What Is a Dystopian Narrative?

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Dystopian narratives give us a picture of a less-than-ideal future. On the surface, the society in the narrative may seem to be a utopia -- a perfect place to live -- but the people in the future society typically are under propagandistic and totalitarian rule. A dystopian narrative also involves criticism of a current trend, society or political system.

1 Characteristics

The people in a dystopian society are controlled through some force or entity, whether it is corporation, bureaucracy, technology, philosophy or religious ideology. Dissent is not tolerated, and everyone is expected to conform to society's rules. Propaganda and fear are used to keep everyone in line. Most importantly, individuality, freedom and independent thought are severely limited. Despite these conditions, at least one character realizes something is wrong and takes action as a result. Dystopian narratives can be prose or film. Examples include "1984," "Brave New World," "The Handmaid’s Tale," "Fahrenheit 451" and "The Hunger Games" trilogy.

Melissa McDonald has been writing about education since 2006. Her work has appeared in “AdjunctNation,” “JCW” and “Honor Cord” e-zine. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and currently works in higher education as a writing consultant. Beyond her work as educator and writer, McDonald volunteers as a judge in both local and national writing competitions for high school and college students.