What is a Dystopia? pt. 2

Throughout the semester, we have looked at dystopian books like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson. We have also watched dystopian movies such as “Battle Royale” by Koushun Takami and a movie adaptation of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. Each one of these dystopias were different but the underlying characteristics were similar. At the beginning of the semester, I defined a dystopia as a place set in the future where people are subjected to different types of oppression. My revised definition of a dystopia is a place set in the future where an authoritative figure or group oppresses society.

Similar to my initial definition of a dystopia, oppression is a key factor in dystopian societies. These societies usually fail by a certain population or group being subjected to a type of oppression. According to the “Five Faces of Oppression”, by Iris Young, there are five categories of oppression which are exploitation, violence, marginalization, powerlessness, and cultural imperialism. Young outlines a system to classify oppression into a more coherent definition. In books, films, and real-life dystopias reflect at least one type of oppression.

Although oppression is a major component of a dystopia, it is not the only component. What separates dystopian from post-apocalyptic is who or what is the cause of the oppression. According to Thomas Hobbes in chapter XIII from “Leviathan”, Mankind cannot function without governmental order. The natural qualities of men lead to conflict and is the reason Hobbes’ emphasizes the necessity of government. This ideology is the basis for dystopian governments because it argues that mankind needs to be controlled. Dystopian societies are likely to have totalitarian and/or authoritarian governments. Totalitarianism, according to Oxford Languages, is a system of government that is centralized, dictatorial, and requires complete subservience from the state. Authoritarianism, according to Oxford Languages, is a system that enforces or advocates strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom. Therefore, governmental oppression or oppression from leaders in power is a large part of dystopias as well as the oppression itself.

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