Dystopia is a literary genre that is all the rage among teenagers and young people. In a dark atmosphere, made up of violence, blood and totalitarianism, these works depict a futuristic world with disastrous consequences for the planet. Fortunately, a hero rises, rebels and saves humanity. Should we be worried about these readings? How to accompany young dystopia readers?
“A dystopia sells dreams, it’s more fun to read than a Maupassant with a hero who spends his time in a mine!” says Théo, 17, now in engineering school. Mischievous, he continues: “It is thanks to these readings that I write today without spelling mistakes. His sister, 16, adds: “These are captivating books, and in addition there is always a love story. I even read some of them in English! These books, which are all the rage among teenagers, depict an imaginary society and depict a futuristic, dark and sinister world. The most famous ? Divergent by Veronica Roth The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The labyrinth by James Dashner Phobos by Victor Dixens… most of which are available in trilogy, and some in films or series.
Dystopia is a perverted and inverted utopia whose The best of worlds by Aldous Huxley, published in 1932, is the founding work. By anticipating the possible drifts of a technological and ultra-connected universe, these books present an imaginary world – always with an anchor point in reality – which would be worse than ours. Reflecting society and its fears, they surf on the notions of the survival of humanity and an ultra-agonizing future. Léa, a great reader of this literary genre, is now a double degree student. She explains: “Dystopia exposes what the world could be, in its most terrible side, with a technology and a dictatorship destroying the humanity of people. »
Here are two examples. The Hunger Games proposes a society in which the media filter transforms the worst horrors into entertainment, and whose government controls its citizens to the limit. Thus, the population is forced to watch its youth kill each other. In the book Divergent, five factions are staged, with the obligation to be part of one of them. The question of “fitting into a predefined mould” is at the heart of the book here, along with that of the “dominant” and “dominated” groups.
A dark appearance that can be problematic
This literature depicts the darkest side of humanity, with bloodshed, cruelty and totalitarianism. Violence is omnipresent and some parents or educators are distraught and sometimes tempted to forbid it to young people. Solange is a teacher in a private college in the Paris region. She explains: “Certainly, violence is omnipresent but that should not be a cause for concern; young people are immersed in this culture and unfortunately are used to it. On the other hand, the dark, black, desperate aspect is more problematic. Indeed, these readings can be dangerous on particularly emotional, hyper-sensitive personalities, especially as they feed the “spleen” side of the adolescent. Finally, it is difficult to navigate from an ethical point of view. “If a reader is not clear with the notions of good and evil, these are readings that can sow confusion” adds Léa.
But on closer inspection, there is a positive aspect to this literary genre. “First, there is always a hero who comes to defy bad authority and who makes you want to rebel,” explains the young teacher. A necessary rebellion when authority turns out to be bad, and the hero feels in his heart, in his head, in his guts that it is harmful. Thanks to this counter-model, the good is finally brought to light. “This literature thus offers the opportunity to have in-depth discussions,” emphasizes Solange again. “I study this literary genre so that my students are aware of their excesses, that they have a critical mind and that they can act later in the world” she adds.
Moreover, this literature makes you want to rebel, and isn’t revolution – of love of course – at the heart of the Gospel? »
Better: in contrast, these works convey Christian values – respect for others, love of neighbor, respect for the most fragile. Thus, not only is this literature compatible with the Christian spirit, but it can be a springboard for evangelization. “In my classes, I always take the opportunity to talk about Christ,” smiles the young woman. “Besides, this literature makes you want to rebel, and isn’t revolution – of love, of course – at the heart of the Gospel? she concludes with a touch of provocation.
How to accompany them?
Accompanying young readers of dystopias is therefore essential. “You have to enlighten them, discuss it, decrypt it with them to give meaning to what they read, put words to bring out the positive because decoding is sometimes difficult” recalls the French teacher. For this, it is important to be informed on the subject, by reading for example The passer, a classic of the genre, or by watching the Arte documentaryA dystopia come truewhich makes a comparative analysis of the founding fathers of the genre. Second advice: make sure that young people discover this literature at a suitable age – before the 3rd year, it’s too early, they don’t have the maturity to analyze the books. Third advice: consume these works “in moderation” – even though they are often addictive – and encourage a diversity of reading styles. “Finally, to counterbalance this dark atmosphere, it is important to offer young people lives of saints, readings of testimonies of people with radiant lives. Because teenagers need Light” concludes Solange with conviction.