What is a dystopia?

dystopia – the oppression and openly displayed discrimination against a species, race, gender, or any broad category that displays a group of people for the benefit of the government. 

To begin my explanation on why I choose this definition to define a dystopia is by defining and recognizing that in any dystopia there is always oppression of some kind. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary oppression is the unjust and cruel exercise of authority or power. Using the word oppression to define a dystopia recognizes that there is unfairness or injustices being done, but it doesn’t specifically recognize to whom yet. According to Iris Young’s Five Faces of Oppression, she defines oppression “as exercising of tyranny by a ruling group”, which also emphasizes and recognizes that there is unjust authority present in this dystopian society. 

To further explain my definition of a dystopia is to now recognize that there is open discrimination. Discrimination is defined as prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment in Merriam Webster’s dictionary. I believe that discrimination is an important aspect of the definition that recognizes that there is a sort of mistreatment of something or someone in the dystopia.  Openly is an important factor because someone can discriminate against someone secretly in a mental way or personal beliefs. Open discrimination shows that the feelings of superiority or hierarchy is displayed to the public, which then can be inferred that a type of fear and marginalization is taking place in the dystopia. Referencing the past books that we have read in class Handmaid’s Tale and The Brown Girl in the Ring are both societies that marginalized something. In the Handmaid’s Tale, it was women and in The Brown Girl in the Ring it was people that were poor. These examples, rollover into the next portion of my definition of a dystopia, which is “discrimination against a species, race, gender, or any broad category that displays a group of people”. When talking about marginalization, Iris Young explained marginalization in terms of oppression as “Marginals are people the system of labor cannot or will not use… there is a growing underclass of people permanently confined to lives of social marginality…” (Young 50) In dystopias, there is not only marginalization, but there is also discrimination, where they can still move on because everyone is entitled to their opinion, but more like there is discrimination and the authority that presides over the society will express this dislike for the people being marginalized, discriminated against, and oppressed. 

To explain the last portion of my definition of dystopia is “… for the benefit of the government”. I wanted to emphasize this part, because the government is the oppressor usually in all dystopian societies. The government in these societies aren’t just oppressing a specific group of people, but they are benefiting from it. The main advantage that the government gains from oppressing its citizens is maintaining their government by any means necessary. They will censor any knowledge, eradicate anyone that disagrees with the government’s belief, and withhold any information. For example, in the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, the main job of their firefighters was to burn all books, in the Handmaid’s Tale the commander had a bible that was kept hidden, and in The Planet of the Apes, the Zaius the Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith kept the ancient scrolls that no other ape could see. All of these different dystopian governments hid information opposing their governmental beliefs or any information that would give their citizens a perspective of the world before their government took over. Dystopian governments strive from instilling fear into their citizens and making their citizens believe that the only government and belief is the one they are forcing on everyone. This method also instills security for the government knowing that no one would overthrow them, because the society believes that it can never be done and the society that they live in will never change. 

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