The Best Dystopian Novels of the 20th Century

Thomas More wrote the book Utopia many centuries ago, and the term was coined to mean no place. It is a satirical book that features an island in the Atlantic Ocean. However, More uses this artistic prowess to depict England as the island. Later on, John Stuart Mill came up with the word Dystopia, which implies a bad place.

Stuart was an English philosopher who was very critical of the Irish land policy. The novels of More inspired him to coin the word. Therefore, dystopian fiction has its roots in the utopian literature, written by renowned authors such as William Morris and H.G Wells. Wells had the opinion that technology advancement was rapidly growing and would come to outdo poverty and war at some point. The list below describes some of the top twentieth-century dystopian novels.

books on a mantlepiece

Brave New World

The advent of the twentieth century could not convince most authors of this time about the characteristic changes in the political world and science. First, Aldous Huxley, through the novel Brave New World launched aggression against utopian concepts. He criticized the advancements of writers such as Wells and Morris, regarding the changes in political ideals and advancement in science. Huxley crafted this novel to project a society in the future. Although critical in some sense, he borrowed Well’s idea that science would form the basis for quality lifestyles for people in the future. Huxley held the vision that children would be formed within test tubes, and they would be bound to conform to all policies put across by their governing structure. Another projection was that learning would be based on intelligence, where ‘Alphas’ would take up duties that require brains while ‘Deltas’ were destined for more menial assignments. While writing a Brave New World literary analysis essay, students can establish that Huxley’s opinion on sex and crime was rather infamous because he denounced both of them, terming crime a non-existent and sex as a form of recreation with no consequences like sad true love. One of Huxley’s characters in the novel is John, who is used by the author to bring out a savage society in which he was born. The utopian society required that John should undergo guilt, shame, squalor and suffering to prove that he was a real man.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley - best dystopian novels of the 20th century

We

This is an earlier book that preceded Brave New World. In fact, Huxley was inspired by Yevgeny Zamyatin who published We in 1924. Zamyatin adopted a similar plot which is critical about the concept of futuristic utopia. He emphasizes the need for humans to rise up against the status quo that defines the utopian state that is very homogenized. In his review of We, George Orwell exhibits the amount of debt that Huxley owed Zamyatin. Both authors have focused on a similar society where humans rise against a rationalized world that is to come in more than six hundred years. However, there is a slight difference where Huxley is less concerned about political awareness. His ideas were more influenced by recent psychological and assumptions.

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Nineteen Eighty-Four

The world of dystopias recognizes this novel as Orwell’s finest works of that time. In his presentation, he has classified the future of the world into Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia as the super-states engulfed in an unending war. In all these forms, Orwell defines the world as one with a unique language called ‘Newspeak’ which implies that war is peace. However, it is manipulative because it compels people to belief in non-true aspects, for example, ‘2+2=5.’ One of the leaders in the book is Big Brother, who is in charge of Britain. He is confronted by Winston Smith, who features as a protagonist that attempts to rebel against Big Brother, but he is finally captured and put under rehabilitation.

1984 by George Orwell

The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood has managed to strike a chord with her audience through various themes like gender discrimination and human rights. Her mastery of art enabled her to allude to many biblical stories with a sense of grip. One of her brightest books was The Handmaid’s Tale , which described the handmaiden who was supposed to bear a child for a high-ranking commander instead of his barren wife.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand was full of objectivism, and one may be uncomfortable with his opinion. He highlights some of the regulations and policies that were instituted by prominent industrialists, leading to the collapse of the economy. The book presents a bigger challenge to those reading, invoking some thoughts that may be contrary to your own belief system.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

This novel was based on science fiction, and Philip K. Dick presents aspects in a classic way, not far from the reality that the future holds. He is more concerned about the value of humanity and life. Humanity in the book is defined by empathy, but a protagonist, in this case, is put to task when he is presented with some androids to kill, yet they are perceived to be mortal as well. This concept was used to create the movie Blade Runner in 1982, and some of the ideas are used in reality television shows.

Do androids dream of electric sheep

A Clockwork Orange and The Wanting Seed

These two works of Dystopia were developed by Anthony Burgess. A Clockwork Orange features a theme of brainwashing by the state, and this concept is perfectly brought forward through a teenager who is arrested because of his violent behaviour. He is deprived of his freedom. In The Wanting Seed, the aspect of overpopulation comes into play. This dystopian novel introduces a society of future London where individuals are policed by the state in matters reproduction. A character by the name Tristram Foxe experiences the turn of events, where civilization undergoes a form of dissolution, introducing war, chaos, famine and cannibalism.

A clockwork orange and The wanting seed by Anthony Burgess

The Time Machine

The novel was written in 1895, featuring an anonymous character travelling through the 1890s into 802,701 A.D. It projects a civilization that would be divided between cavern dwelling Morlocks and hedonistic Eloi. Their relationship is somehow symbiotic because the Morlocks would provide for the Eloi and feed on them in return.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

The Stand

This is one of the books by Stephen King, who is known for presenting his ideas through horrific episodes. The Stand describes how civilization will come to an end and the decisions that brave it will take with the hope of rebuilding. King’s description of survivors is very chilling, and the super sad true narration of the losses is equally horrifying.

The Stand by Stephen King

Infinite Jest

David Foster Wallace is a renowned author, and his skill is depicted in this novel, where he adopts literary innovations to put up one of the perfect pieces of American dystopian fiction. He uses art to project the future where terrorists capture a certain territory with the ability to destroy lives through sponsorship from corporate. Infinite Jest is an ambitious and viciously unsettling novel.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Conclusion

The best dystopian novels of the twentieth century have rich literature, dating back to the ancient years when authors could only imagine what civilization implied. Many of the novels feature deep thoughts of the future, some giving an accurate account of what the world would look like. Each author is unique in their style, presenting a lot of variety in the way they speak to their audiences. Surprisingly, most of the books are comprehensive, appealing to both the young adults and the old.

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