I’ve been binge-reading the Divergent trilogy.
This YA science fiction series has been on my to-do list for a while, and finally, last week, I found time to devour the first two books (no book 3 spoilers, please!).
Since then, I’ve been thinking about how social structure is depicted in science fiction.
Today’s social inequalities aside, the consensus seems to be that — in the future — society will be divided. But how remains up for debate.
Will stratification be:
Upper class, middle class and lower class — where money and standing makes the difference. In Above Ground, the richest humans live deeper underground, the poor live closer to danger.
Think Hunger Games: your lot is determined by which District you’re born into. Those born in The Capitol never have to take part in the games; those born in Districts 10-12 are bound to be poor.
In Divergent, sixteen-year-olds must decide what social group to join based on their strongest personality trait (bravery, selflessness, truthfulness, etc). Exhibiting more than one trait is a no-no.
Whether this is black vs white, or human vs inhuman. (I’m sure there are examples of this, but I’m drawing a blank! Help?)
Matriarchal or patriarchal societies as in The Handmaid’s Tale, or more extreme cases like Halfway Human, in which gender is assigned by the government, and the ungendered are slaves.
Needless to say, fiction is drawn towards social stratification. A divided society quickly introduces large-scale conflict into a novel — and conflict is a fundamental element for any story.
But reading science fiction does make me wonder: what will society be like in the future? And how would stratification work in a digital world?
Let me know your predictions (or sci-fi recommendations).