What are some examples of dystopian characteristics?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story The Twenty-One Balloons is a story about a utopia, but the question asks about what are some dystopian characteristics. I'll provide information about typical dystopian characteristics, and they can be contrasted with a utopia.  

The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the following definition for "dystopia."  

An imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.

That's a fairly limited and broad definition. It doesn't provide typical features that cause the citizens to be dehumanized and fearful. The following elements are typical features of many dystopian societies.  

  • Propaganda is used heavily to control citizens. 
  • Citizens have a fear of the outside world or other societies.  
  • Information, freedom, and independent thought are restricted.  This is completely different in The Twenty-One Balloons. The story emphasizes the themes of creativity, individuality, and cooperation.
  • Citizens conform to uniform expectations. Individuality and dissent are not promoted. 
  • The citizens are under constant surveillance, or they believe that they are. 
  • Some kind of leader, figurehead, or concept is supposed to be worshiped by the citizens. 
Read the study guide:
The Twenty-One Balloons

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