Category Archives: Dystopian

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Reprint ed. New York: Scholastic, 2010. Print.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is a contemporary dystopian novel originally released in 2008. The reading level ranges between grades 5-9. Collins creates a new society that consists of the capital and districts. Two people are picked from each district to fight until death: a statement towards war. The protagonist, Katniss is a hero as she volunteers for the games and her actions break the rules of society. She is also a rebel because she shows empathy for humanity. The classic dystopian control is evident because the games are televised and everyone is watching.

After reading The Hunger Games, student will be asked to summarize the way Collins illustrates this dystopia. This exercise allows the students to practice summary-writing and specifically use the academic language for summary. A few examples of summary language are, “Overall…,” “In this text, Collins illustrates a dystopia that…,”and “To support Collins’ perspective on societal controls, she provides evidence in her dystopia to…” The purpose of summary writing is to benefit the student’s reading comprehension, ability to process information, and improve writing skills by using academic vocabulary.

For an in-class group project, students can either construct a diorama, a three-dimensional scene capturing characters and setting, or create a comic book from a specific scene, including the illustration of characters, setting, and dialogue. The purpose of this in-class group assignment is to allow collaboration in the classroom, benefit reading comprehension via visual learning, and evaluate the student’s understanding of the text. This group project can also be used as an alternative assessment. Students can be graded individually, and, or overall as a group.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

dracula book cover

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Thrift ed. Mineola: Dover, 2000. Print.

In Dracula, Stoker uses the nineteenth century Gothic Horror Fiction genre to expose his readers to a different, yet familiar world. Dracula can also be classified as dystopian fiction because the setting of Transylvania is a fantasy universe. Furthermore, this universe is built to question the societal controls in the nineteenth century and illustrate a dichotomy between traditional and modern values. The character, Dracula is a vampire and desires to regain the power his family lost outside of Transylvania, in modern England. Dracula introduces the the anxieties of society in the late nineteenth century: a questioning of sex, religion, and science. The reading level ranges between grades 9-12.

In-class interactive exercises:

A Creative Writing Prompt: Create a journal entry from the perspective of Count Dracula. Take Count Dracula out of the world Stoker creates and place Dracula in modern time. In this journal entry Dracula is reflecting on his trip to the grocery store. Keep in mind, his mental and physical characteristics, his gestures, desires, fears, and the way he interacts with others.

The purpose of this exercise is to give young readers the opportunity to practice free-writing, explore their creativity, and identify the main character’s traits. As they are challenged to pull Dracula out of this dystopia and into modern day, they will realize the difference, or maybe similarities, between the outlook on society in the nineteenth century and today.

Following the creative writing prompt, students are asked to read their writing out loud to the class. The rest of the class will be responsible for listening and taking note of at least one sentence from the reading they enjoyed the most. The listeners will answer one of the following questions as they take notes on their peer’s reading.

1. Identify at least one of Dracula’s physical characteristics.

2. Describe Dracula’s mood in the journal entry.

3. Analyze Dracula’s gestures and desires that are described.

Dystopian Fiction

According to the Fourth Edition Dicitonary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory, utopia is “The idea of a place where all is well is of great antiquity”(Cuddon 957).  It is crucial to understand the idea of an ideal universe, or utopia, as it gives birth to an inevitable dystopia. “The seemingly impossibility of utopia (and the many failures to create it) has produced its converse: dystopia or anti-utopia; in some cases almost chiliastic forecasts of the doom awaiting mankind”(Cuddon 959).

What is Dystopia? 

A futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control.

Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, social norm, or political system.

Types of Dystopian Control:

Corporate control: One or more large corporations control society through products, advertising, and/or the media.

Bureaucratic control: Society is controlled by mindless bureaucracy through a tangle of red tape, relentless regulations, and incompetent government officials.

Technological control: Society is controlled by technology- through computers, robots, and/or scientific means.

In dystopian fiction, the initial place of the setting shifts into a dystopia. In the beginning the reader might identify the setting as “normal,” the customs of a real and current society, or as a utopia, appearing as an ideal universe with flawless politics, laws, customs, and conditions. The dystopia world is identified with the setting if a fantasy universe filled with oppressive societal control is evident. There is an illusion of a perfect society maintained via corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control.

The characteristics of the protagonist are rebellious, or radical towards the dystopian society. The protagonist is often referred to as an outsider: “a person who is, in some respects, above and ‘outside’ the society in which he or she lives and perhaps even superior to it”(Cuddon 626).  

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