Based on my experiences with books, films, and reality, I would define Dystopia as a fabrication or imaginary place where people are unable experience even the simplest of pleasures in life; a place where people, who are controlled by a system of extreme oppression and injustice, live unhappy, hopeless, and fearful lives.
My reasoning for this definition comes specifically from the literary dystopia, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and the 2017 dystopian science-fiction action thriller film, What Happened to Monday?. The Handmaid’s Tale cautions society and features a powerful, despotic central authority, a great deal of oppression and injustice, and feelings of terror and hopelessness for the handmaids. Offred, a Handmaid, offers the reader her perspective of her every-day life. In her world, food markets have signs that are pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She, along with the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred remembers the days before, when she had a career, her own money, and access to knowledge; when she could wear what she wanted, when she played with her daughter; and when she and her husband loved each other. She yearns for the even the most trivial things that we as readers wouldn’t think to value.
In the film What Happened to Monday?, overpopulation and famine have forced governments to administer a drastic “One Child Policy”. Sibling children are forcefully removed from their parents and are put into “cryosleep”, where they are supposedly put to sleep and are preserved for their awakening in a better world when the crisis the world is going through is handled and when the population is substantially reduced. Seven identical sisters outwit the strict family-planning agenda by taking turns every day, assuming the identity of one woman. What Happened to Monday? examines how people are desperate to express their individuality and create a distinct identity, as well as how dystopian societies harm their residents’ mental health in order to maintain their hold on power.
These two works have taught me that, although imaginary, dystopias can serve as a warning to us and provide us with viewpoints in which a worst-case scenario is explored. Dystopian fiction introduces us to characters who encounter obstacles that mirror real world events, helping us to forge opinions on important issues.