Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dr. Carpenter's Lecture

Dystopian description

Dystopian fictions are political, exploring particular social issues by setting up a horrific alternative world in which those issues are highly emphasized. These types of fictions are provocative, striking, and read eloquently like a sermon. An excellent example of dystopian fictions is The Hunger Games trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. This compelling, first person narrative is placed in an alternative world called Panem that is separated into twelve sections of the country; these twelve sections are called districts with different resources, classes, and lifestyles reflecting their image. Modeling a dictatorship, the twelve districts are governed by the all-powerful Capitol. To maintain stability and order, the Capitol forces each district to send a young woman and a young man into an arena to battle to the death.

A guest speaker, Becky Carpenter, notes particular, common characteristics that specify dystopian literature from other types of literatures. First, dystopias are often utopias that have gone terribly wrong with an unstable government, way of living, and censored freedom. In The Hunger Games trilogy, the Capitol believes it is stabilizing and creating order for Panem to completely prosper through this immoral, twisted entertainment called the Hunger Games. Pledging allegiance to the Capitol, each district follows these restrictive laws revolving around the Hunger Games. In reality, the Games are simply a reminder of the Capitol's dominance over the country.

Second characteristic noted by Dr. Carpenter is that dystopian societies value stability above all else where many is sacrificed to achieve said stability. Through severe forms of government, there is undeniable control over human rights, individuality, freedom, production, and the movement of goods. To solidify a presence of stability, the government advertises certain types of propaganda. The Capitol demonstrates its control by stationing guards in each of the districts, rationing certain goods, and preventing freedom and types of individualities. The Capitol also reminds the districts everyday to abide to President Snow with commercials, documentaries, announcements.  

Next, dystopian societies primarily serve the interest of a particular group while pretending to serve the interest of the many. In The Hunger Games, the particular group that the Capitol focused on were the individuals living in the Capitol, especially the higher-ups, such as President Snow and the Gamemakers. Adding to this, dystopias reflect contemporary cultural problems/issues, such as view of materialism, class disparity, and the role of mass media. The ones living in the Capitol are expected to dress elegantly and to judge others' etiquette, wardrobe, etc. Everything is noticed at face value; nothing within the individual is noticed or taken into consideration. A sense of perfect appearance is always on the minds of those who live in the Capitol. 

Lastly, dystopians frequently call out attention to ways in which we, America, may already be living in a dystopia. For example, dystopias stress the role of technology as a means of surveillance, power, and control. In America, the government has many ways to monitor individuals' actions to prevent any type of terrorism, rebellion, or illegal actions. Certain apps on the IPhone give the government a privilege to keep track of what Americans are using their phone for specifically. Making matters worse, dystopian societies often involve internalizing of propaganda to the point where the awareness of propaganda is what it is. The people of Panem attribute the Capitol with the idea of the Hunger Games; all of the propaganda for the Capitol is linked to the Hunger Games. Panem has seen all of the propaganda where it does not even phase the districts. The districts accept the Games as a normal function of their lives, much like holidays. 

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire

Tom Henthorne's Chapter 6: "Dystopia with a Difference"


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