English and Modern Languages
Master of Arts (MA)
Mark R. Harris
American, dystopia, education, Gatsby, Mockingbird, utopia
English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America
Harris, Samuel Nathan, "American Dreams and Dystopias: Examining Dystopian Parallels in The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird" (2015). Masters Theses. 363.
In this study I consider the recent trend of dystopian fiction in literature—both the broader genre of dystopias of the past century or so, and the contemporarily popular subgenre of young adult dystopian fiction—and examine whether certain American novels, while not typically considered dystopias, can fit into this genre or at least be established as having some parallels with works of this genre. Based on certain shared archetypes of the genre, such as “speculative myth,” a governing “ritual habit,” and a dissatisfied narrator or protagonist, I here propose that other American classics, specifically F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, can be considered within the dystopian genre or from a dystopian approach, despite not traditionally being included in this genre. Furthermore, given the recent upsurge in popularity of dystopian fiction, especially among the younger generation of students, I seek to apply these findings to pedagogy and to examine whether presenting these classics as works of dystopian fiction can make them more relevant or engaging to students at the secondary level.