Who Will I Be: Young Adult Dystopian Novels, Interpellation, and Ideology

Open Access
Lawrenson, Sarah Jessica
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Leisha J Jones, Thesis Supervisor
  • Lisa Ruth Sternlieb, Honors Advisor
  • English
  • young adult
  • dystopia
  • ideology
  • interpellation
  • hunger games
  • divergent
  • matched
  • delirium
The young adult dystopian genre is, across the board, filled with mystery, intrigue, romance, and totalitarian governments bent on controlling every aspect of their citizen’s lives. This has become something of a trope in the genre, setting up a predicable pattern: protagonist begins novel blind to the realities of her world, and after three books, all out war, and maybe a love triangle, the protagonist is allowed to explore the freedoms she was denied. Though this tried and true method may get tiresome to readers who want something new, this formulaic plot points to a common question: how does one negotiate imperatives for becoming an adult? My thesis focuses on the dystopian worlds in four young adult series, The Hunger Games trilogy, by Susanne Collins, the Divergent trilogy, by Veronica Roth, the Matched trilogy, by Ally Condie, and the Delirium trilogy, by Lauren Oliver, all of which attempt to answer this question. I examine the ideologies of the oppressive societies in which the characters live, and how each female protagonist explores identities outside of the dominant ideology. By questioning the ideologies with which they were raised, the female protagonists fight for the right to choose their identities and ultimately show teenage readers they too can question the ideologies that govern them. In addition, I look at how the narratives of these teenage girls are shaped, particularly through the form of the series, and attempt to answer what it is about the identities of the girls and the narrative structure that allows them to enact large social change.