Dystopian Cinderellas: "I Follow Him into the Dark"

Courtney Lear, Central Washington University


Research indicates that adolescents use fiction as a template for mitigating problems in their own lives based on the ways that fictional characters handle conflict. Dystopic narratives extrapolate on the potential sociopolitical consequences of contemporary social issues that adolescents face. In recent years, authors of young adult fiction have proliferated dystopian novels about disciplinary societies that conform to Michel Foucault’s Panoptic frameworks. Using the novels Matched, Delirium, Uglies, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, and The Knife of Never Letting Go, this project will demonstrate that the agency of female protagonists of young adult dystopian novels is curtailed by heteronormative constraints which reward women for being nurturing and punish them for being aggressive in Panoptic societies. If adolescent readers internalize the constructs in these novels, they will not question the problematic absence of empowerment or lack of diversity that currently plagues female protagonists and supporting characters within the genre.