Usually in dystopian societies, the government establishes rules in order to control the targeted population with more ease. These rules and regulations are without much factual support or reasoning and thus are not difficult to question. The residents of District 12 from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for example, are “often manipulated and lied to in order to keep society running smoothly,” however, they are aware of the Capitol and are wary of its actions (Basu, Broad and Hintz, 4). In Delirium by Lauren Oliver, this is evidently not the case. Here, the government has “strict policies [that] manage personalities [and] choices” through their claims about amor deliria nervosa; claims which go unquestioned by the Verified Communities because they are told with facts, research, and supported scientific findings (Basu, Broad and Hintz, 4). Through facts and scientific research, along with the cured adults in the community that reinforce these facts daily, fear and apprehension of amor deliria nervosa is instilled in the youth and children of the community.
Trustworthy sources of knowledge in Delirium, such as the Book of Shhh and formal education, use facts and scientific reasoning to establish a fear of amor deliria nervosa in the youth when they are at an impressionable age. The government initiated teachings of the disease amor deliria nervosa, “the deadliest of all deadly things,” through various ways (Oliver 53). The Book of Shhh, is a tool used to introduce the dangers of amor deliria nervosa in a format that parallels the Bible. However, the most prominent difference that sets it apart from such religious scriptures is that it is built upon scientific evidence and hard facts that are difficult to question. Through formal education, the citizens of Portland are taught that their new ‘religion’, that follows the Book of Shhh, is one “which teaches [about] the Holy Trinity of God, Science, and Order” (Oliver 183). Because the teachings of amor deliria nervosa are built on scientific research rather than tales, the evidence in the Book of Shhh erases the doubt that might be associated with religion in our world today. Even the symptoms for amor deliria nervosa that are stated within the Book of Shhh use clinical jargon rather than colloquial. This terminology used by the government creates fear in the children that are taught the book from a young age. Rather than romanticized forms of love, the Book explains symptoms such as, going through “reduced mental awareness, racing thoughts, and impaired reasoning skills,” to construct fear creating a normalized society (Oliver 147). It also constructs the disease in phases in much the same way that cancer progresses in stages. Not only does the factual method in which The Book of Shhh is written instill fear but also the number of times that the members of Portland are expected to have read it. The society has memorized the passages and the beliefs are permanently ingrained into their minds (Oliver 19). In addition to The Book of Shhh, the schools that they attend are also built on the fear of amor deliria nervosa. This is explained when Lena goes to her first party and claims that the party breaks many rules but the “breaking [of the] segregation laws is one of the worst offences there is” (Oliver 127). The segregation of gender in schools are used to further their beliefs that girls and boys need to be separated while ‘uncured’. Essentially, the government incorporated scientific research and facts with their ‘religion’ to instill fear into the youth at an impressionable age through sources of knowledge that are continuously present to society.
The cured adults in Portland are another source that present amor deliria nervosa as an unarguable fact, and in doing so they reinforce the fear that is already present in the uncured youth. The regulators are one such group of cured adults that maintain this fear. They are very forceful in their methods of ensuring that the rules of The Book of Shhh are followed and no signs of deliria are present in the residents of Portland. While majority of them are government people, quite a few of them are in fact volunteers from Portland themselves (Oliver 79). When Lena is stopped by a group of enforcers on her way to Back Cove, she “recognizes a few faces” that she sees often, like “Dev Howard, who owns the Quikmart” near her house (Oliver 82). These are people that Lena has grown up around who wholeheartedly believe the dangers about amor deliria nervosa. To have them walking around at night enforcing rules makes the restrictions more personal and serious. Lena’s Aunt Carol and her sister Rachel are another example of cured adults who reinforce the apprehension and fear associated with amor deliria nervosa. This is most evident when Lena is being confined to her room after the regulators discover her with Alex. Rachel tells Lena that all her feeling are “all part of the disease” and that “it’s a sickness” (Oliver 408). She continues on to say that after the procedure Lena will feel better and happier (Oliver 408). Similarly, Aunt Carol tells Lena that someday she will thank them and will understand why they made the decisions they did (Oliver 409). Both Rachel and Aunt Carol thus reinforce the apprehension and fear associated with contracting amor deliria nervosa. Through their reinforcing of the symptoms and dangers associated with amor deliria nervosa, the regulators, Aunt Carol, and Rachel are sources that instil fear in the uncured.
The residents within the society in Delirium by Lauren Oliver are taught, through fear, that amor deliria nervosa is a disease that will kill them. Through that fear the belief is reproduced within the society and the cured individuals themselves ensure that everybody abides by the rules. The government is able to achieve this through self-regulation within the society because their sources of education are founded upon hard facts and scientific research. While the Book of Shhh has similarities to practiced religion present in our society, specifically Christianity, scientific fact is utilized to prove the beliefs of their social practice, thus making its preachings unarguable.
- Even today, social media often lays claims supported by ‘scientific proof’ that aren’t necessarily true. Do you think this affects the integrity of the STEM fields and the scientific research and reasoning in them?
- If the Book of Shhh was written similarly to religious scriptures that are full of lessons and cautionary tales (such as that of Mary Magdeline, Adam and Eve etc.) rather than facts and scientific history, would people believe as blindly as they do? How exactly would their actions and beliefs differ?
Basu, Broad, and Hintz. “Introduction.” Contemporary Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults: Brave New Teenagers. New York: Routledge, 2013.
Oliver, Lauren. Delirium. New York: Harper, 2011. Print.