This poster, Courtesy of Sommer Leigh’s blog, does a good job of explaining the interest in dystopian fiction, which got me thinking: what would a character from a dystopian novel think about our world today?
Dystopian novels tend to focus on a single segment of society gone awry. The story of 1984, takes place in the repressive country of Oceania, although there are other parts of the world we never see. The Hunger Games shows the stark contrast between the oppressed in the colonies and the oppressors in the Capital. Even Divergent has those poor souls imprisoned in a ruined future Chicago, with a vague world beyond the fence.
If I were to tell a story from within some of the worst societies in our world today, how would it look? I could argue that Divergent’s Tris would be appalled by retraining camps in North Korea and Katniss Everdeen would be shocked by the sight of beheaded children publicly displayed in the Middle East. My own Orah Weber from The Children of Darkness would be livid at political and religious movements around the world, like Boko Haram in Nigeria, that stifle free thought and limit the potential of their people.
But as the above poster says, dystopian novels are not just about a world that’s dangerous and alien. They’re also about the ability of individuals to survive and flourish, to overcome the world’s demons and become a catalyst for change.
To counter the despair, we have examples like Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot for trying to get an education, now crusading for her cause in some of the worst spots on earth. Millions work in relative anonymity under difficult circumstances to improve the lives of others (health care providers dealing with the Ebola outbreak come immediately to mind).
Unlike the novels, the press emphasizes the dystopia, but there are surely heroes everywhere. And therein lies the hope, in these sad times, to someday make a better world.