Dystopian Novels – Why Do We Read Them?
We live in a troubled society within a troubled world. Why then would we want to read about people struggling to overcome far worse circumstances? How the hell would I know? Just kidding, I’ll take a stab at it, but be warned that my thoughts are based on nothing more than my best guess at why I love the genre.
Most of us live pretty comfortable lives in spite of the problems we face as a society. We periodically become outraged by the acts of our government or our fellow citizens, but we do so from in front of a television, laptop computer, or iPad. We watch from the comfort of our sofa or recliner in the comfort of our home. Most of us don’t personally witness our neighbors being dragged from their homes, imprisoned, tortured, or killed for their thoughts or beliefs. Things are bad, but they aren’t bad enough. If our government sent children into arenas to kill each other or forced us to choose only one aspect of our humanity we would know what to do. We may not know how to do it, but we would know that action must be taken. With the zeal that comes with the certainty of knowing right and wrong, good and evil, we would band together and act. We would have brothers and sisters at our side, united to end tyrrany.
The problems we actually have are a faltering economy, the gradual erosion of our rights, and the causes we each hold dear. We don’t agree about who is good and who is bad, or even what societal changes should be made. There is no clear choice. We believe things could be better, but we don’t know how. There is no urgency to act – the monsters are at our door, but our doors seem pretty sturdy. If the claws make their way through, we will take action. We may not now know what that action would be, but we know we would act. It is easier to fight the monster when it is in the room with you. As long as it stays on the other side of the door, we argue amongst ourselves about how best to make it go away. It seems that we will continue to argue until the door has given way.
In a dystopian society we would know and act. In actual society we suspect, debate, and argue.