Dystopias in Contemporary Literature

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Why is dystopian fiction appealing and how does its narrative function effectively?

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Dystopian fiction is appealing for two main reasons: first, because it is a way to examine contemporary social problems from a distance and thus get a clearer view of them. Second, the problems characters confront in dystopias are usually overwhelmingly difficult, and, therefore, gripping to read about.

Dystopian novels can offer a clear view of contemporary problems because they tend to use the narrative form to simplify complex issues. In that way, they highlight with stark clarity problems that might be more confusing in real life. For example, The Hunger Games is able to illustrate the wealth divide between the one percent and the rest of society in a very sharp way by making the "rest of us" terribly and desperately poor while the few very rich live in grotesque decadence. Likewise, George Orwell's 1984, by exaggerating the surveillance state and the power of propaganda, is able to highlight similar issues in our own society that we might lose sight of because they are not as acute.

On a narrative level, dystopias, because of the many very harrowing challenges facing the characters, tend to be exciting and keep the pages turning. Utopias, where all is well and flourishing, don't usually have the same excitement value. Most readers gravitate to novels in which characters have to overcome obstacles, and dystopias offer obstacles in spades.

The best dystopian novels have two narrative advantages: a clear, clean storyline that makes the problems at hand obvious and plots filled with life-threatening situations that hold the reader's interest.

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Dystopian fiction is particularly popular with teenagers, I think, because it reminds them of the turmoil in their own minds and bodies. Everything is changing in terms of development, education, relationships, and all else.

Books like The Hunger Games, The Giver, and Fahrenheit 451 encourage the exploration of the dark side of human nature and what we could become if the worst possible thing happened.

It is also appealing because it is exciting and usually involves new, modern technology. This genre has emerged with new technology and a faster-paced world. Now humans are able to imagine these dystopian worlds because we have a better understanding of how we could create them in the future.

The narrative functions well when it is used in a typical hero's journey scenario. This is because when creating an entirely foreign world, a complicated plot can be even more confusing. The world itself almost functions as the plot. In The Hunger Games, the game itself drives Katniss to defy President Snow. In The Giver, Jonas only rebels because he is driven to do so by his environment. The same goes for Fahrenheit 451: Montag only rebels because he is forced by the dystopian society, which allows for no individuality.

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