Dystopian Short Stories


Resource Pack for: Dystopian Short Stories: ‘Harrison Bergeron’ by Kurt Vonnegut, ‘The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas’ by Ursula K. Le Guin, and ‘We Ate The Children Last’ by Yann Martel

Created by Madeleine van Woerkom


A dystopia is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanised and often fearful lives.” The word literally means ‘bad place’- dys/dus- (Latin/Greek roots: ‘bad’ or ‘abnormal’) + topos (Greek root: ‘place’).

A utopia is defined as “a place or state of ideal perfection, the opposite of dystopia”. The word was first used to name a 1551 book by Thomas More about an imaginary island enjoying perfection in legal, social, and political systems. The word literally means “nowhere” from the Greek ou “not” + topos “place”.

  • What does the literal meaning of utopia suggest?

Some characteristics of dystopian societies:

  • The conditions in a dystopian society are unpleasant.
  • Dystopian societies are generally set in the future and are fictional.
  • Dystopian societies may be created as warnings.
  • Dystopian concepts are relative i. e. open to interpretation depending on the viewer’s world view.
  • Dystopian societies often began with utopian ideals that have gone awry.