A Comment about Dystopia, based upon The Hunger Games and Divergent
So, this is probably the first of a series of posts about the dystopian genre, which is probably my favorite genre to write, and I feel the need to share it, and since Slate.com has decided that it would like to have problems, I’m just going to post the comment here. Anyhow, note that, as crazy as it is, this is based on what was said about Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy, which was that it was ‘gritty’, which it is not, and you will learn why I would say such a thing as you read the comment below! Hope that you can speak your own mind in the comment section below, and erm, yeah!
‘Firstly, let it be known that I enjoy both Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth’s works, but I favor Suzanne Collins’s works more. I also know that this article is about Divergent, it’s simply one little part really ticked me off to write this little post, as a little thought to keep in mind as you read this.
Hold on, I have to say as a Dystopian-Horror writer myself, Divergent is far from ‘gritty’ or ‘grim’. Roth’s dystopian series is closer to a utopia than it is a dystopia; just because buildings are in shambles and there is a lifestyle that these people must live does not make it gritty nor grim. Collins’s Hunger Games is much closer to the vision of what dystopia is supposed to be than Roth’s. Collins’s world has much more meaningful, darker, and realistic undertones and ideas than Roth’s. Roth’s is purely a) experimental in that, the series is a good, quick read and beyond it’s surface idea, it has little to say and b) very action-ey, not that this is a bad thing, but it’s what a YA novel is on the most basic level, and Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent Series, proved this, and not because it was action-paced (because it wasn’t, most of it was mindless repetition of what the reader already knew and Roth trying to tie up the series which I don’t think she had a whole, big plan for in the first place as the revelation is a great big cop-out), but because it lacked the action of the first two novels, which ultimately contributed to the series’s success in the fist place.
Anyhow, Hunger Games really connects to many other meanings other than the brutal reality of reality television, but it emphasizes the class differences that are so predominant in our society that it drives us to have prejudice and hatred towards those from the lower class, it speaks out to the corruption of the government, it speaks out towards war–in Mockingjay, I believe it was (it wasn’t the most memorable final book for me, trilogies always end very offhanded in my opinion), Peeta says something about how war is pointless as at some point we’re just going to destroy the human race, and inevitably, there will be no human race at all–it speaks out towards a great wealth of other things, and what also contributed to making Collins’s story such a success was that before the final two books in the trilogy, really the great finale, romance was put on the back burner so that rebellion, war, and Katniss’s struggle could flourish and Collins could speak out against the things that are destroying our world.
Roth, on the other hand, is doing nothing more than following the generic formula of what made YA novels popular in the first place which is ‘I’m different’ theme of YA books, and we see how heavy handed this gets in the final book when the revelation that ‘Divergence’ is nothing more than a fluke. Roth, I understand, wants to speak about being yourself and that no one is one category, high school cliques and such things shouldn’t matter, but the story needs more backbone than that. What little backbone she could have added she did not emphasize. The only other thing that I think she did a very good job with was the idea of experimentation and serums, how in the future, we could likely be subject to an endless dependence on simulation and mind altering technology, of course such backbone that boils in the broth of it all, collapses under Roth’s un-plotted finale (I know that I keep making everything tie back to the finale, but in truth, even though I loved the books for what they were, the finale is the only one where the ideas and thoughts come to full fruition and in addition to this, it is the only one of the three books that gives us any legitimate answers for some of the things what happen, no matter how horribly derived or explained they may be) as she herself becomes far to dependent on this system of serums, which is sad because there was so much psychological war she could have touched down on in this final book, it would have really made the book much more bearable and acceptable as in truth, Allegiant has killed the series for me. But that is besides the point.
To talk about some other things, though, as many have mentioned: non-verbal communication has a great deal of importance in this series, and it is probably one of the redeeming aspects about it. This non-verbal communication plays with the subtle, and almost not there, psychological war between the characters. Four, in the first book, hid his emotions, but Roth works emotion into him by these little non-verbals and motions that Four does, in the second book, such non-verbal communication could mean the difference between life and death, and often times, words would only increase the tension; Roth also uses non-verbal communication in a way to often times describe the scene and give Tris time to relish in her thoughts and reflect, dialogue would weigh this crucial aspect of the series down by some great weight, as we would slog through deals of dialogue of arguments and thoughts that would stretch for pages when they could’ve been condensed into those little reflections. Non-verbal-ity is what Divergent is all about.
Finally, to head back into my main point, know the difference between dark, gritty, and grim. I may be more critical on what you call dark and grim because my work is highly dark and hopeless, simply because that is dystopia on a level, though another level suggests that dystopian fiction shows how making the world ‘good’ can make it worse than ever before while making it only better for those who decided that dystopian world was ‘better’; it is not about how the author describes the world on the outside, say a gray sky or broken buildings, but rather, it’s about the ideas that play subtly in the background of the stories. Collins plays with this idea far more than Roth, Collins shows what dystopia should be on a level, that dystopia is not about making the world look as shitty as you can possibly make it look, but rather, it’s about what caused it to be this way and how it’s getting worse. For The Capitol, in The Hunger Games, Panem is beautiful, for those who live in it, it is the ugliest place of all; in Divergent, though, what both strengthens the story and weakens is it is that these people have been brainwashed into thinking that this is society, society must be this way, this is how a normal human functions and they all see it as good, which plays upon the utopian aspect of it. While there is a lot of utopianism in Divergent, it still plays out into a dystopia, but know how that The Hunger Games, wears the dress better than Divergent.
This is all I have to say, I’m sorry this was a lot, and I’m sorry if some of the things that I say are highly biased or contradicting, but I’m writing this on the spot about what I believe and know about dystopia and how I feel about both series. Once again, I like both of these series, Hunger Games is simply the more well played of the two, and is the true down-dark-and-gritty future.
ALSO! Here is a link to the original post from Slate.com!