Welcome to the Arena: Deconstructing the Female Character in Dystopian Literature

Keshia McClantoc


This research is designed to examine and rewrite Erika Gottelieb's theory of "the eternal feminine of the romantic cosmos." This theory was first presented in her research in Dystopian Fiction East and West: Universe of Terror and Trial, and outlines the parameters by which the female character is viewed, and in turn, written in dystopian fiction. The theory often works in a mocking tone, stating that the female character only has two jobs within a story. One is to work as the "trigger" for events in the story, either directly or indirectly; and afterwards to step aside and let the hero take over and follow through with the events of the story. The primary intent of this research is to rewrite Gottelieb's theory by using modern day examples to reshape and re-form it. The eternal feminine will work as a lens to view the female characters in dystopian literature, looking at examples in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, and a dystopic Garden of Eden. These examples will be used to establish the older version of the female characters, one where they were written to the exact boundaries of the eternal feminine. The theory will then be applied to Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games series and will focus primarily on Katniss Everdeen. The research follows her journey through the entire series and uses it to explore and reshape the eternal feminine. By using Katniss Everdeen, the eternal feminine is rewritten into something that allows for female characters that are more dynamic and able to take the role of hero themselves. This rewriting will also allow room for more growth and examine the changing state of dystopian literature, so that it can, in fact, be eternal.


dystopia, literary tropes, eternal feminine of the romantic cosmos

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