Utopias and dystopias have been present in the world since literary fiction exists, where worlds are presented in a different reality, which can be as utopian and dystopian as the author prefers. When we describe utopian and dystopian fiction, we can find the perfect or the catastrophic reality, respectively. But where does the meaning of utopias and dystopias come from? In this entry, we will review their origin, and the characteristics that define them and we will also name several books on utopias and dystopias that you will be interested in reading. We invite you to continue reading.

What is a utopia?

To start with the definition of utopia and dystopia, it is necessary to say that you may have come across these terms before. Still, anyway in this section, we will talk about what is utopia and dystopia.

First, a utopia is a type of world that is popular and recurrent in speculative fiction stories or in literary and cinematographic science fiction; Regarding the first type of fiction, speculative, it is a term that covers several genres: science fiction, history, fantasy, horror, supernatural, apocalyptic, alternative or any other type of fiction that is not entirely realistic.

That said, a utopia is defined as the perfect world to live in. Everything is peaceful, and tranquil, and everything works well; there are no wars, diseases, inequalities, poverty, oppression or repression, discrimination, etc. That is why in fiction, a utopia is a dream world that has been created by someone's mind, a poet, writer, and screenwriter, among others, but even you can devise the perfect world to live in.

On the other hand, this definition has Greek origins because it stems from the term eutopia, which means "good place"; In addition, its appearance in literature occurred in 1516, at the hands of the British lawyer and writer Sir Thomas More (147-1535), who wrote a book called Utopia, a work that gives him the title of being the first person to write about a perfect imaginary world, a utopia.

In the book, More talks about a complex and independent society in which the inhabitants share a common culture and way of life; it is a way of projecting a better way of life and what European society would be like with a different policy than that of that time.

Characteristics of a utopia

As we have said before, a utopia is a space, state, or condition that is "ideally perfect" in areas such as politics, customs, and living conditions. However, several characteristics define it. 

It's not total perfection although utopia in the literature shows a fictional world that can be read perfectly in every way, that society and the system work perfectly, this does not apply to humanity. That is, people are not perfect regardless of whether the system is.

independence and freedom

In a utopian society, access to information prevails, and freedom of expression and action are respected. Citizens can think differently without being judged, and the State is under the command of an individualistic, communal, libertarian, and communal government. However, “power” is not talked about because it is seen as a term that incites corruption.

The outside world and nature

In utopias, people in a society are not afraid to make contact with the outside world and enjoy life in harmony. In addition, they appreciate nature and focus on preserving it for the future; they work to eradicate the evils of industrialization and human pollution.

Technology and ideals

In a utopian society, people adhere to their social and moral ideals, and individuality and technological innovations predominate, to improve and facilitate the experience of life in society. Likewise, people embrace the sense of evolution and put aside the search for money because they focus on working on what they like. On the other hand, their religious ideals are based on the biblical Eden, on the history of God, but there may also be another type of belief within society. 

Books with utopian worlds 

In this tour of utopia and dystopia in science fiction, we can list numerous works that portray what is a utopia in literature; however, in this section, we have compiled three examples of utopia and dystopia in books. In this 1971 book, Ursula K. Le Guin introduces George Orr, a resident of Portland, Oregon, who is desperate because everything he dreams of is coming true. As tempting as this sounds, for George, it is not, and that is why he seeks out a psychiatrist, Dr. William, who instantly notices that his new patient has magnificent power and uses it to his advantage. while handling it.

In this work, where two men play God, the reader can see the dangers of the power of fulfilled dreams. Furthermore, Le Guin projects the volatility of human nature and the workings of the world; it is a book as philosophical as it is stimulating and it is a great example of science fiction. Woman on the Edge of Time – Marge Piercy

Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) centers on Consuelo 'Connie' Ramos, a Chicana living in great New York who, to her misfortune, has been declared insane. However, she knows that she is not delusional and that her mental state is perfect; in fact, Connie is tuned into the future and can communicate with two possible timelines in the year 2137. 

This is a feminist fantasy work in which, on the one hand, you see an androgynous society living together in harmony, while on another channel there is a really worrying future, and Consuelo Ramos, who has seen violence, knows that very well. , racism, misogyny, and other evils that have destroyed society, but do not affect the wealthy elites… Will Connie be able to change humanity?

Venus Plus X – Theodore Sturgeon

In 1960, Theodore Sturgeon wrote Venus Plus X, a novel in which the protagonist is Charlie Johns, who out of nowhere wakes up in a strange new world. Charlie is in the country of London, where humanity has solved his problems.

Venus Plus X – Theodore Sturgeon

In 1960, Theodore Sturgeon wrote Venus Plus X, a novel in which the protagonist is Charlie Johns, who out of nowhere wakes up in a strange new world. Charlie is in the country of London, where humanity has solved his problems through technological evolution and, furthermore, there is no biological sex. Of course, the protagonist is surprised by such changes, but the inhabitants of London are determined that Charlie understand the "benefits" of living in this new society. 

Venus Plus X sheds light on social gender and sex roles in world cultures but also addresses individual differences without being unnecessarily divisive. Sturgeon, from the 60s, has been talking about the changes in society that even in the 21st century have not yet materialized. 

What is a dystopia?

Now, we continue with the definition of dystopia. A dystopia (from the Greek utopia: "no place") or anti-utopia is a chaotic world that is far from perfect, which is why dystopia in science fiction on the big screen or in print shows the chaos that afflicts humanity. whole; dystopian worlds can show extreme, destroyed, and desolate scenarios where society is controlled and divided. In fact, the prefix "dis" indicates that it is something bad or difficult.

So when we talk about what is a dystopia, we can define it as a fictional world in which there is oppressive control of society, and humans live in an apocalypse and in deplorable conditions. The definition of what is dystopian has to do with human misery, poverty, dictatorships, oppression, violence, insecurity, extreme diseases, and general pollution of the environment. On the other hand, it is worth noting that the genre was born from the Russian mind of Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937), who launched Us in 1920, a dystopian novel that narrates an oppressed society controlled by the State.

The anti-utopias or dystopias are established through companies, bureaucrats, advanced but controlled technology, totalitarianism, and a society and a State plagued by corruption. In short, youth and classic dystopian novels show societies in decline and, in contrast, have protagonists struggling against environmental ruin and socioeconomic disaster. Characteristics of a dystopia

After having defined what a dystopia is, it is time to define what the characteristics of a dystopia are. In this section, we list some of them.  

citizen control

Dystopias and utopias are differentiated by issues such as social control. In this case, a dystopian society makes use of propaganda to control citizens; people do not have free access to information, and free thought and individual actions have no place in a dystopian world. In addition, people feel constantly watched by the government or rulers. 


Regarding beliefs, the citizens of the dystopian society are characterized by worshiping a figure or concept in terms of religion and power. In this context, they are governed by a very marked line of thought so as not to be seen as deserters. 

The outside world and nature

A utopian and dystopian reality is also differentiated by citizens' fear of the outside world since the latter is synonymous with ignorance and concern even though citizens are in a dehumanized society. On the other hand, nature is destroyed, neglected, and not an important goal for the dominant state.

Types of controls

As we have said before, dystopian citizenship has to conform to the laws that have been strictly imposed and, beyond social control, other controls make it "perfect" in a dystopia. One of them is the corporate, which is established through products, advertising, and the mass media; there is also bureaucratic control (rules, laws, officials), technological control (robots and scientific innovations), and philosophical control, which governs society through a philosophical or religious ideology.

Books with dystopian worlds

In this section, we list several examples of what a dystopia is in books with three works that make a clear difference between utopia and dystopia.

1984 – George Orwell

Orwell's 1949 play is one of the great examples of dystopia because it shows a nation that is overseen by a ubiquitous and vigilant government that is looking to punish anyone who tries to turn against it. The totalitarian system was dominant in 1894, a book in which the author builds a world based on his observations of society during the Cold War. 

In this book, Orwell created complex mechanisms such as doublethink and contradictory slogans such as "War is peace", words that echo in the reader's mind because he makes a connection between the real world and the fictional world.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Can you imagine a world in which reading is penalized and having a book at home is a reason for execution? Probably not, but Ray Bradbury did it in Fahrenheit 451, a play that is set in a society where firefighters don't put out fires, but light fires on houses and anywhere there are one or more books in sight. Guy Montag is the protagonist of this story and he is a hero who wants the authoritarian state to stop prohibiting people from reading and obtaining more knowledge.

This book by Bradbury does not seek to make you understand that reading books is important, regardless of how you do it, but instead sheds light on the problem that increasing censorship represents in a society that is already sufficiently oppressed by social control.

The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood

In this list, a book that makes the difference between utopia and dystopia is The Handmaid's Tale (1985), a work by Margaret Atwood that focuses on a world controlled by a religious sect that takes over the United States and, since the first moment, applies order and totalitarian laws in society. In this book, women are domesticated and subservient to men and are destined to be baby-making machines even though environmental degradation has had a great impact on female fertility.

In The Handmaid's Tale, fertile women are of great value because they can give children to those who need them, especially those in power. Offred is the protagonist of this story in which women have no choice but to work to conceive and are removed from their previous lives and their families.

Perfect imaginary society even if its citizens are not.Disoriented and chaotic society.
Its citizens are oppressed.
People live in peaceful spaces.
Citizens are disciplined and respect the laws.
There is hostility and confrontations.
People tend to be more aggressive and less empathetic.
Utopia is synonymous with paradise and perfection.Dystopia is the presentation of hell and chaos.
Calm, lighting, clean streets,
Orderly people.
There is a sense of justice and problems are easily resolved.
There is independent thought and freedom of expression and action. 
It is a society in social and economic imbalance.
There is a lot of disorder, dirt, and violence.
Extensive social control through political propaganda.
There is no presence of a built government system, but there is a leader.People are governed by a tyrannical and totalitarian figure. 
People appreciate, adore, and preserve the nature of their world. Nature is destroyed by pollution and technological advances. 



In a utopia, people live in a perfect space or place on a political and social level, but that perfection does not always apply to its citizens. That is to say, that they live in a perfect state does not mean that there are no bad people.

 However, there are laws, customs, and conditions that are fully complied with; there is also equality and they have access to studies, health, and a good job. People do not care about money, but about the happiness of their jobs. Furthermore, society is based on values ​​and principles such as kindness and empathy, and religious beliefs are established to guide people. 


The definition of dystopia states that people live in a society that is dark, dirty, and full of turmoil and confrontation. People are apathetic, they are always upset and not everyone has access to education and health since there is an abysmal inequality in society because there are high degrees of corruption. 

Although there are laws, they are not chosen by a public conscience, but because the government has implemented them. Such rules must not be broken, as people may face execution or expulsion from society. 


Next, the governmental sphere in utopian and dystopian fiction is also a determining factor in the differences between both trends. 


The utopian society has a peaceful and benevolent government, but the term government-power is not used, because it is related to corruption and abuse of citizens. That is why the leader allows people to be free to think independently, and also to act without harming others.


In contrast, the people who inhabit a dystopian society are always controlled in thought and action, the governor is totalitarian and makes all his subjects and adepts responsible for monitoring every step or expression of others or even someone he cares about. consider suspicious.


The technology in utopias and dystopias have a kind of similarity, but more edges separate them. 


First of all, in a utopian society, people enjoy technology to lead an easier and more practical life. In other words, both in the field of studies and in the social field, the inhabitants can benefit from technological advances.


On the contrary, in a dystopian world, there is great technological advance, but it is not in favor of the people, since it is controlled by the government. In this case, technology is used for greater social and information control. 

nature and health

Other important issues that make a difference between utopia and dystopia are nature and health because they are exaggeratedly far apart in each world.



People make life in a safe and favorable environment, each citizen has access to the health system and is treated equally, regardless of their economic position, because they do not give importance to money. On the other hand, nature has the respect it deserves and people care for and maintain natural spaces. 


In a dystopian society, nature is dead due to excessive industrialization and technological advances. The skies are opaque and polluted, just like the water; there are no green spaces and dirt predominates in the streets. There are no green areas. 

That said, we can conclude that utopias and dystopias have existed for a long time to give a critical view of the dream society or the catastrophic one. All this, of course, goes hand in hand with the action of humanity and its ambitions; that is why a utopian and dystopian society in literature or in the cinema, serves as a reflector for people to open their minds and their consciousness regarding the future.