https://www.storyboardthat.com/articles/e/dystopian-literature

Dystopian literature is a great way to take a critical look at society and society's values. A view into a dystopian society can help us reflect on our own.



Divergent by Veronica Roth

Lesson Plans by Bridget Baudinet

Divergent, the first novel in Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, has enjoyed widespread popularity among young adult readers, increased by the 2014 movie adaptation. A dystopian thriller, the story follows Tris Prior a girl whose very identity undermines the strict social structure of her society. As Tris tests her limits by joining the Dauntless faction, one of her society’s five divisions, her natural “divergent” tendencies prove both advantageous and dangerous. Ultimately, the tensions in her society result in an all-out war that Tris and her allies must try to stop. An exciting adventure, Tris’ tale follows the age-old pattern of the hero’s journey and provides teachers with an accessible text for teaching story structure, character development, and point of view.


Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

Lesson Plans by Kristy Littlehale

”Harrison Bergeron”, the short story penned by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in 1961, imagines the world in 120 years, where the government has taken complete control over free thought and complete equality has finally been achieved – at a price, of course. In the quest for true equality, people gave up their rights in favor of eliminating all competition, drive, and desire: the very things that inspire innovation and creativity. The people in charge are the only ones who are allowed to think, and that power has grave consequences for Harrison Bergeron, a 14-year-old boy who is already 7 feet tall and virtually uncontrollable. The story explores important themes, such as what total equality at the cost of individuality could look like, and the dangers of losing free thought to a tyrannical government. The dystopian world Vonnegut paints is frighteningly dull, and frighteningly realistic.


If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth... by Arthur C. Clarke

Lesson Plans by Kristy Littlehale

Published in 1951 in a post-nuclear world, this short story by Arthur C. Clarke takes its title from a portion of Psalm 137, which laments the destruction of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. Much like Jerusalem, which was overrun and destroyed by the Babylonians, the actions of nuclear war have destroyed the Earth in this story, leaving 10-year-old Marvin and a small band of other humans to look on the ruins of Earth from their small colony on the moon. Clarke, a scientist himself, creatively utilizes the science fiction genre to paint a horrifying picture of what the potential destructiveness of advancements in war and weaponry could do to humanity’s future.


1984 by George Orwell

Lesson Plans by Kristy Littlehale

In a world where computers rule our lives, communication is instant, and there is a camera right in most people’s back pockets, it’s sometimes easy to envision the world George Orwell paints in his dystopian novel 1984. Published in 1949, shortly after the end of World War II and during the rise of Communist powers such as Russia and Korea, Orwell’s novel warns readers of important issues that become the novel’s key themes, including government overreach, propaganda, and the importance of free thought and speech.


All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury

Lesson Plans by Becky Harvey

"All Summer in a Day", a Ray Bradbury short story, was originally written in 1959 for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It is a futuristic view of life on Venus. Though we now know that Venus is uninhabitable by humans, this work depicts a thriving, albeit miserable, colony of “rocket men and women” and their families. On Bradbury’s Venus, it violently rains with hurricane force for seven years at a time, and the sun only breaks through for a predictable two hours between these downpours.


Hunger Games Plot Example

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Lesson Plans by Becky Harvey

The Hunger Games is the first volume in a trilogy of adventure novels. It follows a teenager, Katniss Everdeen, as she fights to survive in a dystopian, futuristic America. The country has been broken into twelve districts, heavily taxed by the wealthy and harsh Capitol. Every year, the Capitol holds a death-match between child tributes, two from each district. Katniss, a strong-willed and capable teenager, volunteers to take her younger sister’s place. Katniss goes through the mind-numbingly violent game of murder with her male counterpart, Peeta. They manipulate the game by faking a romance, and out-maneuver their opponents and Capitol politicians to become joint winners of the Hunger Games.


Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Lesson Plans by Rebecca Ray

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a dystopian vision of society based on the early years of communist Russia. It is an allegory filled with elements of what can happen in the wake of a popular revolution. Like many dystopias, the society's goal was to build a utopia where its members live in harmony, but these ideals quickly transformed into something darker.


Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lesson Plans by Rebecca Ray

Lord of the Flies is an eye-opening novel about what happens to a group of boys who are abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Students always seem to relate to the plight of Ralph, as he struggles to maintain order in a place where anarchy runs wild. Students see first-hand how quickly the chaos escalates when there are no rules or boundaries to a society.


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Lesson Plans by Rebecca Ray

Ray Bradbury is one of the great science fiction writers of the 20th century. In Fahrenheit 451, he portrays a society that has given up on independent thinking, interaction with others, and the natural world itself. His vision of technology coupled with human desire for progress - ultimately leading to our degradation - is a controversial theme that remains relevant to this day.


The Giver by Lois Lowry

Lesson Plans by Rebecca Ray

Jonas is a typical 11 year old who lives in a seemingly perfect community. There is little pain, and no crime. People are polite, and everyone belongs to a supportive family. However this utopia comes at a price; there are no choices, emotions are forbidden, and life in the community is dictated by strict rules. In this society, Elders match spouses, and assign children to them before birth. Everyone looks similar in skin color and dress. Everyone in the community is also assigned a job.


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