Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Jonathan Barron

Advisor Department



Literature acts as a thought experiment that allows authors to test out theoretical concepts. In dystopian literature, authors test their theories on what leads to a dystopian society, and therefore how to avoid it. In this thesis, I examine three dystopian novels, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, and Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story as well as the theories the authors engage with on how to avoid dystopian futures. All three of the novels suggest that wisdom is the way to avoid a dystopian future, but the ways they define wisdom are different. By examining how books are portrayed in each of these texts, I show how wisdom is being represented. I then connect the different portrayals of books in each of these three novels to three different philosophical theories. Fahrenheit 451 is a retelling of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and books are an allegory for the guide out of the cave. Books in The Book Thief are pragmatic and are therefore tools. In Super Sad True Love Story, books are not portrayed as the key to wisdom, but, instead, Zusak uses an Aristotelian concept of wisdom. I then compare the three theories and show the strengths and weaknesses of each. Ultimately, elements of each the three philosophical theories contained within the books that I have identified are required to avoid a dystopian future.