December 3, 2004
Biology, Culture, and Persistent Literary Dystopias
At one point in the classic movie version of The Wizard of Oz, Bert Lahr asks: "What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the ape in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?" The answer, for Lahr's Cowardly Lion, is "courage." We ask, albeit less poetically: "What puts the dys in dystopia?" And we answer: a denial of biology.
Literary dystopias have this in common: They are imagined societies in which the deepest demands of human nature are either subverted, perverted, or simply