A dystopian novel has always awakened in me a strong curiosity since it let us take a peek into a post-apocalyptic world beyond our expectations and envisions. Given the fact that in this particular moment we kind of live in a dystopian society (thank you COVID-19), I have been re-reading my favorite anti-utopian books, trying to comfort myself that things could be worst. I warmly recommend you to look for solace in these three novels.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood’s magnum opus shook the world to its core. In a time when environmental pollution rages across the Earth, its greedy inhabitants have used all of their chances to save their only home and there is little hope for salvation. As a result, the world faces disastrous consequences for the almost non-existing female fertility.
Margaret’s dystopian novel takes place in the fictional Gilead, formerly known as the United States. Taking matters into their own hands, a religious group (more like a sect) under the name Sons of Jacob takes over the government, suspends the constitution, and turns the country into brutal totalitarianism incomparable to the politics of the even most austere and ruthless former leaders such as Joseph Stalin. The new rulers state that they are guided by the Holy Bible which would help them save the fertility rates.
How do you wonder? By following the Biblical story of Bilhah and creating a misogynistic society. Not only are women treated as second-class citizens and told that their only purpose in this world is to serve their husbands and raise their children (YES, THEY WENT THERE) but the ones who have committed sins such as adultery, are single, divorcees, homosexual and have children out of wedlock are enslaved and called handmaids.
Can you take a guess what is their new role? They are assigned to infertile couples of the ruling class to bear children for them. Yes, this means they undergo a monthly rape by the husbands of the household they live in.
Published in 1949, George Orwell’s dystopian novel shows how the author imagined the year 1984. While we visualize 2050 as a time when technology will completely rule the world, what Orwell had envisioned for the next 30 years was the extinction of democracy and a government that had total control over their citizens, including control over their thoughts. Scary, I know.
The plot takes place in Great Britain which has been captured by a new leader, Big Brother, and is ruled by an authoritarian and omnipresent government. People are carefully watched 24/7 even within the comfort of their homes. So that every memory of the pre-apocalyptic society is gone for good, a new language called newspeak is invented and inhabitants are psychologically manipulated. If Big Brother says that two and two equal five, you better remember that otherwise, you will go through a quite painful brainwashing session.
Lord of the Flies
Chances are you have read this dystopian novel in high school. Lord of the Flies is a book that has an abundance of symbols and hidden hints which makes it extremely appealing to read. During wartime, a plane crashes on an uninhabited island of the Pacific Ocean and the only survivors are a group of boys in pre-adolescence age. While trying to survive and desperately plot plans on how to get rescued, at the same time unknowingly and gradually become savages.
The events the author, William Golding, witnessed during World War II disturbed him deeply and caused him to view human nature differently, contradicting the views of Rousseau, whose philosophy is taken as a starting point of the book.
While Rousseau’s views on mankind are optimistic and based on the idea that humans are naïve and pure and become corrupted once they join civilization, Golding expresses a pessimistic attitude and claims that we are evil by nature. This contradiction of beliefs is present throughout the whole novel and is let to the readers draw a conclusion of the true form of our nature.