English and social studies and is recommended highly by literary associations focusing on young adult novels.

The City of Ember provides ample material for students to use as a basis for examining prominent issues in contemporary society. Ember is a city with finite resources, a situation which illustrates what might be the consequences when the resources in our own world run out. The theme lends itself easily to consideration of conservation issues of major concern today, including global warming and our dependence on petroleum products. Questions about corruption in government and other bodies of authority and the fair allotment of limited supplies are also addressed, providing stimulating material which can be used in exploring the ramifications of dilemmas such as the distribution of wealth and access to health care.