“Well, look, I’m a lawyer too, and a woman, like your character, but” –and her expression became urgent as if she had clamped her hand to my arm–“the book was no help to me. It didn’t tell me how I should live my life.” – Rosellen Brown, “Characters’ Weaknesses Build Fiction’s Strengths,” Writers on Writing, p. 29
In the spring of 2009, my roommate and I enrolled in a philosophy class centered on utopias and dystopias. We had both agreed that the class seemed interesting, and it also fulfilled part of our core requirements for graduation.
While we had expected the class to involve lectures and discussions on philosophical terminology and arguments, we realized that the class was really an English literature class. We discussed the utopias or dystopias presented in books like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland. We examined societal and character flaws and strengths using plain language instead of modus ponens and modus tollens arguments. Our understanding of perfect harmony and perfect chaos came from fiction; we did not speak of real world examples of those who had sought to create utopias. Continue reading