How can the setting of "Test" be considered a dystopia?

The setting of "Test" can be considered a dystopia in that the protagonist has no control over his choices and is set up to fail by the governing body, which, in turn, will forcibly remove him from society for not conforming. The themes of control, power, and conforming all play into the dystopian genre and ultimately create a setting where individuality is negated and fear is used to manipulate.

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"Test" by Theodore Thomas is a short story about a boy named Robert Proctor. In the first half of the text, Robert is driving with his mother and faces several challenges that he avoids due to his calm and collected demeanor. However, after a tragic crash, Robert wakes up and learns the experience wasn't real. This car crash was a simulation for his driving exam. When Robert pays the attendant and signs the paperwork, he is told that he has failed, because he didn't feel remorse for his actions during the test. As a result, two men drag Robert Proctor away to an unknown location for treatment, creating a dystopian atmosphere where a governing body removes individual choice and invokes fear through scare tactics.

The story itself plays on the concept of reality using a driving simulation that blurs the lines of what is real and what is an illusion. This illusion becomes the vehicle, pun intended, for the dystopian setting to manifest. By essentially tricking the subject into thinking they have completed the exam, the people in power create a catch-22. If the person taking the exam signs the paperwork for the license, they will be taken away for treatment. If they don't, they cannot receive their license.

This form of manipulation is typical of a dystopian society in which governing bodies aim to condition and control their citizens by removing the ability to be an individual. The test itself removes individual feelings and perspectives, forcing all who take it to conform to a specific system of beliefs. In this case, the test will also allow the governing system to remain in control and force their citizens to conform, with the consequence of being taken away. These tactics create a dystopian society that can monitor its citizens and remove individual thought and action.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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