Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dystopia and Fairy Tales

The other day someone mentioned Divergent to me and even though I have read it before, I had to rush out and look at it again.  It’s a good book and within minutes I was re-sucked into it.  

I typically don’t like dystopian novels.  Frankly they scare the begeezes out of me.  The main reason being that they all explain at some point (usually early on in the book) how this society came to be, and their reasons usually make sense.  That’s what’s so scary.  If their reasons make sense, then how do we know that sometime in the future something like this won’t happen to us?  (or our kids, or grandkids)  What I mean is that they point out the flaws in the society we have now and offer a “reasonable” solution, but then they show how very wrong that solution ultimately is. 

So maybe you’re thinking at this point: “Well, isn’t that good?  I mean if these books show us that these solutions won’t work then we can learn from them and society won’t head down that path, right?”  Well, that’s just the problem.  We don’t learn that way. 

Well, back to Divergent.  I think what sucked me in was – as is usually the case with me – character.  While it is a dystopian novel, what it is really about is one girl setting aside her fears and discovering who she really is.  I love that.  I think more young girls need to read this sort of book, where instead of waiting to be rescued (ie. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cindrella) they take things into their own hands and do the rescuing themselves (are you seeing why I let my kids watch Mirror Mirror over and over instead of Disney’s version of the fairy tale). 

It’s not that I’m against fairy tales, I adore fairy tales.  One of my favorite quotes is by G.K. Chesterton: “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist.  Children already know dragons exist.  Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”  The problem I have with most traditional fairy tales is that they are lacking in strong female characters.  I want my daughters growing up not only knowing that dragons can be killed; I want them to know that they can do the killing.  They need to grow up with heroes like Hermione, or Tris, and not think that they have to wait for a guy to come and save them. 

So even though I don’t really plan to read the sequel to Divergent I would still recommend it.  Because it has great characters and it teaches good lessons.  And, no, I still haven’t read Hunger Games… did you miss the part where I hate dystopian novels?  But I think maybe I plan to, someday.  Mostly because I think that maybe another strong female character is what my daughters need, and from what I’ve heard Katniss fits that bill well.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the picture... we really can't discuss strong female characters without mentioning Éowyn.  After all she went to war and killed the Lord of the Nazgûl.  You don't get much stronger than that.

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