Dystopia originated as a literary genre in the early 1900s and continues to grow today. Despite this genre’s gloomy outlook on life, and the problems that dystopian books often possess, this type of literature has value although many people may not realize it.
To start with, dystopia allows readers to step back from the story, the setting, the entire world that a dystopian novel has created and judge decisions and society more objectively than would be possible in a more realistic novel. This chance to judge more objectively is a rare opportunity.
In addition, dystopia experiments with how decisions affect parts of life. The genre deals with questions like, “What would happen if…?” The Giver by Lois Lowry delves into what happens when the government takes over every part of life, choosing one’s family, food, clothes, hair style, job, spouse. As a result of this all-pervasive way in which the government treats its citizens, people lose their uniqueness, their ability to make decisions. They are weak, emotionless, and heartless. The Giver also shows how creating total equality and sameness turns out for this world. The world of The Giver loses animals, colors, memories, hills, snow. Anything that disrupts a peaceful and orderly life or brings pain and heartbreak is sucked from the world. Lois Lowry shows that quiet, peaceable lives are nothing without self-made choices, love, real family, real friendship, or honesty.
Dystopia has another benefit as well, though, for it often acts as a warning: take heed of what this made-up story has shown you and keep this story from becoming true. Once again, The Giver provides a good example. One of the warnings it voices is, “Don’t let the small freedoms one has be taken, or one will lose all of one’s freedoms.”
Dystopia is not a perfect genre, and a diet of any one type of book is unhealthy. However, one should not pass by dystopian books just because they are dystopia, for even this dark genre has its benefits and can be thought-provoking and instructive.