The never-ending myth: revision of the western frontier in U.S. contemporary dystopias
Even though dystopian literature transports the readers into futuristic fictional scenarios, its undertone mirrors the concerns and fears of the authors’ time of existence. Thus, the genre does not describe the incoming future but the broken path humanity could have taken as a consequence of a factual socio-historical episode. Often dystopian societies emerge as a respond to seeking for a utopian perfection, which as dystopias confirm, is an unreachable state. That is the case of the American West, which promised an empty land full of opportunities for the first European settlers. As a result, the present dissertation analyses contemporary U.S. dystopias to demonstrate the apocalyptic outcome of the utopianism of the myth of the West, by examining Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? from a utopian studies perspective. In both novels the once prosperous West has turned into a post-apocalyptic scenario that guides the protagonists through a narrative of desolation as an allegory of the social and ecological decay of the present nation. Contemporary U.S. dystopias describe the excessive modernization society has undergone for the commodity of the ruler class, resulting in the sterilization of the planet and the separation of human beings from their natural origins. Consequently, dystopias often acquire an ecocritical approach that denounces climate change and the scarcity of natural resources in readers’ reality. After the environmental degradation, the American West has lost its charm and has become uninhabitable, thus, dystopian literature attempts to translate the Western frontier into modern scenarios in order to seek for a fresh reconstruction of the frontier myth, also highlighting human imperialistic behavior. The dissertation concludes by arguing that U.S. dystopian novels uncover the reality of the present America, which keeps mimicking a myth that is bound to fail. However, the genre does not intend to be pessimistic but to warn readers that some measures should be applied not to convert their world into an actual dystopia.