Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Contemporary young adult novels that focus on dystopian societies often depict places where individual choice has been eradicated. In some cases the masses have chosen apathy over activism and allow those in power to make choices for them. In other cases, those in authority force the populace into obedience and compliance. These dystopian societies may look peaceful on the surface but mask the larger problem and the fact that regular people are unable to think for themselves. While more canonical texts have been widely examined and studied, the new wave of young adult dystopian literature not only updates the dystopian warnings of previous generation's but also make these issues relevant for a new generation of readers . The canonical texts Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury create two divergent paths for contemporary dystopian works. The works The Giver by Lois Lowry, and The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld follow in the tradition of Brave New World by depicting societies that lack autonomy by force and often peaceful and orderly, but the people are unable to think for themselves or even understand what essential freedoms they have lost. In contrast the works of Feed by M.T. Anderson and How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff follow in the steps of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury show worlds where people have chosen apathy over activism and in turn willingly up their autonomy to those in authority. They choose stagnant and ignorant lives in exchange for supposed contentment. However, while these societies may look superficially perfect the tradeoffs have been immense; including no knowledge of the past, lack of a nuclear family or romantic bonds, and even lack of introspective or reflective thoughts . The framework created by the canonical texts is continued throughout the contemporary novels in order to allow young people to think about how they may be affected if they allow themselves to fall into similar traps of apathy or complacency.
Rohan, Lauren L., "Complacency and Conformity: How the Elimination of Individual Choice Creates Perfect Dystopian Societies" (2012). English Master’s Theses. 94.