Dystopian literature is a popular form of fiction today, which explores the possible unfavorable outcomes for humanity in the future. This paper is a rhetorical analysis of Margaret Atwood’s essay “Why readers and writers are so fixated with dystopian visions,” in which the author discusses the reasons behind such works and functions they serve. Atwood makes a compelling argument in her paper by incorporating analogies and sound literary techniques.
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Thesis and Purpose
Atwood is discussing the reasons behind the immense popularity of dystopian literature among contemporary readers. Her thesis is that dystopias serve as a form of the blueprint for potential outcomes of current human activity. The author’s position is clear, but she does not make explicit remarks. Atwood believes that humanity may face “the dismal future” unless it changes its course of development. The author’s purpose is to inform the audience that the world is going to be lost for all it fails functioning. Atwood is not willing to convince anyone; she is only interpreting the function of dystopian literature and why it may be necessary to think about it. The author accomplished her goal by exploring the topic from various perspectives and presenting the most plausible reason why dystopian works are popular today.
At first glance, Atwood’s essay is written for all people, including the ones who are interested in reading dystopias. However, the work was originally published by Financial Times in London. This newspaper focuses primarily on business and economics, and the publisher’s main audience is people that work in this sector. Individuals interested in politics and politicians themselves may also be interested in reading the materials provided by Financial Times. Atwood’s intended audience is people that run businesses and governments. According to the author, these political and corporate leaders have been negligent to the environment as if they believe they have a “special lifeboat reserved just for them” (Atwood 2). The writer reaches the audience effectively by using a rhetorical question that serves as a direct address to the mentioned leaders.
Atwood is a fiction writer, and therefore, she uses literary techniques rather than relying on statistical evidence. She first discusses the possible explanations of why people love reading dystopias these days. The author uses analogies in numerous places in the essay. Atwood says that people are future-oriented beings, supporting her claim with remarks about weather forecasts, horoscopes, and the work of stock analysts. The function of such fiction, however, is much more important – they remind people what may happen given particular inputs of society.
The author’s arguments are convincing because I believe that the future is a result of our current actions. When activities are unfavorable, it is likely that the future will be dim as well. Prior to looking at dystopian literature from this perspective, the author discusses several other options of how one can interpret the role of dystopian works. For instance, Atwood first proposes that dystopian literature is popular because people are less confident about their future regarding jobs and economic opportunities. She then speaks of human nature, which is keen on focusing on the future rather than looking at the past. A discussion of alternative explanations can be seen as a consideration of opposing arguments.
Atwood does not make any authoritative claims and instead takes the position of a companion with whom the reader may explore and contemplate. The author is fair and open-minded as she views subjects from a variety of points of view. She even rejects providing examples of possible scenarios because “one person’s possibility is another’s a raving-lunatic nightmare” (Atwood 2). The author respects everyone’s opinion and is not willing to impose her beliefs on others. The only place where she makes an unequivocal claim is when she says, “If the planet dies, all die,” simply because this statement is an axiom (Atwood 2). This self-presentation of the author builds a relationship based on trust between her and the readers.
Dystopias are generally dark and dim, but Atwood attempts to keep the tone positive throughout the whole text when discussing them. On several occasions, she makes analogies that may be perceived as entertaining and humorous. One example is the author’s discussion of Fido the Dog and his capabilities of remembering the past and anticipating the future. The optimistic tone only strengthens the trust between the writer and the audience. Towards the end of the essay, she reinforces the fact that her intent is not to convince but to remind that it is the audience’s decision, and dystopian fiction may contain hints about potential outcomes.
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According to the author, dystopias can be viewed from various perspectives. For some people, they represent entertainment, while others see it as a prediction. Atwood suggests that these pieces of literature may be blueprints for what will happen in the future if people fail to address global concerns, such as climate change. Political and corporate leaders have to understand that once the world is destroyed, it will vanish for everyone. This statement is a strong argument, and it supports the author’s message.
Atwood, Margaret. “Why Readers and Writers Are So Fixated With Dystopian Visions.” Financial Times, 2020.