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Dystopia is a thematic with a significant strength at philosophy, movies, narratives… And above all: in literature! This genre consists on exploring the human nature in imagined societies that are in the opposite way of utopias.

While utopias explore a perfect, ideal and consequently unreachable society, the dystopias goes in the other hand and reinforces the negative side of those imagined society. They are mostly based on an imperfect system, where an oppressor State imposes the way of living.  

What makes this literary genre so successful is that even though it is constructed in a way that the narrative would be in a distant future, there are many aspects that always resemble our reality. As a lover of dystopias, we can assure: you will probably be more reflexive about your life if you read some books of this genre. And that’s why Her Campus selected five books to give you a taste of this unique type of literature. Check it out:

1. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1932)

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”

Image Source: Harper Collins

In this romance of the English author Aldous Huxley, people are created in labs and divided by castes, what defines their pre-functions from birth. The rulers of this society cherish the harmony and wellbeing of every citizen, which must behave and accept the position they belong to.

One aspect that’s interesting in this story is the presence of a legalized drug named Soma, which causes the sensation of happiness in the person who takes it. What’s important to discuss – without any spoilers – is how our society resembles to this narrative, by the mechanization of people and how we use our different Soma’s to be happy in our own world and forget all the bad things that happens in the rest of the real world.

2. 1984, George Orwell (1949)

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

Image Source: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company

If you know a little bit about dystopias, you have probably already heard about this famous classic of George Orwell. In 1984, the leading figure is Winston, who lives in an authoritarian and scary world controlled by the Big Brother, that rigidly monitors everyone in public and private spaces by sort of what we know as cameras today. In this context, Winston have critic thoughts about his living and turns against the govern. One point to warn: this reading is intense! If you got involved with the plot, be prepared to big descriptions and disturbing scenes.

3. Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1962)

“Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?”

Image Source: W. W. Norton & Company

In a futuristic society in which violence reaches gigantic proportions and provokes an equally aggressive response from a totalitarian government, Alex, 15 years old, narrates the story. He belongs to a group of teenage delinquents who, after school, set aside time for committing crimes, such as robberies, beatings and rapes, for sheer evil and fun. In one of these crimes, Alex ends up arrested and submissive to a treatment that puts into vogue the free will of each one.

As the author affirms, the language of this book is strategically used to discuss, among other things, brainwash: “When you read the book or watch the movie, you will ultimately find yourself in possession of a minimal Russian vocabulary – with no effort, to your surprise. That’s how brainwashing works”.

4. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1985)

“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.”

Image Source: Penguin Random House

This is a dystopian book written by the Canadian author Margaret Atwood, that – beyond inspiring the homonymous series produced by the streaming channel Hulu – has for a long time dealt with very important issues involving women’s issues.

The plot happens in a theocratic and totalitarian state in which women are the preferred victims of oppression, becoming the property of the government. As a woman, reading this book became twice uncomfortable. The traces of similarity between fiction and reality turned out to be sharper than I had expected an aspect that made me indicate this book to everyone.

5. The Lone City, Amy Ewing (2014)

“It’s hard to remember who you were when you’re constantly pretending to be someone you’re not.”

Image Source: Walker

The Trilogy The Lone City is composed by the books The Jewel, The White Rose and The Black Key, and all of them approach the life of Violet Lasting. They differ a little from the classics already presented, but by the fact of this dystopia is written by a woman and also have a woman as the protagonist, this book got our attention. Divided in circles, to the poorer to the richer, the society is divided by walls. The Jewel is where the royalty lives, and every year makes an auction to select the poorer girls to have children for them. But what they don’t know is that the chosen girls, like Violet, have more power than they expected.

Isabela Frasinelli

Casper Libero '20

Student of journalism. From São Paulo to the world. @isafrasinelli
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