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).