What is a Dystopia?

According to Webster’s dictionary, the definition of dystopia is:

an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives


In class we further discussed and dissected this definition and pondered if it was sufficient enough to cover the whole aspect of a dystopia and its characteristics. In doing so, we ended up with this new definition:

An imaginary or real place whose people may lead a restricted and oppressive existence under some form of authority

XCOR 3010 Class Discussion

While I do think that this definition does a better job of encapsulating the essence of a dystopia, there are still some improvements to be made. But before doing this, it’s important to list out the common traits and aspects of a dystopia so that we have a clearer view of what we’re looking for within the definition.

Observing and analyzing popular dystopian films, literature, and other media, it is clear that the dystopian theme for many may involve dictatorships, arrogance, imperialism, government oppression, collectivism, or a false sense of reality. On a more general level we see that dystopias heavily involve a sense of oppression, lack of control, and hidden knowledge. But I also think that these traits should not always have to relate to a specific government rule or higher power. I believe that people are capable of being the ones to hold themselves back and create a personal dystopia of their own.

For this reason, the definition of dystopia should be altered to involve both the aspect of self-imposed dystopias along with the trait of hidden knowledge. In doing so, I have reached this definition for dystopia:

An imaginary or real place where a person or people may lead a restricted, oppressive, and/or ignorant existence as a product of some form of authority

Kyrah Felder

This definition does not limit a dystopia to only apply to groups but individuals as well. It also adds the ability for the person to be oblivious to the environment that they may be participating in. This definition can be applied to more general dystopias.

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