Characteristics of a Dystopian Society

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Characteristics of a Patriarchal Society

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Dystopia Defined
  • 1:46 Characteristics
  • 2:51 Literary Value
  • 3:38 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

If utopianism offers a vision of an ideal world only possible in our dreams, dystopianism is the nightmare that we fear may become reality. In this lesson, you'll learn what a dystopian society is and some of its key characteristics.

Dystopia Defined

Imagine a society where you live under the oppression of some organization controlled by a tiny group of privileged elites. It may be a despotic government, a religious organization, or an all-powerful global corporation. This organization controls every aspect of your life. You are told what to think and how to act through propaganda and brainwashing. Individual thoughts and actions in contradiction to what is permitted are not tolerated and are severely punished if discovered by the authorities.

You live in constant fear of stepping 'out of line,' where every co-worker, neighbor, or even a beloved family member may be an informer. Your life is one burdened by extreme poverty, where you are given barely enough resources to survive. But you must be ever ready to give your all, including your very life, to the powers that be. And perhaps worst of all, imagine that there is absolutely no hope of change. This is but one of many visions of a dystopian society.

We can define a dystopian society as an imagined society that imposes a harmful, oppressive, and miserable existence on almost all of its members. You can think of a dystopia as the opposite of utopia. While a utopia is an ideal society that is as perfect as possible, a dystopia is a society that is perfectly imperfect or just plain evil or wrong.

Dystopian societies are often depicted in science fiction literature and film. Examples of dystopian fiction include George Orwell's 1984, Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Well known dystopian films include the recent Hunger Games, Children of Men, The Matrix, V for Vendetta, and Blade Runner.

Characteristics

Thinkers and artists depict dystopian societies by the following characteristics:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support