You can’t have a utopia novel without having a dystopia novel. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is not only a famous novel and tv show, but it is also an eye-opening, terrifying piece of art that is reflective of the times we’re living in.
In my senior year of university, I took a “Utopia Fiction” class, and along with reading Atwood’s novel, we read many other interesting utopia stories. Here are a few books to read if you love Atwood.
The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorn
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance depicts a utopian farming commune that is actually based on a real place, Brook Farm, which Hawthorne was a founding member of. The novel experiments with romance and private desires all under the cover of this utopic community. This novel is interesting because its focus is not entirely about the workings of the commune, but instead the people who have chosen to be there. Hawthorne depicts love, sadness, and grief all wrapped into one, showing that even though the community may be idealistic, the people within still battle with their emotions.
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Herland was one of my favorites in my Utopia Fiction class and a must-read. On top of it being woman-run and operated, it was written by none other than Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Gilman is famous for The Yellow Wallpaper, a feminist short story about a woman’s struggle in a patriarchal society. Herland has similar themes, as it depicts a woman-only society where children are born through asexual reproduction. There is no need for a man. Without men in their society, there is no conflict or any form of male dominance.
In typical feminist style, the community starts to take a nasty turn only when three unwelcome men enter. Gilman uses her radical and somewhat bizarre novel to show that if this was possible, there would be no place for men even in ways they think are completely necessary.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Divergent raised me during my formative middle school years. It is arguably a crumbling utopia making it a dystopian novel, but I think its attempt at utopia is fascinating. The demolished, futuristic city of Chicago has divided itself up into factions; Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the kind), Erudite (the intelligent), Abnegation (the selfless), and Candor (the honest). People are forced to stay in their chosen factions even if they feel that they are more ambitious than just their one group, thus where the divergence comes from. In typical utopic form, there is rebellion, but I am so intrigued that this system worked so long and people thought they only belonged to and had one notable characteristic that defined them.
Before I read utopian novels, I thought that they concrete styles of government. These novels helped me realize utopia comes in all different forms; factions, woman-only, farming convents, and more.
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