The Difference Between a Utopian and Dystopian World

For those of you currently diving into the world of apocalyptic reading, I’ve created a discussion on what exactly the difference is between a utopian and dystopian world in the context of young adult literature.

Bored? Intrigued? A total sci-fi nerd!? Read on for more info!

Utopia Versus Dystopia: What’s the Difference?

These two sub-genres are distinctly different, but also share unique similarities. For starters, a Utopia is essentially a perfect world. Of course we all know there is no such thing as a “perfect world” and conflict will nonetheless arise. This conflict leads to a Dystopia. A Dystopia is essentially a perfect world gone wrong.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re likely familiar with the Divergent Series by Veronica Roth. This story is set in a dystopic future where society is separated into five factions which, at first glance seem like a great and efficient way to organize this fictional society. That is, until it becomes clear there is an underlying oppression emphasized in the deliberate separation of people. The factions were a utopian idea. Constructed to create a perfect society where each member could thrive.

This is where the dystopic aspect enters the scene. Maybe the world is perfect for a time, but perfection is an impossibility. A true Utopia stays perfect, but when a Utopia is never truly perfect to begin with, it is, or becomes, a Dystopia. As in Divergent, the factions begin to conflict, equality among all becomes oppression of one over many, and a war begins.

Take for instance The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; set in an unruly future where kids are forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of those in the Capitol. This is almost an apocalyptic approach to the future, but keep in mind a Dystopia is not apocalyptic, though the two categories are similar. The Capitol is oppressing the districts of Panem and forcing them to participate in the Hunger Games. This world is a Dystopia. The people are living in a degraded state and being dictated. The world is the opposite of perfect—it is a disaster zone.

Does this look pretty Utopian to you?
Does this look pretty utopian to you?

What About the Apocalypse? 

In regards to dystopian disaster zones let me talk a bit about apocalyptic literature. Apocalypse stories are “end of world” stories or, “end of life as we know it” tales. For example, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey tells the story of teenagers surviving an alien takeover of Earth. In this novel, the majority of the human population has been decimated and the world the characters once knew is gone for good as they adapt to survive the changing elements.

Another example is the Life as we knew it series by Susan Beth Pfeffer which describes how life changes for the human race following the catastrophic consequences of a meteor hitting the moon. This story follows characters as they fight to survive the end of the world.

To Review

Here’s a quick recap of what I covered:

  • Utopia: A “perfect” world or society.
  • Dystopia: A wrecked or oppressed world or society.
  • Apocalyptic: The end of the world as it is known.

And there you have it! The difference between these fiction sub-genres. Hope you found this as interesting as I do!

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Rachel Writes View All →

Hi! My name is Rachel. I love to write. Write about life, love, and reflect on how the past builds the future. Mostly, I love to tell stories because I believe there is something about stories that brings the world closer together. You can check out some of my writing reflections here at Rachel Writes.

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