Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Dystopias & Utopias: Dystopias

Characteristics of a Dystopian Society

Characteristics of a Dystopian Society

Propaganda is used to control the citizens of society.

• Information, independent thought, and freedom are restricted/ censored.

• A figurehead or concept is worshipped by the citizens of the society.

• Citizens are perceived to be under constant surveillance.

• Citizens have a fear of the outside world.

• Citizens live in a dehumanized state.

• The natural world is banished and distrusted.

• Citizens conform to uniform expectations. Individuality and dissent are bad.   

• The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world


Types of Dystopian Controls

Most dystopian works present a world in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through one or more of the following types of controls: 


Corporate control: One or more large corporations control society through products, advertising, and/or the media. Examples include Minority Report and Running Man.  
Bureaucratic control: Society is controlled by a mindless bureaucracy through a tangle of red tape, relentless regulations, and incompetent government officials. Examples in film include Brazil.  
Technological control: Society is controlled by technology—through computers, robots, and/or scientific means. Examples include The Matrix, The Terminator, and I, Robot. 
Philosophical/religious control: Society is controlled by philosophical or religious ideology often enforced through a dictatorship or theocratic government. 


The Dystopian Protagonist

• often feels trapped and is struggling to escape.

• questions the existing social and political systems. 

• believes or feels that something is terribly wrong with the society in which he or she lives.

• helps the audience recognizes the negative aspects of the dystopian world through his or her perspective. 

Dystopian Novels (1725 to 1909)

Dystopian Novels (1960's)

What is a Dystopia?

A dystopia is a hypothetical or imaginary society, often found in science fiction and fantasy literature.  They are characterized by elements that are opposite to those associated with utopia (utopias are  places of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions).  A dystopia is, therefore, a place in which humanity is dehumanized and people live fearful lives.  Furthermore, governing these societies are totalitarian regimes and often are faced with severe environmental catastrophes.  Common elements of dystopias may vary from environmental to political and social issues to politics, religion, psychology, spirituality, or technology that may become present in the future.

--This definition was written using the Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, The Free Online Dictionary, and Dictionary.com. 

Dystopian Novels (1921 to 1938)

What is Dystopia?

Dystopian Novels (1940 to 1957)

Dystopian Novels (1960's)