The Traits of Dystopian Literature in 1984, The Censors, and Harrison Bergeron

Dystopian literature is often defined as a fictional genre that depicts the society to be unfair and setting. Dystopian literature has been around for a while now. Dystopian literature usually depicts the future of society, whether it's the lives of the citizens or the overall control of the government. Characterization is defined as is the act of creating and developing a character. Characters in the dystopian genre develops all throughout the story just like any novel. Lastly, setting is the time and place of the action of a literary work.

This is an important aspect in dystopian literature, the setting helps with the overall genre of dystopian literature and the character development. These traits can be seen in several literary works such as 1984 by George Orwell, The Censors by Luisa Valenzuela, and Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. The traits help us see similarities and differences between novels.

In the novel, 1984, the author depicts their characters society as a totalitarian society.

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This is where the government has total control over every aspect of the citizens. The government in this novel is called The Party and they constantly watching and monitoring the citizens as well as control what they think and say. This can be seen in the beginning of the novel, in which Winstons describes his way to work and he sees a propaganda poster. " On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move.

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Big Brother Is Watching You." (Orwell, 5) Since so much monitoring going on in the city, no one is really themselves. The citizens go with the flow of things so they will not get in trouble with the party. Winston also does conforms in the beginning of the story, although he does agree with the rules that are set in place.This behavior can also be seen in the short story, Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. One of the main characters in the short story decides to deal with the government rules so he does not get in trouble with them. Therefore he conforms to the government's rules. For example it says in the short story, 'If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.' 'Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,' said George. 'I don't call that a bargain.' (Vonnegut, 2) Winston and George from both novel and the short story both show the traits of conformity in both texts due to the power that the government has over the citizens.

Rebellion is a prominent aspect of dystopian literature, it also appears in the short stories The Censors and Harrison Bergeron. The main character is usually the one who rebels and they usually are against the government. For example in the short story, The Censors, Juan tries to get a job at the censors bureau. " He applied simply to intercept his own letter, an idea none too original but comforting." (Valenzuela, 264) In their society they are not allowed to think or write what they want because it goes against the rules. If they go against that that can be killed. This is very similar to the short story Harrison Bergeron. Harrison Bergeron did not agree with the government control over the city. With this being said, he decided to break out of prison and overthrow the government. When he "overthrew the government", he took off all the handicaps that was on him. Once again, both characters in the short stories have rebellious traits that help with the ideas of dystopian literature.

Setting also helps with the overall structure of the dystopian genre. Settings in dystopian genre are very similar through some novels. Whether it be in the future, during war, or even a totalitarian society. The society in which George from Harrison Bergeron, and Winston from 1984 is meant to be seen as the future. Harrison Bergeron takes place in 2081 and 1984 was takes place in 1984, although it was written in 1949. Both stories convey the idea of what might the future might be like with the government. Since both novels takes place in the future, the government has more control due to the technological advances that have been made. With this they have new ways to control the lives of the people within the city. Both stories have technological advances that control what the people say and think. In the beginning of the short story Harrison Bergeron, one of the main characters, George, is affected by a handicap cap, "And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains." (Vonnegut, 1). Although Winston does not a physical setback, he does have one that affects his whole community. That specific setback is a telescreen, which is a monitor that constantly their lives. Whether that meant watching them, listening to them, or both. For example, " Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard." (Orwell, 6). Both Winston and George faced disadvantages of the future government advances on a daily basis.

Dystopian literature have various traits that contributes to the structure of the genre. Characters are sometimes rebellious or they may even conform to the laws given by the government. The setting can be a totalitarian society and set in the future. With these traits it helps the authors convey the idea of conformity and government control that we see in this genre. This is how many can find similarities in books within this genre.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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The Traits of Dystopian Literature in 1984, The Censors, and Harrison Bergeron. (2024, Feb 05). Retrieved from

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