Utopia and Anti-Utopia

Hubler, Angela E.
http://www.solidarity-us.org/site/node/4201

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/07/2014
Year Published:  2014  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20787

In response to the recent popularity of dystopian series "The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins, Hubler examines the genre of dystopian and utopian fiction.

Abstract: 
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Excerpt:

In The Giver, Lowry warns that dystopia results from efforts to construct an ideal society, and that a loss of individual freedom is the cost of utopian striving. Rather than social change, in the third book of the tetralogy inaugurated by The Giver, she prescribes a religious remedy for social conflict. Like L'Engle, Lowry stresses the dangers of mind control, affirms the current U.S. status quo, and discourages collective efforts to improve on it.

Other old chestnuts typically assigned to middle and high school students -- George Orwell's 1984 and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, for example -- reiterate L'Engle's and Lowry's ideological themes. Some recent young adult dystopian novels offer a more radical perspective on the theme of mind control, demonstrating how technology can enforce the capitalist imperative to consume, for example M. T. Anderson's Feed.

There are now 23 million copies of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games in print according to Scholastic Press, compared to more than five million copies of The Giver. Of the two writers, however, Lowry is the more lauded, and her books have a firm place in the school curriculum: one of my sons read The Giver in the sixth and ninth grades, and the other was assigned the book in two different classes as well!

Generically, Lowry's and Collins' trilogies are similar, and like most dystopian writers, both promote individual resistance to totalitarianism. But while both depict dystopian societies, their representation of these societies is very different. Collins is more pessimistic than Lowry in assessing the United States -- suggesting a dystopian future if her warnings against dangerous tendencies are not heeded -- and more optimistic about the possibility of collective efforts to achieve social justice.
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