HMT Background Information – Students’ Summaries


A dystopian is a society in which there is some aspect of it that is not desirable and frightening. They are most often shown in works of fictions.Dystopias can fall into any other sub genre and often show stange get not entirely unrealistic depictions of the future. Dystopian themed  literature often  showcase, social groups, politics ,economics and conflict in a society.Some common things found in dystopian texts are herichay within the society, dictatorial led leadships systems,propaganda, heavily held religious beliefs, conformity to the government’s ideal, no outside world knowledge , heavily armed totalitarian states and usually follow protagonist who is not happy and rebelling the system. Dystopian literature almost is always based in the future allowing readers to connect and enjoy them as it is a possible reflection of what the world could turn into.


A totalitarian state is a political system in which the state hold total power and authority, and aims to control all aspects of public and private life. They often have a dictator or only one ruling party. Propaganda in these states is very common along with control over media and literature. Military forces are very present in these society often being the controlling force keeping the citizens in line by using fear. Religion is either limited to certain religions banning all other forms. Population control is often a common theme in totalitarian states, in an aim or either decrease or increase.

Strategies implemented by totalitarianism

  • Having a dictatorship
  • Employing only one ruling party
  • Rule through fear
  • Censorship of media
  • Propaganda in media, government speeches and through education
  • Criticism of the state prohibited
  • Mandatory military sign up
  • Secret police and spies in general population
  • Controlling reproduction of the population
  • Targeting specific individuals or groups
  • Development of a nationalist parties
  • Dystopian fiction
  • Fundamentalism
  • Counter modernist
  • Assertive and violent (hangings, cattle robs, salvagings)
  • They are “the chosen’ or  ‘the saved’ on a special mission for god
  • Public marks of distinction- woman dresses in their colours, the commanders at the top of hierarchy.
  • There is only one religion and one correct way of life,and these must be defended. If you don’t follow the way you will be prosecuted.
  • There is a holy book to which literal obedience is mandatory.
  • Law and authority come from god.
  • Female sexuality must be controlled and clear boundaries must be established between men and women. ( including marriage,reproduction, abortion and no access to education)
  • Homosexuality is outlawed.
  • Fundamentalism and nationalism converge- Gilead is the fundamentalist state

Theocracy: A system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.

Puritanism:  The beliefs or principles of a group of English Protestants of the late 16th and 17th centuries who regarded the Reformation of the Church under Elizabeth I as incomplete and sought to simplify and regulate forms of worship.

Puritans believe that marriage is the most important relationship, as in a marriage husbands were the head of the household and the women expected to be obedient to them. The men commanded authority over the women through direction and prayer and the women were submissive because of their devotion to god.

Marriage represents not only the relationship between husband and wife but the relationship between the couple and god.

In puritism the women are in charge of children, the household and the running of their husbands properties. Puritans believed in the separation of mother and child when the child reaches adolescence so that the child could gain a better relationship with god.

After the 1630’s the puritans moved to New England (21,000) and produced more than 16 million descendants.

Education deemed highly important for puritans and was determined by gender and the roles that the children would have later in life. Girls were taught to read and boys were taught higher pursuits.

Restrictions and pleasures:

Once they got to New England the puritans did not agree with Christmas and the celebrations surrounding it. Celebration was made illegal in Boston in 1659. This ban was then cancelled and also cancelled the puritan ban on saturday night festivities. It was not until mid 19th century that celebrating christmas became fashionable. Colonies banned activities that were not related to religious matters such as games of chance, maypoles and drama. However, they did not disagree to drinking alcohol. Laws banned the toasting of people because it led to the wasting of God’s gift of beer and wine. There were no boundaries around sexuality within marriage. Spouses were disciplined if they did not perform their sexual marital duties. Puritans punished publicly people that were drunk and had sexual relations outside of marriage.


Definition: Is the advocacy or support of the rights and equality of women.

Feminism is a collection and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal rights for women. These rights vary from economical, political and social.

Feminism came from the French philosopher, Charles Fourier.

Feminist theory is the study of gender inequality through the examination of women’s roles in today’s society. This has a number of variations due to different beliefs in the feminism community such as different beliefs on pornography, prostitution and masculinity.

Male participation is encouraged by feminists as it is seen important strategy for achieving equal rights, and the women believe it is important for the men to understand their ideas. The men bring attention to male rape and spousal battery and addressing negative social expectations for men.
A man isn’t told not to dress provocatively.

A man isn’t told not to go out alone after dark.

A man isn’t judged on his level of physical attractiveness.

A man isn’t judged negatively for his number of sexual partners.

A man isn’t called ‘selfish; for having a career as well as a family.

A man isn’t called ‘crazy’ for expressing negative emotions.

I am a woman who goes through those things every day. That’s why I need feminism.  

Freud’s Theory:

  • Freud viewed women as men without penises, and believed that women had a primal desire to obtain a penis, and what power it represented, by either wanting to perform heterosexual acts with their mother, then realising they are unable to, and then later shifting the desire onto her father, as she is sexually passive and only wants sex to be able to have a child who is male, in order to obtain a penis finally. Women were said by Freud to be morally inferior to men, as they did not have the male genitalia and therefore, and undeveloped superego. Women were also said to fantasise about having a penis and expressed this in dancing in moves which might resemble having a penis, or wanting revenge towards men through humiliation or deprivation of sex by removing the penis from the man or the man from the penis.
  • Female sexuality, according to early freudian theory is exactly the same as the male, up untill the phallic stage of physchosexual development. Since woman dont have a penis, however, they experience penis envy.  Freud considered that in normal female development penis envy transformed into the wish for a man and/or a baby.
  • Penis envy in women is a problem that freud believed could never be completely resolved, thus condemning all woman to underdeveloped superegos, implying women will always be morally inferior to men.
  • The term sometimes refers to women who are presumed to wish they were men. However, the concept is unrelated to the “small penis syndrome” which is the anxiety of thinking one’s penis is too small.

Posted by Tracey Hames

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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