A Room of One’s Own: Weaponized Capitalism in Lauren Oliver’s “Delirium” (By Meagan B and Ella L)

Lena, the protagonist of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, is a character that has inspired much debate in our class. She is anxious, obedient, and unassertive, especially in comparison to Hana. However, different forces are at work in their lives. Lena is a victim of the weaponized capitalism of her society, unlike Hana, who has led a privileged life. Hana’s privilege affords her leisure time, enabling her to contemplate her society, its structures and rules, and ultimately how to rebel. Lena and her cousins, meanwhile, have joined the ranks of the underclass of walking wounded.

Hana comes from a wealthy family and has all of her needs met. Unlike Lena and her family, Hana’s house has air-conditioning, a gate, and her own bedroom (Oliver 99-100). The privacy that comes from having her own room, and a door that closes, is crucial for her rebellion (100). Hana’s house is also “shielded on four sides by trees and lawn, and no one will sic the regulators on her” (100). The privacy her home affords her  creates a space where Hana can  safely question her society and experiment with rebellion. She can explore the intranet and play illegal music without fear of being caught or heard (108). The rebellious intranet space is critical for Hana’s development as a rebel. She gained access to the intranet and music in middle school, whereas Lena began working in her uncle’s store at that age (101, 245). Hana has access to a potentially rebellious space because of her privileged life, her own room and the stability it provides her.

Lena indicates resentment towards Hana’s privilege. Lena critiques Hana’s ability to rebel: “if you’re not scared, it’s just because you have the perfect little life, and the perfect little family, and for you everything is perfect, perfect, perfect. You don’t see. You don’t know.” (110, emphasis ours). Hana is unable to understand Lena’s anger towards her ability to experiment and rebel, and rejects the idea that her life is wonderful (110). Hana does not see or understand the pressures on Lena which stop her from participating in rebellion. Hana is focused on her experiences and how society is constraining her; she is not acknowledging or examining how the system is containing Lena in different ways. Lean’s vulnerability as a lower class citizen, who needs to provide for and support her family, stops her from being able to embrace rebellion.

Lena’s family situation is precarious and her evaluation will have a big impact on their future. They are dependent on her performance because a good evaluation, and a good match, means more money, and with it more security and social capital. The pressure on Lena is significant, and causes a self-consciousness she describes as having a hot, crawling itch all up her arms (10). She feels the weight of their worry and expectations and recognizes the importance of these tests: “[i]t’s critical that I get paired with someone good. Jenny and Grace are years away from their procedures. If I marry well, in a few years it will mean extra money for the family” (10). The way Aunt Carol grooms Lena the day of the evaluations and coaches Lena’s answers can be seen as invoking a pimp-prostitute dynamic. Their relationship is more complex than this facet, but examining Lena’s participation in the matching process through the lens of prostitution illuminates how various classes interact with the system to better their lives. There is not a direct exchange of money for sex, but Lena’s agreement to a sexual union will better the family’s standing and finances. Lena’s attempt to perform the good citizen is done in order to survive and thrive within the system. Lena intends to provide for her family in the way she is allowed.

However, Lena’s participation in the coming-of-age process is not strictly for financial betterment, it is also about social perception. A good match “might also make the whispers go away…Sympathizer. Sympathizer” (10). Lena sees the cure as more than just social control over the population, but also an opportunity for the lower classes to rise socio-economically: “[t]hat’s what Hana doesn’t understand, has never understood. For some of us, it’s about more than the deliria. Some of us, the lucky ones, will get the chance to be reborn: newer, fresher, better. Healed and whole and perfect again” (112).

Hana does not understand that need for healing, shared by the lower classes.  The physical and social spaces they inhabit expose them to violence, forcing them to live into a constant state of vulnerability. In their Portland, capitalism has been weaponized and is used against sympathizers, or anyone who steps out of line. Upward social mobility is heavily regulated by the government. Lena reports that identification as “potential sympathizers, or troublemakers, or anything” means they “can kiss [their] chances of passing the evaluations with decent scores good-bye” (63). The stakes are high. At the extreme end of what may happen to her, Lena faces life in a neighbourhood like Deering Heights, “avoided, forgotten, condemned” (195), where “a few families still cling[] on in some of the houses, dirt-poor ones who can’t afford to move anywhere else, or haven’t gotten permission for a new residence” (211). Another possibility, “you do hear occasional horror stories: cases where a poor eighteen-year-old girl is given to a wealthy eighty-year-old man” (10, emphasis ours).

This overtly political maintenance of an underclass is characteristic of dystopias.

To be in the dominant class is […] to achieve a certain liberation from precariousness; for the poor, meanwhile, life is […] a perpetual state of anxiety. Yet precariousness here is not a natural state which the rich are fortunate enough to rise above […but] is deliberately imposed on the poor as a means of controlling and subduing them. (Fisher, 27)

The physical manifestation of this precarious lifestyle can be seen in Aunt Carol, whose “life of dishes and dented cans of green beans and days that bleed forever into one another” have made her face “deeply lined” and her hair “gray” (Oliver 384). She is worn older than her age by the mundanity and consequences of raising the children of less obedient family members.

The scars go deeper for the uncured poor. Lena and her cousins have been repeatedly traumatized by the violence that surrounds them. Wounds from witnessing forcible removals of the “delirious” and suicides are continually reopened by hateful whispers that follow them everywhere; these experiences are compounded by their belonging to the precarious class, with needs just barely met and always under threat. In the real world, research has been done on the effects of childhood exposure to violence. One study found that “children exposed to domestic violence had lower health status and more conditions […] which limited their participation in normal age-related activities”, and that violence has “an adverse influence on children’s social competence and school achievement” (Onyskiw). Another shows that “adolescents who have been exposed to more violence, either as a victim or as a witness, report more psychiatric symptoms, higher levels of depression, and more problems of self-esteem”(Lai). This lens offers an interesting view of tiny, unassertive Lena and her lack of self-esteem, angry Jenny and selectively mute Gracie, especially in comparison to tall, popular Hana.

To conclude, the problematic traits of both Lena and Hana can be seen in a number of lights. Lena and her ilk live in a constant state of vulnerability, victims of the weaponized capitalism that maintains an underclass to punish and encourage docility. Hana, contrastingly, is the product of a privileged life which enables her to question and rebel. Hana and Lena’s relation to rebellion, and how it is framed by class, is representative of obstacles faced when participating in activism in the real world, and the cyclical nature of poverty.

Discussion questions:

  1. In The Hunger Games Peeta discusses not letting the games change him and how if he dies he wants to die as himself. This is framed as his own personal form of rebellion. Katniss, however, describes how she doesn’t have that luxury. How has the class difference between Peeta and Katniss affected how they relate to rebellion? Is this framing also applicable for The Parable of the Sower? Does Lauren’s class impact her ability to contemplate an alternative community and religion?  
  2. Considering how class impacts one’s relation to rebellion and their ability to rebel, does this change how you view Lena as a character? Many complained during class discussion that she was not the interesting character in the novel but rather that Hana was more passionate and interesting. Does this explain or excuse Lena’s passive and boring nature?

Works Cited

Fisher, Mark. “PRECARIOUS DYSTOPIAS: THE HUNGER GAMES, IN TIME, AND NEVER LET ME GO.” Film Quarterly, vol. 65, no. 4, 2012., pp. 27-33, https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1027234808?accountid=15115.

Lai, Daniel W. L. “Violence Exposure and Mental Health of Adolescents in Small Towns: An Exploratory Study.” Canadian Journal of Public Health, vol. 90, no. 3, 1999., pp. 181-5 https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/232004605?accountid=15115.

Oliver, Lauren. Delirium. Harper, 2011.

Onyskiw, Judee E. “Health and use of Health Services of Children Exposed to Violence in their Families.” Canadian Journal of Public Health, vol. 93, no. 6, 2002., pp. 416-20 https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/220127832?accountid=15115.


16 thoughts on “A Room of One’s Own: Weaponized Capitalism in Lauren Oliver’s “Delirium” (By Meagan B and Ella L)

  1. Your argument that capitalism and class status is related to the level of rebellion for the characters in Delirium is very insightful. Lena’s class position does not allow her the time to give the same considerations to rebellion that Hana has. In this same respect Hana’s lack of constant supervision can be contrasted with Lena whom seems to be under constant surveillance by her aunt. This surveillance, even when it’s not present, causes Lena to police herself, and often become the policing force in Hana’s life.
    You’ve stated that this class distinction could contribute to our class as seeing Lena as a ‘boring character’ and I have to agree. The self-policing based on Lena’s class has definitely stripped Lena’s personality as she tries to conform. While Lena works and strives to fulfill a role her aunt has for her, Hana has the freedom to explore herself and choose. While Lena runs as an escape from home and a way to see her friends, Hana is able to run more for the fun of it because she does not need to seek an escape.
    In The Hunger Games these class distinctions are again prevalent, as you’ve stated. As Katniss is accustomed with the need for survival in her everyday life surviving the games has a different implication for her than it does for Peeta who has not known the same type of survival. It is because this is not his normal lifestyle that Peeta can separate himself from the games and can make the distinction that he wants to remain true to himself. Katniss does not see rebellion in her survival because she has not had the opportunity to reflect on it as anything but necessary because of her class standing.


  2. (Considering how class impacts one’s relation to rebellion and their ability to rebel, does this change how you view Lena as a character? Many complained during class discussion that she was not the interesting character in the novel but rather that Hana was more passionate and interesting. Does this explain or excuse Lena’s passive and boring nature?)

    Class definitely has an impact on who can afford to rebel, as well as who can be seen and see themselves as a rebel. In a consumer-capitalist society, identity is created through consumption; you essentially buy who you want to be. From this perspective, Hana can find it much easier to fill the role of the rebel. As you stated, she can consume music and access to internet to find subversive ideas, something Lena just can’t do. I think this notion of identity is especially important when we see Hana– who takes on the persona of a rebel and therefore seems more rebellious than Lena,– ultimately deciding to conform, staying in Portland and presumably getting the procedure and an arranged marriage. Lena is the one who actually rebels, despite never seeming to have a rebellious personality. I would argue that this is definitely connected to her class. Like Katniss, who can’t afford to try and preserve a notion of who she is/wants to be in the games, Lena can’t afford to entertain notions of being a rebel or a revolutionary. Being both poor and ostracised because of her mother, Lena has to focus on survival, and this is partly what drives her to escape. Obviously she wants to be with Alex but she also doesn’t want dangerous surgery or to be locked in the crypts.

    Looking at things this way, I am beginning to see Lena as a less passive and ignorant character than I initially found her to be. Hana finds it fun and easy to become a rebel, having never had to struggle in her life, and she can just as easily shrug that label off and go back to conformity when it gets too dangerous and challenges her view of the world too much. Lena is used to struggling and even though she initially seems blind the the reality of her society, when she does learn the truth she takes it seriously and is prepared to take risks.



      In class when we were talking about rebellion, I got the impression that our definition of a legitimate rebel was someone who was more informed about their society and was aware about the hardships that were thrust upon them. Because of this we thought, Katniss and Lauren were considered to be more rebellious than Lena for example. When we put Lena and Hana in a consumer-capitalist society knowing very well that both of these girls are not in the same class, there is no other way but to define Lena as less than Hana and assume that Lena does not have the luxury to find it fun an easy to become a rebel. Because we have placed them in this context, there are characteristics about that context that need to happen in order for it to function as it does. Hana as just a consumer and Lena as someone who must work for everything she is able to have, is only one outcome of the consumer-capitalist society we have put them in. But since as you say Lena is the one who “actually” rebels while Hana’s rebellion can’t be compared in the same way, what does that say about this hierarchy we are putting on rebellion? Initially, it was Hana who was more informed and aware in the beginning about their oppressive society. But since Hana is at a different positionality than Lena, she is no longer the legitimate rebel because her life looks so much easier. Is it right for us to say, what kind of rebellion is right and which is wrong? Are we causing harm to those who don’t have the luxury to make the “right” kind of rebellious impression as someone else even though they may be equipped of the same kind of awareness about their societies? Does the greater rebellion depend on the effects it has, or the initial fuel that gets it started? For the record, I am not disagreeing with you. I am only wondering about the legitimacy of rebellion. Why are we claiming that rebellion is supposed to look a certain way? As I am only concerned about the people who are able to create the same kind of effects by doing the job a little differently.


      1. I disagree with the idea that by critiquing Hana’s rebellion and being aware of her privileged position, we are causing her “harm” in some way or that we are saying her rebellion is wrong. I’d also argue it’s contradictory to say that Hana is privileged, but does not have the “luxury to make the “right” kind of rebellious impression as someone else even though they may be equipped of the same kind of awareness about their societies”, because Hana is better equipped to rebel – she’s has more freedom and access to a better livelihood that makes rebellion easier. It’s hard to think about the problem with the Evaluations when, like Lena, your family is counting on you to succeed in order to provide basic human needs for them. So even though Hana has more opportunities for her rebellion to turn “serious”, instead of the regular teenage rebellion she partook in throughout the novel, she ultimately rejects Lena’s offer to leave Portland and go to the Wilds, specifically because she’s had access to the type of privileges that made her initial rebellion possible. I think what you’re getting at is the idea of a spectrum of rebellion, perhaps personal rebellion vs public rebellion (personal being that you do it secretly, or it only effects your private life, while public being that it works to change the nature of society and/or your entire way of life publicly), but I also think it’s a fair critique to say that personal rebellion may not be the most effective rebellion by and large. That doesn’t mean it’s not rebellious, but perhaps it’s a rebellion that has less consequences or less impact than Lena’s. And in reference to your question “[d]oes the greater rebellion depend on the effects it has, or the initial fuel that gets it started?”, I’d argue that the initial fuel to get the rebellion started is important yes, but what matters in effective rebellion is the consequences. Hana may have rebelled in her own way, but it was Lena’s own choices that made her rebel – the parties Hana took her too and the music she heard matter little if Lena didn’t fall in love with Alex, and, going back to Hana’s ultimate decision to stay in Portland, those parties and music had no long term effects on Hana’s personal or public rebellion – she chooses to have the surgery and continue the indoctrination of people into a loveless society anyway. So I think rather than saying that her rebellion is wrong, or harming her agency somehow, by critiquing and understanding the motives and consequences of Hana’s rebellion, we are able to view Lena in contrast as perhaps having more agency and rebellious nature than we originally afforded her in class.


      2. In your comment you state that Hana is initially more aware about their oppressive society, but I suggest that Lena probably has a greater awareness than Hana despite Hana being the more rebellious character at the beginning of the text. Hana rebels against the idea of arranged marriages, searches for illegal music, and actively tries to network with other similar minded people over the intranet. Lena, on the other hand, seems to understand the ways in which the government’s control over marriage and the curing of citizens, but she also, due to her more precarious situation in society and her traumatic memory of her mother, values the of safety through conformity over the things she will lose through the cure. Lena recognizes that she too has socially deviant thoughts, but she self-polices to avoid and negative consequences of deliria and nonconformity:

        “I’m used to a feeling of doubleness, of thinking one thing and having to do another, a constant tug of war. But somehow Hana has fallen cleanly away into the double half, the other world, the world of unmentionable thoughts and things and people.” (129)

        Hana’s awareness of outlets to rebel through, such as the intranet, derives from her privileged stance as suggested in the post. While Hana has a stronger awareness of organized rebellious functions throughout Portland, Lena has a greater awareness of the social control the government wields through the administration of the cure and the way it influences social mobility while Hana remains ignorant to the institutionalized control the government exhibits over all of the society.


  3. Meagan and Ella –
    I really enjoyed this essay’s approach to Lena’s dystopic society. Rather than examining how Lena represents girlhood you took it a step further, examining instead the reasons WHY Lena is the girl that she is. I made a comment on one of the previous blog posts geared towards the class differences between Lena and Hanna and how that element plays out in their rebellion and I think your essay analyzes exactly what I was trying to suggest.
    Pressing your argument (and the comment above) just a little bit further, I think it is interesting to consider that Hanna ultimately conforms to the society while Lena escapes. Hanna is free to explore her rebellion in the comforts of her own home whereas Lena is not, as you have argued. With this dynamic in mind, it can be seen that Lena has to leave her ‘comfort zone’ in order to quench her rebellious desires. For example, her trips to the Wilds and to the Crypts. Through these experiences, Lena is able to discover the true nature of the society in which she lives, ultimately driving her to leave. Hanna, on the other hand, does not need to venture out of her own home to discover new experiences. She is free to explore the internet’s contents in the comfort of her own room. She only discovers the nature of their society second-hand, through Lena. Thus, Hanna does not feel the same necessity to leave as Lena does.
    The class differences play a huge role in the dynamics of Oliver’s dystopia. It becomes an intrinsic part of the characters, defining who they are and who they are to become. So much so, in fact, that it almost seems like Oliver is suggesting that only those who are uncomfortable in their society – those in the lower classes, in poverty, etc. – have the capacity to rebel. Only when you have nothing do you start looking elsewhere for anything. Thus, the upper class citizens, although potentially interested in illegal or banned paraphernalia, will never follow through with a rebellion for as long as they can live comfortably in the current state of their society.


    1. I wanted to leave a short response here in regards to Lena and Hana’s forms of rebellion. I agree with you that Hana ultimately conforms whereas Lena rebels. I would like to address briefly the notion of agency that I brought up in my full reply below. I raised a question regarding Hana and Lena’s agency and I think your reply here answers it to an extent. I think what you have indicated is that Hana has more agency to think about rebellion and to explore ways to rebel, but Lena has more agency to actually rebel and as you pointed out, this agency is linked to their lifestyles their class allows them. Hana’s upper class allows her to explore ideas of rebellion, but she has the luxury of not having to rebel against society as Lena does because she can live comfortable and safely in her current state. In contrast, Lena doesn’t have as much agency to think about and explore the topic of rebellion, but she has more incentive to actually rebel because her lower-class doesn’t provide her a life as comfortable, luxurious, and safe as Hana’s. Thus, as you indicated, the incentive to rebel is linked to their level of rebellion and thus their agency against society. And the level of incentive is dictated by their social class.


  4. I’d first like to say that your post was very refreshing and insightful and helped me to understand Lena in a new light. I do agree with you — I don’t think Lena had the luxury to discover anything outside of the societal rules because of her class, which can be seen in contrast to Hana’s ‘rebellion.’ However, I also think that her family plays a very distinct role in why Lena is a ‘boring’ character and why we find Hana to be so interesting. Hana has essentially raised herself without rules and limits (beyond those of the society) because her parents are never around. Lena, on the other hand, has a family structure that was put in place when her parents left. Lena’s Aunt Carol clearly believes in the society and all that the cure stands for, but I believe that is not only because of their class (and not having an option to rebel), but also because of what Carol watched her sister go through. I think her Aunt is trying to protect Lena from ending up like her mother and follows the strictures of the society so closely because of it. Carol ultimately contributes to the limits that Lena has imposed upon herself, but it may come from more than the class structure and the lack of ability to rebel in a lower-class household. Because Lena grew up with Carol and her daughters, she always had people around who affirmed the cure and the structure of the society, unlike Hana who had the freedom to push boundaries and limitations.
    I think the comment above mine is also very interesting, and something I thought of while reading — What does it mean that Hana ended up conforming to society while Lena ended up being the one who ultimately rebelled and escaped the society? I think the point made in the above comment is poignant — only those who live in lower-classes find it necessary to rebel and escape. The Hunger Games shows this explicitly. The members of the Capitol are very comfortable with the way things are because they are the ones who benefit most from the structure of the society and are the least likely to rebel, whereas those in lower districts (and lower classes) are the most uncomfortable and the ones who do not benefit from the society’s structure, which makes them likely candidates for rebellion. Taking this into account, it’s easy to see why Hana is comfortable conforming to the society in the end, whereas Lena has been exposed to the harsh truths of the society and wants to escape.


  5. I think you make very significant points about how the differences in Lena and Hana’s social class contribute to their attitudes towards rebellion and their ability to rebel. However, I would like to further your point about the differences in the level of surveillance Lena and Hana experience. As you mention Hana has her own bedroom, her house is well-shielded by surrounding tress, and her high social class means the reduced risk of regulators being sent on her. Additionally, because both Hana’s parents work, a privilege allowed to them in part because of their social class, they are never at home to watch her, allowing her even greater freedom. Further, when Alex uses the excuse that Lena is the daughter of the mayor in order to get them into the highest security section of the Crypts, it becomes clear that the government will make allowances for those of higher class. Conversely, Lena must deal with a higher level of surveillance not only from her government, but also from her family and other members of her community. As you also mention, Lena is automatically faced with a higher level of surveillance and criticism comparatively to Hana because of her social class. In order to have any hope of upwards social mobility, Lena must conform to the standards of her society to please her Evaluators, whereas Hana will naturally score better on her evaluation because of her higher class. I agree that Lena’s obedient attitude makes a lot more sense when viewed through this lens. Aunt Carol is constantly at home to watch Lena because of her status as a stay-at-home parent, again linked to class, and is more attuned to potential rebellion in Lena because of history of rebellion in their family. Her community is also highly aware of Lena’s potential to rebel because of her mother, again forcing Lena to conform. So not only are Lena and Hana’s attitude towards rebellion linked to social class, their attitudes are also linked to the level of surveillance they are subjected to which is heavily influenced by their social class.


    1. I absolutely agree that Alex telling Lena she is the daughter of the mayor insinuates that the government makes allowances for those of higher class. However, I’d like to point out that the implications of this are different than suggested. The reason they are in the Crypts is because Alex wants to show Lena her mother, but the reason they tell the guards is that Lena has been ‘acting up’ — she’s been going against the normative society and needs to be ‘taught a lesson.’ If Alex said who Lena really was, it’s very unlikely that the guard would have let them pass. However, by saying that she is of higher class/status, it implies that it is of more importance that those of higher class/status be taught the lesson of adhering to the normative society. These arguments are suggesting that Hana is able to rebel easier because of her higher social class. However, I’m not sure that is entirely true. I think Hana’s parents not being present in her life allows her a freedom that Lena doesn’t have living with her aunt and cousins which is predominantly because of their higher social class, but I’m not sure that we can say it is entirely because this. Lena even mentions that the guard could look at the pass that was given to her when she entered the Crypts that has her real name on it, but he doesn’t, because Alex’s plan of falsifying her higher status works. It implies that there is a greater need to ‘correct’ those of higher status, likely because they represent the majority of the society, or maybe because they are the ones expected to be least likely to rebel.


    2. I think this point you make about surveillance is very astute and important. The notion of George Orwell’s “Big Brother” character can be seen in this novel as well, where in our culture, “big brother” has been used as a synonym for “abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance” (wikipedia.com). This idea of constant and mass surveillance is prevalent in Lena and Hana’s society as you mentioned, and I would agree with you that their characters are shaped by this idea of constantly being watched.

      With this idea that Portland’s inhabitants living in a type of panopticon provides us with the idea that they are not only controlled by the spaces that their social classes allow them, but also they are policed by the constant threat of surveillance that maintains order and keeps them in their designated roles.


  6. Meagan and Ella–

    I think this is a really interesting topic to explore and a very interesting analysis of Lena and Hana that we didn’t touch upon in class. The notion of space and identity is, as you argued, I think very important in the creation of Lena and Hana’s characters and their various forms, styles, and levels of rebellion.

    The fact that Lena is of a lower-class and thus doesn’t have space on her own I think plays a large role in her lack of ability to experiment with rebellious things, such as illegal music or the intranet. Hana on that other hand, as you stated, has her own space in which she can explore those things that are considered rebellious. Due to the fact that Hana does have her own room, a door that closes, and four walls that close her off from her parents, her friends, her neighbourhood, Portland, and ultimately the society at large, feeds into her ability to explore rebellion.

    Hana, of the upper-class, has a space that allows her to be on her own, that allows her to be independently thinking without the influence of others, such as adults, siblings, friends, and/or the fear of regulators seeing her behaviour. Due to her higher class, she has the ability to physically isolate herself from the influences and ideologies that are omnipresent in Portland’s society. This isolation then allows her to explore things that are considered illegal and rebellious. Through the advantages of space that her class allows, Hana is able to explore rebellion safely (for the most part).

    Lena however, as you argued, does not have this chance due to her middle-to-lower class place in society and the space that her class either gives or denies her. Lena does not have a room to herself, she does not have the luxury of being able to close herself off from the influences of society because she shares a room with her siblings, she is constantly expected by her aunt to be present and an active participant in the maintenance of the house. Unlike Hana, Lena isn’t able to isolate herself from the ideologies of society due to the physical space that her class allows her. This then takes away her ability for independent thinking as there is always the threat of a sibling, a family member, or a regulator seeing and/or hearing what she is doing.

    I agree with your argument that Lena and Hana’s class offers them each a space that either encourages or discourages their experimentation of rebellion. Where Hana is able to isolate herself from society’s ideologies due to her own room that her class allows, Lena is not given this opportunity due to her lower-class. Additionally, as you mentioned, it could be argued that not only does Hana have the space to explore rebellion independently, but she also has the time. Not expected to be working and helping out around the house, Hana is able to explore herself and her role in society more so than Lena is, who is expected to work at the store and help out around the house.

    I wonder about the notion of agency though and how these character’s spaces play into their agency. On one hand, I would argue that Hana perhaps has more agency than Lena because she is provided with the ability to think and act independently isolated and away from society’s influences, whereas Lena has less agency against society because she is constantly surrounded by it. On the other hand though, it could be argued that due to Lena’s role in her family and her job at the store that she’s held since middle school, she has more agency than Hana because she has been making money for her family and supporting them financially, something that Hana hasn’t done and doesn’t have to do.

    I wonder what anyone else’s thoughts are on the notion of space and agency? Does Hana have more agency or does Lena? Or do they both have agency, but different kinds?


  7. Meagan and Ella, you make some very interesting points in your post, and have illuminated a reading of Lena I had previously not considered. In viewing her class status is a hindrance to her ability to rebel, you re-insert some agency into Lena’s character. In many of the YA dystopian novels we have read, the female protagonists are of a lower class – Katniss, Lauren, Cinder, and Pressia all came from socio-economically disadvantaged positions and had to exert agency in order to survive.
    However, I would argue that in many of these cases, the protagonist mechanisms for survival were in many ways rebellious in nature, and thus they differ from Lena’s continued adherence to societal regulations. For example, Katniss defies the Capital’s rules by hunting for game outside of the district limits. She sells what she hunts at the market and thus uses her rebellion as a mechanism for survival. In this way, readers witness a progressive, agentic female protagonist who, despite her lower-class positionality, necessarily fights against her dominating society and does what it takes to survive.
    Similarly, although Cinder’s family can be understood as relatively middle-class, her status as a cyborg under control of her legal guardian Adri results in limited access to economic capital herself, and thus Cinder can be read as occupying a socio-economically disadvantaged identity. However, despite this status, Cinder utilizes whatever skills she possesses in order to survive. For instance, in agreeing to comply with Dr. Erland’s research, Cinder uses her body to gain capitalm which she then invests in fixing the used car she finds in the junk yard. In this manner, despite her lack of economic capital, Cinder finds a way to acquire the means necessary for her rebellion, which would take form as her escape from the Eastern Commonwealth to Europe.
    Therefore, in both of these examples, the protagonist’s position as socio-economically disadvantaged does not hinder their ability to rebel, but rather works to reinforce their independence, defiance, and strength when facing inequality and oppressive social structures. As such, when comparing series’ like “The Hunger Games” to “Delirium,” it becomes evident that Lena’s submissiveness and lack of rebellion cannot be solely attributed to her lower-class status. Although I do not submit that Lena is always submissive, as she does act agentically in many scenes within the novel, and does grow into a very strong, rebellious, young woman as the novel progresses, I do maintain that her adherence to social structures at the beginning of the novel is frustrating and problematic. Occupying the lower class position that she does, Lena’s character focused on the ability of the society to help her improve, rather than dissecting the very unequal distribution of resources and unequal treatment of citizens that this very society promoted. Lena did have the ability to at least be critical of her unfair positionality within her oppressive society, however her character’s submission to social pressures prevented this potential act of rebellion from emerging. As such, although her lower-class position did render her ability to rebel thwarted in comparison to upper-class citizens such as Hana, viewing a lower-class position as incompatible with rebellion is an inaccurate representation.


    1. I think Lena has more agency than Hana. Hana is presented as the typical rebellious teenager – goes out to parties without telling her parents and listens to music her parents doesn’t like. If Hana were placed in our modern day society, she would be the teenager that sneaks out to see her boyfriend, or watches movies/shows her parents think will “rot her brain”. Hana explores the fun side of society, but the second it gets too dangerous, she stops. She refuses to go with Lena and the only act of rebellion shown by Hana after the party that is raided, is not telling the regulators about Alex and Lena.
      Lena, although unmotivated at the beginning of the book, as Zoe pointed out, takes on an agenic role when she has the proper motivation. Lena has no reason to rebel in the opening because she does not know the truth about her mother, thus inhibiting her ability to see what is wrong with the society. However, when she does learn the truth nothing prevents her from escaping this trapped society. I agree with Zoe that saying her lower status in society does not prevent her from being a rebellious character like Katniss and Cinder. However, I disagree that she is less of an agenic protagonist that other females in YA lit. Katniss hates the government and her mother but does what she needs to in order to stay alive – not realizing she is committing an act of rebellion. Cinder is aware of the discrimination between cyborgs and humans but she never does anything to challenge this in the beginning of the novel either. Lena is seen as being in a different position than other characters because she is not in an active environment fighting for her life everyday like Pressia in Pure. I think the reason people don’t like Lena as much as other rebellious female protagonists, is in part because of her lack of need to fight for survival. Lena does not need to scourge for food, or fight the beasts that Pressia runs from occasionally. Lena has a home and a family that has the ability to buy food; she is tainted by her mother’s past and originally conforms to society because of it. This is similar to Katniss though – who isn’t seen actively rebelling until the games begin, when she starts to think about who may be watching her and what would appease them – similar thoughts to what Lena thinks when she believes people know about her relationship with Alex. Therefore, I think that lower class society gives the female protagonist the agency to rebel, especially because resources are not easy for her to gain access to. However, I disagree that Lena is a less agenic character than any other protagonist.


  8. Meagan and Ella,

    I really enjoyed your interpretation of class and its impact on Lena’s and Hana’s individual rebellion within Oliver’s Delirium. Often times when critically analyzing YA dystopian literature we focus heavily on tropes regarding heteronormative romances and tropes and ignore some of the less obvious plot implications. I enjoy that you two problematize rebellion as something that is easier for those who are privileged. In this instance, to answer your second question, I do think that critically analyzing the impact class status has on rebellion deepens Lena’s story and the meaning of her acts of rebellion.

    Lena’s want to be ‘normal’ supersedes her want to rebel because she constantly faces stigmatization and violence in her everyday life, unlike Hana who is accepted because of her class status. In Lena’s case, removing herself from social scrutiny outweighs the importance of rebelling against her government. It was interesting to see how the class felt in regards to Lena’s passive nature versus Hana’s rebellious one, but when faced with your second question it’s even more interesting to see how the majority of the class chose the privileged girl as the most interesting. Yes, Lena may be seen as less impulsive when it comes to rebellion compared to Hana’s acts of rebellion, but when their differing life experiences and social status’ are contrasted it becomes glaringly obvious that Lena’s acts of rebellion mean more than Hana’s.

    Personally I had a hard time reading Lena’s character due to the novel’s romantic plot, not due to her lacklustre acts of rebellion. However, after reading this post I do realize that a part of my lack of interest in her character’s romantic life is also tied to her want to conform through the ‘coming-of-age process’. Her relationship with Alex then becomes even more trivialized (outside of the general YA tropes) as it contrasts her want for marriage and conformity, while embodying rebellion through love and her final rebellion against her government by escaping to The Wild.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Meagan and Ella,
    I really liked your class based analysis of rebellion in Delirium, it definitely made me think critically about Lena’s reluctance to rebel at first, and Hana’s refusal to actually rebel. In response to your second question, I think that the class differences between Lena and Hana really do explain the ways in which they rebel. As you said in your post, Hana was safe in her house to listen to illegal music and complain about the authorities. This allowed her to rebel in small, mostly harmful ways. Hana’s rebellion does exist, but just in the way that a lot of teenagers rebel. She listens to music she is not allowed to listen to, sneaks out and goes to parties and talks to boys that she shouldn’t talk to. However, Hana is doing this to get it out of her system before the change, which she still plans to undergo. Lena does not have the privilege that Hana has, and so she does not have the privilege to rebel in small ways. If she is going to rebel, it has to be worth her time and her risks. So Lena rebels by engaging in a romantic relationship and by escaping to the Wilds, because these are big rebellions that she is willing to take the risk for. She cannot afford the same small rebellions that Hana’s privilege affords for her.

    Liked by 1 person

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