Guest Post: Dystopian Love: The Humanizing Factor

7:21 AM Posted by Lori

1: an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives
2: anti-utopia
(Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Dystopian literature has made a comeback in recent years.  It never truly went away, but it seems like everywhere you look today a new dystopian title is on the market.  For those of us who love dystopias of all forms, this is a great thing.  We have a well spring of new dystopian titles that we can read and enjoy, one of the newest being Lauren Oliver’s Delirium.  
Delirium Book Summary:
All her life, Lena, has been warned of the dangers of amor deliria nervosa, the most dangerous disease in the world; a disease that has the power to rip society apart, a disease that must be prevented and eliminated at all costs.  Amor Deliria Nervosa, otherwise known as love, is forbidden in Lena’s world.  People are constantly on guard against this horrible disease.  At the age of eighteen, teens undergo the procedure that cures amor delirium nervosa.  After the tragic death of her mother because of the disease Lena has done everything in her power to avoid the horrors of the disease and counts the days until she can receive the cure.  Until one day, she meets someone and with only days to go until her procedure, falls in love.  

Delirium is a tale of dystopian love or anti-love as the case may be.  You see, in the dystopian world Oliver has created, love is a disease called amor deliria nervosa, a disease that must be eradicated and cured.  Unfortunately, you must wait until your eighteenth birthday to receive the cure.
In Delirium, the people are dehumanized by losing the ability to love.  While people no longer die pining away for a lost love, they also lose the ability to love their children; merely acting as stewards to raise them in a cold society.  
The society in Delirium, seeks to control their population by curing/eliminating love.  Without love, they believe that people will do what they are told to make the society function.  If you look at many of the dystopian novels, you find that it is love or humanity that leads the characters to question their environments, to rebel, or even try to fight the system.  So looking at those examples, their reasoning seems sound.  Ironically, in Delirium their own attempts to eradicate love result in another type of rebellion.
You can find love in many other dystopian novels.  Here are a few that come to mind:
In Matched by Ally Condie, love is controlled by arranged marriages.  When Cassia, the main character, sees a face other than the one she is matched to on her microcard, she begins to question society.  What if her true match was Ky not Xander?  As she gets to know Ky, she begins to fall in love with him, thus beginning her resistance against the rules of her dystopian society.
In Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the real love of Katniss’s life is not Peeta or Gale.  Her love is devoted to her younger sister Prim.  For Prim, and for Prim alone, Katniss enters the arena and battles those who would have slaughtered her sister.  Every action Katniss takes is for the love of her sister, and when Prim tells Katniss to do her best and to win the games, that is what Katniss sets out to do.  Katniss sets out to defy the odds and later her very society, all for the love of her sister.  
There are more examples where those came from.  In Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien, it is Gaia’s love for her parents that leads her to enter the enclave to try and save them.  In JoĆ«lle Anthony’s Restoring Harmony, it is Molly’s love for her family that motivates her journey across the border to find her grandparents and bring them to her home in Canada.  Even in Orwell’s classic dystopia 1984 we see how love can motivate Winston when he has an illicit affair with Julia.  
Love is the hope that exists in all dystopias.  Love is the cause for rebellion against the society that seeks to dehumanize the population.  As we see in Oliver’s Delirium while you can try to suppress love, you can never destroy it.  As she says in the introduction of chapter two, “We must be constantly on guard against the Disease [love]; the health of our nation, our people, our families, and our minds depends on constant vigilance” (pg. 5 from the ARC).  Love is what can bring a dystopia to its knees, without love there is no hope of changing the world for the better.  That is what I love about dystopian fiction!

This awesome post was by Melissa at Mel's Books and Info! Go check her blog out!


  1. Ella Press said...

    Love makes the world go around!
    Great post!

  2. Melissa @ Mel's Books and Info said...

    Thanks Ella! I was surprised by how many "love stories" I actually found when I thought about all the dystopian lit I have read--there were many more than just the ones I listed. It is a neat thing to think about.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Wild Child Publishing just released a great dystopian thriller titled Against Nature. It's about a global pandemic caused by an extraterrestrial dust mite. You can find it at:

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