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What Dystopian Novels Can Teach Us About Life (in America today)

Times are tough.

To say that we are living in a complex time, socially and beyond, is a significant understatement. There is much to be concerned about in our current reality. From the open question of the permanence of hard-fought social reforms to our global position and a seemingly backward and arrogant position on global warming and pollution, it really does look like hard times ahead for not only our generation, but the many that follow.

Much like us, they will earn less than the ones that preceded them, have to deal with crushing student debt, sky-rocketing healthcare costs and an ever-rising cost of living with diminishing returns across the board. It just seems like a perfect storm.

In fiction, such problems are tackled head-on and this can provide a degree of solace. Dystopian stories can often be a reflection of our own reality (if dramatized and starkly more depressing). Literature has always been a mirror to the human condition, but in the dystopian novel – I find-, there is a mirror to circumstance as well.

Michelle Wright, a Professor of African American Studies and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern, speaks of how dystopian fiction can provide this perspective.

These stories can also be uplifting, include strong female leaders, highlight how our differences become resources and tools to overcome. Ultimately, the adversity in fiction may be significant, but not pointless; if not a tale of overcoming such adversity, it can at least serve as a warning. Such is the case with Orwell. Fiction can show us who we are, who we could become and what is needed of us to confront our own worst enemy: indifference in the face of a building threat. Currently, one is building and will all be more difficult before it gets easier, and the sort of resolve found in these books may be just what the doctor ordered.

Looking to literature to make sense of our world is essential, but we must draw from a wide array of works that speak to the layers and subtleties of our nuanced world. Indeed, now more than ever, such understanding and awareness of the complex and varied human experiences in our social structures will guide us to the greater political awareness we so desperately need.

Check out the article at http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2017-02-dystopian-novels-can-teach-us-life-trumps-america/

 

 

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