I've recently read 1984 for my AP English class as well as The Handmaid's Tale for my own pleasure and I realized that I have a problem with the usual dystopia label- especially in YA.
The Rundown: 1984 is set in the year 1984. The main focus is a dystopian society that is controlled an entity called Big Brother and the Party, which is a subsection under BB, is in control of wiping out history that is against BB and could paint him in a negative light or not being seen as an seeing God or omnipotent entity. Winston Smith (the main character) comes to terms with thinking outside of the Party mindset. He begins to remember things he shouldn't and is no longer using doublethink to contradict what he knows. Doublethink is used to tell yourself "I saw something, but it didn't happen. Essentially making it obsolete because it goes against the Party and BB". In this society if you are considered a thoughtcriminal (which Winston is eventually considered as after his affair with Julia and trying to becoming a member of Goldstein's rebellion), he is taken to the Ministry of Love. The ministry of torture and creating love for BB in the hearts of those who have strayed away (I realized this while filming and had a total eureka moment!) Winston and all other criminals are tortured until they essentially love BB and the whole purpose of BB and the Party is that they want power. Every totalitarian society before them created martyrs and they did not do it right. They had other goals in mind; while BB only wants power and power over the people. To have power over the people you can't have a martyr, which means you have to make the person love BB in every single way before you kill him because if he loves BB then he is not a threat. So you can't have a martyr if the martyr essentially doesn't exist.
Realization: The Hunger Games is not a dystopian novel. This is a revolutionary novel. The whole point of 1984 is to show that this is a bleak world with no hope. Once you love BB, you are essentially just another Party member and all you're meant to be is apart of the mass. Once you've assimilated back into the Party there's no hope for you because this is a hopeless society. THAT is what a dystopian novel is.
Another Dystopian: I have also read The Handmaid's Tale and the Gilead is a hopeless society. They take women who are considered lesser because of a second marriage or were single mothers in the time before the revolution to create the Gilead occurred. They become Handmaids and used for reproduction and are essentially fertilizer. So that the Commanders and Commanders' Wives can have children. Most of the time (it is revealed in the Historical Notes section) that Commanders were sterile due to toxins and radiation exposure in their bodies. Essentially at the end of the novel, it is as hopeless as 1984. In this novel, there is the possibility of hope and then after reading the historical section that the world Offred experiences is just as hopeless as Winston's because these are dystopian novels. THERE IS NO HOPE IN A DYSTOPIAN NOVEL. If it is a true dystopian society, there will never be hope. I don't know what happened to the Gilead, but it eventually disappears. There were most likely martyrs in their society and they failed to achieve what BB did. There is some hope for the world of Gilead, which would make this novel a revolutionary one, but it isn't. It's a fully dystopian novel. There is no hope in this novel at all and even when there is hope and you know that Offred could eventually escape, you also know that she is going to eventually get caught because the Gilead is so expansive.
The Problem: My problem with THG is that it is considered a dystopian novel, but it has a very weak plot. Why is this world like it is? In these two novels I've mentioned, I know why the world is like it is. I know the motives. 1984 uses technology to make you submit and The Handmaid's Tale uses gender to make you submit and God, a Gildean god used for their own governmental purposes. In THG, they us The Hunger Games to make you submit, but it's not effective because it's one time of the year to make you submit. That's not going to be effective. This is the problem I have with YA Dystopians. They are labeled as Dystopians when it's not a dystopian. This is a revolutionary novel. This is a novel about coming out of a society that has tried to take control, but failed to.
There's a fine line between a dystopian novel and a revolutionary novel. The argument could be that this novel is set in a dystopian society, but this society didn't last for very long time in history. When you think about how big the world is and how long it has lasted, THG is just a small period of time. Whereas BB will probably last forever and the Gilead last for a good a thousand years.
In the comments on my video so far, I've been asked about my thoughts on Divergent and where it stands in this topic.
"Divergent overall is an unrealistic portrayal of human psychology and factions are something I can't ever see happening. I also had a problem with the way the whole trilogy played out in general and thought it was a cheaply written trilogy. I did enjoy Divergent, but I don't think it's a dystopian novel at all. I see it more as a revolutionary novel and then not even that. It could fall under a completely different category of alternate worlds."
What do you think about dystopian novels? Especially YA novels. Should they be considered dystopian or should they be labelled as revolutionary? Let's discuss.