Combatting Human Extinction: Biblical Archetypes and Environmental Apocalypse in Contemporary Dystopian Fiction
Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
environmental apocalypse, dystopian novels, Anthropocene
This project examines through recreations of Biblical archetypes the cause and effect of environmental apocalypse and potential human extinction in contemporary dystopian novels. The goal of this thesis is, in part, to argue that near-future dystopian fiction is speculative, since the fictional reasons behind the downfall are akin to Anthropocenic (that is, pertaining to the age of the Anthropocene, the contemporary world where humans have severely altered the Earth) environmental and ecological concerns. In examining The Year of the Flood (2009) by Margaret Atwood, Parable of the Sower (1994) by Octavia Butler, and The Maze Runner (2009) by James Dashner, this project seeks to make conclusions regarding appropriate human ecology in the age of the Anthropocene, the role of technology as either a cause of or a solution to dystopia, and the role of religion in influencing society. First, in the opening chapter examining The Year of the Flood, I analyze Atwood’s message about the Anthropocenic destruction of nature. As this author shows, environmental apocalypse can only be resolved by a Biblical flood to eradicate humans and replace them altogether. The second chapter examines Dashner’s text and his assigning of narrative settings to conventional Biblical spaces. This paralleling presents the idea that the future is heavenless because of extreme climate obliteration. Finally, the third chapter of this project considers what happens next by analyzing Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I suggest that the hope for the future of humanity is to transcend Earth to colonize Mars, following Elon Musk’s hasty push for a civilian Mars colony. Overall, I contextualize the pinnacle problems that cause a state of dystopia according to these authors with contemporary environmental anxieties, such as the effects of human intervention in sustainability of species, climate destruction due to natural phenomena, and alternative methods for sustainability of humankind. The importance of this project is to use these speculative texts as a point of reflection. Then, readers can imagine the possible consequences of continued environmental destruction and the effect they might have on the survival of humankind. These authors identify the contemporary anxieties about the future and exaggerate them in their novels to question: What might happen if these problems were left unsolved? Thus, these texts serve not only as speculations but also as forms of activism for reconsidering human ecology and conserving the environmental in the age of the Anthropocene.
Hurley, Elizabeth, "Combatting Human Extinction: Biblical Archetypes and Environmental Apocalypse in Contemporary Dystopian Fiction" (2017). Honors Theses. 44.