Escaping the Male Orbit: Female Agency in Distopian Literature

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People can be defined by the non-limitative categories of age, race, class, and/or profession. These categories can be subdivided in male and female gender, a divide which is traditionally linked to the sex of its subject. However, feminist theory has established that gender is a cultural construction, and that the gender category is moderately fixed by social determinism. Dystopian worlds diverge from the familiar world; they depict radically altered worlds with alien cultures that construct categories in unfamiliar ways. Such unfamiliar, transformed categories can be established through the performance of their subject: the subject’s agency. This thesis analyses female agency in dystopian novels which use the dystopian landscape as a literary societal experiment that forces fictional characters to operate outside conventional paradigms of (gender) behaviour. The female agency as depicted in the following dystopian novels is analysed; High-Rise, The Children of Men, and Never Let Me Go. The research will show that the radical society of dystopian fiction transforms female categories, as is established by the female characters’ agency. Furthermore, it argues that through the introduction of unfamiliar female categories in discourse, dystopian fiction contributes to gender equality in present-day society. Keywords: gender, female agency, transformation of category, critical dystopia, dystopian literature, High-Rise, The Children of Men, Never Let Me Go
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