Throughout this course, my thinking surrounding dystopias and dystopian elements has somewhat changed. I think that change has mostly been expressed through my identification of various dystopian societies, as well as my personal definition of a dystopia. When focusing on this definition, the one above is different from my original definition. My original definition was: a society that thrives on the conformity and dehumanization of its citizens due to a post-apocalyptic event. It may not seem like much of a change, but to me it is. First, I deleted the phrase “due to a post apocalyptic event,” because I don’t believe that is always the case. Secondly, I added the phrase “constructed from societal fears,” and the term oppression, because I believe they are fundamental aspects of dystopian societies..
Dystopias are usually born out of an attempt to create a utopian society, to combat societal fears. Often unsuccessful, the resulting dystopian societies are riddled with poverty, chaos, and injustices, that lead to the oppression of their citizens. The citizens ultimately mostly have no rights, or say in the choices made on behalf of their well-being. Within the Handmaid’s Tale, it was seen how Young’s Five Faces of Oppression came into play within the fundamentals of the dystopian society. Marginalization, plays a large role within dystopian societies, and is used to create new caste systems in order to establish obedience and conformity within its members and filters out those deemed useless for society. It strips individuality and anything that could cause one to challenge authority. Young describes marginalization as “perhaps the most dangerous form of oppression…A whole category of people is expelled from useful participation in social life and thus potentially subjected to serve material deprivation and even extermination.” This can be seen in many dystopian movies and books. There is always a group looked down upon, and used as an example to enforce conformity. Within the Handmaid’s Tale exploitation, powerlessness, marginalization and violence were all conveyed in order to achieve what they deemed to be a functional society. This type of behavior only produces a society where the citizens fear for their lives resulting in their conformity.
Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan” describes mankind as “the Hobbesian Jungle.” One large dystopia where mankind naturally envies one another. Hobbes explains that the drive of conflict or war is “first, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory.”(Hobbes, 1909). He also explains that mankind is naturally full of greed and we cause our own demise. When trying to reconstruct society, man’s greed often gets the better of himself, pushing for a society that will ensure his guaranteed success, at the expense of another’s. Of course this ulterior motive, is hidden under rules and regulations that are said to improve society, but there is always a bit of corruption involved in these societies. Despite, dystopias are not ideal societies and are not usually formed on purpose. Therefore, I believe this is a suitable definition of a dystopia, as it embodies all of these things. It is developed to combat societal fears, but the oppression and conformity are fundamental aspects that establish that dystopian element.