Sunday, 3 July 2011

Matched - Condie's Dystopia Where the Society Decides How You Live, What You Work, Whom You Marry, and When You Die

I finished another dystopia in the style of the famous Zamyatin, Huxley, Orwell, Bradbury, and Burgess. Matched by the still young and inexperienced author Ally Condie learns from the best; yet the novel lacks the power, strength, gloominess, and total desperation of the famous predecessors. Still, a rather good read proving that dystopia is not dead and even more important now in the light of our technology-dominated world.

In Condie's world society controls everything - the way you live, whom you marry, what you eat, where you work, and even how you die. People live a life pre-determined by the Officials. Freedom seems a small price to pay in exchange for a well-regulated, healthy, and successful life. Cassia is a girl, who strongly believes in the Society and its means of guiding life. At the age of 17th she is to be assigned a life-partner based on thorough investigations about her character. She is to be "matched". In her lucky case, to her best friend Xander. His friendly face appears on the screen as the best match for a husband, securing a long happy life and healthy offspring. For a moment, though, another face flashes, the fase of the strange Ky. This sets Cassia to doubt the matching, to mistrust the society, and the oppose the choice that has been forced upon her.

Matched is a novel mostly about freedom of choice. Are we ready to abandon this luxury for a comfortable life? Indeed, through technological investigations society has established a perfect world. People are assigned jobs that match their character. All of them are specialists in their field knowing nothing about other fields though. They follow a carefully prepared personal diet that provides the exact amount of calories needed. They are matched to the most suitable member of the opposite sex and their children have the perfect genes. And exactly at the age of 80 people have to die. Society has decided that this is the perfect age to live the world and in a sort of way help people do so. In this obvious perfection, Cassia falls in love with Ky, who is a deviation. He is not "right" and "perfect" according to the norms of society. He is different. And the different are not to be tolerated or let to live according to their rules. In Matched, we see the imperfections of a perfect world, who limits the individuals. The only thing that sets them free is love.

The previous examples of dystopian novels also used love as a trigger for change. The characters in 1984, Brave New World, and We started doubting the status quo the moment they fell in love with the wrong person. In Matched, love is the central theme. The lack of freedom in love suffocates Cassia and prompts her to fight the Officials, to abandon the security, and to isolate from society in order to find Ky. This is a really wonderful love story in the light of dystopia. Although it doesn't have the literary qualities of the other dystopian novels and in times it is largely predictable, Matched should be read. At least, it leaves you with a good taste in your mouth and with a hope that may be totalitarian regimes could be overcome with the power of love. Something that Orwell, Huxley, and Zamyatin certainly don't believe.

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