Dystopias: Definition and Characteristics
Utopia: A place, state, or condition that is ideally perfect in respect of politics, laws, customs, and conditions.
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, societal norm, or political system.
Characteristics of a Dystopian Society
• Propaganda is used to control the citizens of society.
• Information, independent thought, and freedom are restricted.
• A figurehead or concept is worshipped by the citizens of the society.
• Citizens are perceived to be under constant surveillance.
• Citizens have a fear of the outside world.
• Citizens live in a dehumanized state.
• The natural world is banished and distrusted.
• Citizens conform to uniform expectations. Individuality and dissent are bad.
• The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world.
Types of Dystopian Controls
Most dystopian works present a world in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through one or more of the following types of controls:
• Corporate control: One or more large corporations control society through products, advertising, and/or the media. Examples include Minority Report and Running Man.
• Bureaucratic control: Society is controlled by a mindless bureaucracy through a tangle of red tape, relentless regulations, and incompetent government officials. Examples in film include Brazil.
• Technological control: Society is controlled by technology—through computers, robots, and/or scientific means. Examples include The Matrix, The Terminator, and I, Robot.
• Philosophical/religious control: Society is controlled by philosophical or religious ideology often enforced through a dictatorship or theocratic government.
The Dystopian Protagonist
• often feels trapped and is struggling to escape.
• questions the existing social and political systems.
• believes or feels that something is terribly wrong with the society in which he or she lives.
• helps the audience recognizes the negative aspects of the dystopian world through his or her perspective.
Dystopian Project Assignment
Create Your Own Dystopia
W.2.1: Gather information from print and multimedia sources to articulate claims
and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, fact, and
details to support themes or central ideas to express perspectives clearly.
Directions for Presenting
The Google Slides presentation you will use to present your Dystopia
to the class must include the following:
Slide 1: Name(s), Date, Period, Name of Dystopia
Slide 2: Name and Philosophy of your Society
□ State the Name and the organizing principle (the ideal or philosophy that your perfect society is supposed to be about) behind your original Utopia.
□ Describe how this new society is DIFFERENT from the world of the past. (The world of the past is our present day reality because the dystopia takes place in the future.)
□ Describe the major problem with society your UTOPIA was supposed to fix.
□ Include a visual image that symbolizes your Society.
Slide 3: Reason why the society was formed
□ Include an image to represent the major problem your society was supposed to fix
Include a picture that symbolizes what caused this society to enact YOUR THREE LAWS
□ Explain how your society tried to fix the problem you wrote about on slide 2 and what went wrong.
Slide 4: Government
□ Describe the government of your society.-What type of government is it? Who has power?
□ Write each of the THREE Laws that citizens in the dystopia MUST follow.
□ Write what happens if citizens do NOT follow the three laws.-This creates the HORROR
□ Include an image that symbolizes the balance of power in your society.
Slide 5: The Horrors of the Dystopia
□ Explain what the dark secret or the true workings of this society are and how the average citizens are kept unaware of the truth. –This is where you describe the horrors that happen in this society as direct consequences of your THREE LAWS
□ Include an image that illustrates the injustices or the true horrors of this society.
Slide 6: Theme
□ Name the major theme that your Dystopia represents (choose from the common themes of Dystopian literature from the handout and explain how your Society illustrates this theme).
□ Show a visual that symbolizes this theme.
Slide 7: OPTIONAL (extra credit)
Create a Propaganda advertisement that is meant to persuade citizens to follow the laws of your society.
Research to determine a current societal issue that needs to be addressed or corrected as well as typical forms of government organization and law enforcement
Design a Utopia society with specific rules to address this societal issue
Trace how the enforcement of these rules would lead to new problems with the organization of this society and the negative effects of these rules on individuals and groups
Evaluate how a Dystopia has been created in their attempt to make Utopia
Integrate this evaluation in an informational essay
Present major components of their Dystopian Society
Dystopia is a form of literature that explores social and political structures. It is a creation of a nightmare world - unlike its opposite, Utopia, which is an ideal world. Dystopia is often characterized by an authoritarian or totalitarian form of government. It often features different kinds of repressive social control systems, a lack or total absence of individual freedoms and expressions, and a state of constant warfare or violence. Many novels combine both Dystopia and Utopia, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of the two possible futures.