Friday, December 12, 2014

Dystopian Literature, and Why We Should Read It

What is dystopian literature?

According to, dystopia means:  "An imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly."  Another way to say it would be anti-utopia.  That makes a lot of sense, right?  At least, if you know (as most of you do) that utopia means:  "An imaginary place in which the government, laws, and social conditions are perfect."

I'm sure that quite a lot of you have read The Hunger Games, Divergent, Legend, The Maze Runner, or some other dystopian book.  They're kind of dark.  Depressing.  In every single one that I've read, the government is very corrupted and the reason everyone is, "unhappy and usually afraid."  A lot of people die, and most of the endings are very bittersweet.  They're not something you want to spend all of your time reading.

So, why is this kind of thing being written so frequently?

Why do people write dystopian literature?

We live in a fallen society.  The America we know is nothing like what it was intended to be.  The government is attempting to gain more power.  Barack Obama is blatantly disregarding the Constitution.  Illegal immigrants are flooding in from Mexico.  It seems like America is on a downward track.  Those books I mentioned above all take place in an American future.  This is what people see as the tomorrow of our nation.  They see the government taking over, corrupted and power-hungry.  But afraid of uprising.  They see people dying as a part of normal life.  They see people giving up, accepting tyranny because they don't know anything else.  And they see people standing up in the midst of millions, saying:  "I will not submit."

In a way, it's beautiful.  Tragically beautiful, but beautiful nonetheless.  Because it's realistic.  The heroes are flawed.  There are a lot of areas that seem grey.  It's a picture of humanity that fills us with sadness and recognition.

But there's one thing that I really don't like about them.  They're Godless.  Besides Divergent, I've never seen Him mentioned.  Now, maybe you're thinking:  Slow down, Anna.  You said this is what they see the future as.  Maybe they think the future will be Godless.  Yeah, maybe.  But I don't.  Yes, I'm a Christian.  I'm biased.  Christianity is my worldview, and a worldview is the lens through which we see the world.  I believe that Jesus will return before the world is completely devoid of Christians.  And also, even without the one true God, history has shown that people will look for a god.  Someone bigger and much more powerful than anyone on earth.  Humans say that they want to be completely independent, but we look for rules.  This stems from the idea of right and wrong, but it carries into everything.

And now you probably have a question, inspired by the title of this post.

Why should we read dystopian literature?

I had a hard time finding the words to express this, but I think I've finally got it.  We should read dystopian literature in order to understand what's going on today (look for similarities and differences when you read) and to understand what to do about the future.  While I realize that the future portrayed in those books is very circumstantial and not likely to be that way in reality, there are some things we should pay attention to.  If the book talks about how the world ended up that way, look for that in our culture.  When you're making political decisions in real life, think about how this could impact the future.  Think about what you do.

There are many dystopian books that I don't like or even think are badly written.

How can we avoid a dystopian future?

It may seem like a good idea at the time to take away our guns.  But when we can't protect ourselves, who are we going to entrust with our safety?  It may seem like a good idea at the time to elect leaders who want to limit the amount of harm we can do ourselves.  But we're human, and even government is fickle.  When they control our lives, we will realize that we need to take responsibility for ourselves.  So think for yourself.  Trust but don't overtrust.  Don't give in to peer pressure when you know it's wrong.  And pay attention.  So many people expect others to take care of things for them, but everybody else is thinking the same thing!  Look at the world and see how you can help.

Now--the warning

Don't overread dystopian literature.  While it can help us see the state we're heading for, it also represents the state humans are in right now.  The writers aren't perfect unbiased seers, they're flawed and sinful just like everyone else.  So nothing will be objective, and to be honest, dystopian literature is just plain depressing.  And we do not want a bunch of informed, depressed people.  So read dystopian literature, but think about it.  Think about what is true in it and what isn't.  What could be fixed and what should, and by whom?

Think.  Because the whole point of dystopian literature is that people didn't think for themselves.

Oops, I think I've just made you really depressed.

I know I feel it about to take over.  But we have a hope in Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross for our sins!  And remember whatever happens, God has us in his hands, and nothing that happens to us happens without him letting it.  "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them shall fall to the ground apart from your Father."  Matthew 10:29