I recently read Divergent and the similarity between Hunger Games and Divergent struck me. Not the story, but the idea, the setting. Both books showed the end of the world as we know it. Both books were set in a different world. The world was divided into districts or sectors. Both stories had a powerful centre. This centre or government controlled everything. Moreover another similarity was that in both books, the people were not really leading a satisfactory life. Or to put it in better words, the people were not enjoying life. They were restricted to a particular type of lifestyle assigned to them. Seeing these similarities got me thinking. Then I came across the words ‘dystopia’ and ‘utopia’. After coming across these words, I got curious and so I researched (basically googled). And here’s what I have:
Dystopia- an imaginary place or society in which everything is bad.
Utopia- an imagined place or society where everything is perfect.
Dystopian stories are stories of despair while utopian fiction gives a message of hope. Dystopian societies generally have a big government and military who use tactics of intimidation or control. The society is characterized by oppression, hierarchy. The government’s control is never questioned. People are cloned. For example people are reffered to by numbers instead of names. People have no individually. Like I said, they are restricted into a regime.
Utopian societies generally have a Council or communal society. Decisions are made by the government based on the greater good. It is an ideal society. There is no bias. Equality prevails. The society is democratic, fair. The word ‘utopia’ means ‘no place’ in Greek and resembles the Greek term for ‘good place’, ‘eutopia’.
This research made me understand that obviously utopia and dystopia are opposites. Both are majorly different. But I was surprised when I read that very often both utopia and dystopia are grouped together. They are, actually, interchangeable. Most utopic books can be considered dystopic but dystopic books cannot all be considered utopic. Even Hunger Games and Divergent are dystopic books but both stories have a message of hope in them. Both stories have what their respective societies would call rebels. The simple act of Katniss Everdeen and Peta Mellark (SPOILER ALERT) deciding to eat the poisonous berries at the end of the book shows that they were rebellious. The entire point of the Hunger Games was to show the districts that the government had the ultimate power. But Katniss and Peta took their fate in their own hands and decided to die by choice instead of force. Similarly, in Divergent, Beatrice Prior is a rebel. She is different. She is not what the society wants her to be. She goes against instead of following through. So yes, both the books are dystopic but they do have a bit of utopia in them.
But even before I researched all this, I made some conclusions myself. Now I don’t know if I’m right but a book is what a reader interprets it to be, isn’t it? Just like a painting. An artist might have painted something but the audience may perceive it as something completely else. So anyway, what I believe is that somehow, both these stories showcase today’s world. I know it goes against everything but just hear me out. The government is the same as today’s government, eager for power. The people are today’s people, lost in monotony, lost in a regime they didn’t want in the first place. The people are doing what they are supposed to do, not what they want to do i.e. rise to their fullest potential doing what they love. The world in the books is divided into sectors (as mentioned earlier). Isn’t today’s world divided too? The world is divided into countries, states, cities, towns, villages and so much more. People in the books are against change or difference just like the people today. So really, it is pretty much the same. Of course the books show the world as much worse, grief stricken and left with no choice but to live a certain way.
I also got to know that there are a number of dystopic and utopic novels. Some common names that I saw were- The Giver, Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, Hunger Games and Divergent. This made me wonder how so many authors have been thinking of the end of the world as we know it. Do they expect this to happen? Do they expect the world to just fall apart one day and then start over as a world that is completely different?