Why is that dystopian literature has taken over the young adult fiction genre? Why do we find ourselves drawn in by these books set in post-apocalyptic times? Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver, Maze Runner. These are some of the most popular and top grossing books to be released in the young adult arena. 1984, A Brave New World, The Handmaid's Tale: these are required reading for students now. As a society, we have decided that it is necessary to teach and understand a world of tragedy and disaster.
Why is it that we flock to understand this reality of the world? Why is it that we must allow each generation to discover the darkest flaws of mankind in this form? There is a certain innate detachment associated with books and yet, we are able to empathize with the society and with the characters.
Multitudes of these novels are released every year and are varying in the type of dystopia presented. Some are based on a misuse of advanced technology, some are in the wake of an existential crisis, and others are just a more sinister version of the present. But they all provide a guide, a warning of sorts to make us face our own reality more clearly.
The Handmaid's Tale has been brought back into the public eye with Hulu streaming a show based on the novel. More and more people are becoming aware and watching this nightmarish reality. However, with the additional attention comes a pitfall. As it becomes cool and trendy to watch these shows and dress up like the characters, it's important to ensure the true meaning of the novel does not get lost in translation. The Handmaid's Tale is supposed to remind us not to be complacent and to be more active in our lives. But treating this just as another show to binge-watch can hinder that goal.
Our generation has grown up in a society obsessed with dystopias. From the movies we watch to the books we read, and now, even to the television shows we watch, we find the darker side of humanity to be relatable. We understand the crippling fear that pervades our lives. We try to imagine what we would have done if we were in the same position. We know that trust in people, in authority, and in society is fickle. As children, we were no longer allowed to play outside without permission. Our fear of our neighbors and our society steadily grew with each passing day. We have grown up in this post - 9/11 world in which fear reigns and trust stands to the side.
However, though dystopian literature shows us our worst fears, it also offers the possibility of hope. In the young adult genre, the protagonist shows us that resistance to authority never stops. There is always hope even within the most oppressed. The Handmaid's Tale arguably does not offer as direct a path to that hope, but it does allow the readers to let their optimism shape their view of Offred and her future.
Our age of dystopias may be far from over, but it is comforting to know we are not alone and hope never dims.