My definition of a dystopia is a fictional society in which the ruling body creates strict oppressive conditions to control the general public. I created this identification based on the experiences I have had with different dystopian media. Popular books and other media such as the Hunger Games, 1984, and The Matrix, have shaped what I consider essential to a dystopian story.
The defining characteristic of a dystopia, in my opinion, is control. The people are controlled with communication monitoring, propaganda, threats of violence, economic oppression, abject poverty, and/or rigid class roles. For example, in the Hunger Games, the Capitol holds the hunger games every year as a reminder of the districts’ defeat. With the wealth heavily concentrated at the Capitol, most people are so impoverished that they can not eat consistently. To make matters worse, in exchange for extra rations of food and oil families can enter their children’s names into the reaping additional times. This causes the children of poor families to have more entries in the reaping than children of wealthy families. The primary sources of control shown through this are state-sponsored violence and extreme economic oppression. 1984 is one of the most famous and extreme dystopian societies. In the book, dystopian control is seen as the totalitarian ruling Party with its’ censorship, propaganda, and surveillance. The control on the people is so tight, that the main character Winston is concerned about thought crimes and how Big Brother is always watching. There is also control through manipulation, violence, and control of information, language, and technology among others. The Matrix is more nebulous than the other examples I have used. The characters in The Matrix are in a mind control simulation where they think they have free will, but everything is controlled, preconstructed, and predetermined. All of these examples support my definition that dystopia is a society of oppressive control by egregious means.