Posts Tagged ‘Dystopian Literature’

Monday Morning Delirium

My beach reading (and guilty pleasure reading) for this past weekend was a teen dystopian novel (first in a trilogy, of course!) titled Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  In some aspects, this book has a lot in common with Matched by Ally Condie.  (I talk a bit about Matched here). In Oliver’s world, citizens are “cured” of love (by the government) so that they will be happy and safe.  Indeed, the government controls much, if not most, of the citizens’ lives including education and occupations.  Delirium focuses on a young “ordinary” teenager who looks forward to the day she will be cured.  Why?  Because she has been led to believe that her own mother committed suicide because she could not be cured of love.

Of course, there is a teen romance thrown into the mix, and yes, political messages abound — but what I found really interesting about this book was that poetry has been banned.  All poetry. What was the reason?  Because the government believed that poetry was dangerous. 

We complain a lot that people don’t read poetry in today’s world; thus, that is why I find it incredible and intriguing that a writer would think to include a government that was afraid of all things — poetry.

Matched & 100 Poems

When it comes to reading, I have many guilty pleasures.  One is reading the dystopian/science fiction young adult novels that are so popular now (I finished off The Hunger Games series months ago).  I just finished Matched by Ally Condie.   Matched takes place in a future world where nothing is left to chance and fate is controlled by an all-knowing, very powerful government.  The main character, Cassia, is likeable, although the love triangles that always seem to be found in these types of books are a bit tiresome.  Still, poetry plays a central part of this book, which is why I’m writing about it here.

In this world, the government has decided that society has become too cluttered, so many material things have been taken away from the people — including pieces from the art world.  Children are educated in art by knowing that there are 100 pieces of art they should know: 100 paintings, 100 songs, and yep, you guessed it, 100 poems.  The rest have been lost.

The book takes a turn when Cassia’s dying grandfather gives her a poem that has not been found in the “100 poems.”  What poem is this, you may ask?  It’s Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”  In this world, Cassia can be arrested for merely carrying this poem around. 

I’m not going to go into the other plotlines of the book, or the fact that yes, this book is part of a trilogy (which is the big craze in the young adult literature world — everything has to come in 3’s).  Instead, I leave you with this question:  what 100 poems would you keep for future generations? You would make this decision knowing that these children would not know other poems — only these 100.

Just like The Handmaid’s Tale?

The Handmaid’s Tale  by Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite books — and it’s one of my favorite books to teach.  That’s why I picked up The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist.  Many literary critics compare the two books, and after finishing The Unit  this morning, I can see why.

Set in a dystopian future,  The Unit  is about a time when “women over the age of 50 and men over 60 who are are also single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries” are sent to Second Reserve Bank Unit for “biological material” (quotes are taken from the bookflap).  Here, these citizens are given comfortable living quarters, their own personal medical staff, and all the luxuries anyone could want — but at a terrible price.  They are expected to contribute themselves to both psychological and physical tests, often “donating” parts of their body (a piece of liver here, a kidney there) to those in need.  These people live out their final days until their final “donation” — that is, until they are forced to give up their heart or their brain. 

In this book, the main character is named Dorrit, a writer who resigns herself to this fate.  (Just for the record, almost everyone in The Unit is an artist of some sort — writing, pottery, photography.  In this time period, artists are not considered a valuable part of society — they do not provide valuable contributions).  In The Unit, Dorrit falls in love and then becomes pregnant.  I won’t say anymore about what happens to the fate of Dorrit in case you want to pick up this book (which you should…)

I found this book to be the most chilling read I have had in a long time.  Perhaps it’s because of the plot’s treatment towards the human body, or maybe it’s because of the treatment of artists.  Or maybe because I’m still trying to figure out if the heroine’s actions at the end of the book are noble or not.  Whatever the reason, it’s a book that is going to stay with me for a long time.