I just posted the latest musical theater education packet, written by my wife, as she aims to make the most of our home-schooled children’s participation in Stage Right Greensburg’s student theater production.
1.10) Narnia, once a utopia or paradise, has become a sad, cold dystopia under the Witch’s rule.
Read & discuss other examples of Utopias & Dystopias in literature (What makes them desirable or undesirable places to live?): Plato’s Republic; Thomas More’s Utopia; Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels; Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The May-Pole of Merry Mount” & “Rappacini’s Daughter;” William Morris’ News From Nowhere; Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward; Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; George Orwell’s 1984; Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451; Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time; Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Gathering Blue, & Messenger; Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Among the Hidden series, as well as Running Out of Time (compare to M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Village); Jeanne du Prau’s City of Ember; Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, & Mockingjay; stories of King Arthur’s Camelot; and some interpret Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford as female utopias.
A Utopia could also be a travel account of an unspoiled native or natural place (perhaps Thoreau’s Walden, or Life in the Woods), or a recollection of a childhood place (like a secret garden… a perfect summer… perhaps like Garnet’s Thimble Summer, or the fictional Green Knowe by L.M. Boston). It could be a Commune or Experimental Community, whether political, social or religious– America’s early Puritan colonies; Brook Farm (in which Nathaniel Hawthorne spent some unhappy time); a monastery or convent of a religious order (“The Rule of St. Benedict;” As Great A Right to be Merry; DVD Into Great Silence, etc.); or 1960s/1970s hippie communes. It could be a Planned City or an Ideal/Planned Community, such as the plans for Washington, D.C.; one time “worker’s paradise” Vandergrift, PA (see Anne Mosher’s Capital’s Utopia); New Deal homestead community Norvelt, PA, providing a fresh start to displaced mineworkers (locally chronicled by Sondra Wolk Shimizzi); or the Seaside community that provided the setting for The Truman Show movie.
Dystopias could also include prison literature, failed experiments (see Marx’s “Communist Manifest” and the culture it spawned in Soltzenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich & The Gulag Archipelago); or deliberate “Anti-” literature, writing fictional places/situations to criticize an idea or group (such as anti-technology films like The Net, or anti-genetic experimentation/discrimination films like Gattaca or V for Vendetta; or deliberately anti-Catholic literature like The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk or Lewis’ The Monk).