From Passive to Less Passive: Lena’s Transformation in the Panoptic Society of Delirium (Alex L. & Emma L.)

Girlhood is often associated with passivity. The notion of girls as passive beings can lead to many issues, including oppression, conformity and in the case of Delirium, a lack of free will. This repressive state is created out of a panoptic society where surveillance is a constant factor in everyday life.The society in Olivia Butler’s Delirium acts as a representation of how our own society regulates girls and girlhood. It is only when more closely analysed that it is revealed that Delirium makes the statement that this overcoming of passivity is only possible with the accompaniment of love.

The panopticon is an idea first formed by Jeremy Bentham in the 19th Century. It is a type of ideal structure for schools, factories, hospitals, and other organizations. The most well-known drawn model is of a prison, which consisted of a circular room, with a viewing tower right in the middle. This would allow for the guard within the tower to view every inmate at any part of the building. Additionally, the tinted windows did not allow inmates to see inside, leaving them unaware of whose presence they are in. This causes the prisoners to regulate their behaviours and obey the rules, due to the feeling of constantly being under watch. In this sense, the panopticon is not a building, but a state of mind. The notion of constant surveillance forces a society to obey, thus creating a common hegemony of passivity among its subjects (Bentham).

The community within Oliver’s Delirium can be viewed as a panopticon. There is not necessarily constant physical presence of law enforcers, but citizens still willingly follow the abnormally strict rules and ideals of the society. For example, in chapter three, Lena states ‘Every choice is limited,’ I snap. ‘That’s life’” (Oliver 21). Lena has been conditioned within her society to believe that her choices are limited to a select group of options, stemming from the ideologies that have been present for so long they seem natural. This is created out of the fear of rebelling, which stems from the fear of being punished. Lena and the others are aware of a capital presence in their lives, and know that their actions are being watched. Lena associates this concept in multiple metaphors, including her statement of a “lighthouse light … [as] an enormous, accusing finger” (Oliver 168). Lena personifies the lighthouse in this phrase while simultaneously making reference to the panopticon. The personification references an accusing finger, which can easily be associated to the ‘Uncle Sam’ figure of United States military recruitment. The finger makes it seem like the government is aware of every individual citizen and wants them to aid and comply with their effort. It is also being depicted as a form of surveillance, and its rotating alludes to the circular layout of the panoptic prison. It implies the idea that there is no hiding from the law, and if you disobey it, you will be recognized and dealt with.


Most rules in the Delirium society are implicit and followed without question. This act of passivity, again, is linked to the panopticon. A certain behaviour has been issued within the society as “ideal,” and members of the community, specifically girls, submit to these notions, whose lives are essentially planned for them. They plan their answers in effort to obtain a score which sets them up for “happiness” or “success” in their future. The notion of girlhood in this community is muddled with the ideas of a repressive state, forced passivity and lack of free will. This is an exaggerated representation of our reality. Girlhood is often associated with passivity, docility and submissiveness. This depiction is dangerous because it can reinforce these ideals to the readers, and thus have them be mimicked in our own society.

The transition of Lena from a passive person to an active agent in her own life can be seen as the “Girl Power” message of the novel. As she learns from Alex that she must question what their government has taught them about experiencing love, she begins to question other ways the government controls the society and feels like the borders are used to keep them inside instead of keep others out (229). However, her transition is not an overall positive message for young girl readers as it is caused solely by experiencing romantic love. At the beginning of the novel Lena is a girl who believes, “criticizing the system is the worst offense there is” (20). Her transition from docility to a person with rebellious agency happens in a matter of months. Lena does not question the system of her government until her romantic interest for a man compels her to. She does not consider herself beautiful until her romantic partner validates her beauty for her. Instead of learning from this to view herself positively, she believes she is only special when she is around him and without him she will go back to being ordinary (311).

The most pronounced “Girl Power” message in the novel is the last paragraphs of the novel where she states that no one can stop her, and there are many people like her that will fight injustice. This implies that the young readers themselves have this capacity and they too should be social justice warriors. Until this very last page, Lena is not depicted as a character who can rebel independently. Her rebellious acts are not done because she wants to openly show that her government’s rules are corrupted, they are all connected to being with people she loves. In, “The Incompatibility of Female Friendships and Rebellion,” Ann M. M. Childs states that the novel monitors Lena’s actions to be, “a damsel in need of rescue instead of the strong girl rebelling” (Childs 195). Her heterosexual romantic partner, Alex, is continuously rescuing her throughout the novel. In a scene where she goes to be the hero for her best friend by saving her from a raid, she does not get there fast enough and needs to be rescued by Alex instead. The most pronounced part of the novel to showcase Lena as a damsel character is when she is tied to her bed before her surgery. The entire time she is tied up she is continuously thinking about Alex coming save her, not trying to get out through her own will until the very last night. She imagines herself as a princess waiting for her prince to rescue her (Oliver 420). While she is tied up she thinks of what she will do if she gets out. She limits her options to either finding Alex, or killing herself (428). She never considers going to the Wilds by herself, searching for her mother, or joining the rebellion on the outside of the fence. Lena believes that, “without him, there is no world” (332). The unwarranted final passage of the novel then can be seen Lena’s true gaining of independence. Only when she no longer has a romantic partner can she gain independence and agency, believing she is capable of surviving on her own for the first time.

The message this sends to young readers is that in order for a girl to critically analyze the construction of society and act against societal injustice, she needs to experience romantic love. While this novel advocates for many forms of love the only type that drives people to actively join the rebellion or go to the Wilds is romantic love. The idea of only gaining independence and agency through a heterosexual romantic relationship is not the type of “Girl Power” message many feminists would want promoted to young female readers. The passivity of the people in Delirium, caused by the panoptic nature of their society, represents the docility girls are forced to exhibit in real-life.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you believe that Lena would have reached her “transition point” without her male accomplice? Would the transformation happen without love, or would she not have realized the faults in her community on her own?
  2. Do you feel that the confident statement Lena makes in the last passage of the novel is an accurate representation of her character? Or is it merely a momentary episode of confidence in an otherwise insecure person?
  3. The turning point for Lena is her discovery of love. Does the fact that this is a heterosexual attraction between her and Adam hold any significance? What does this signify in terms of the Delirium society, and thus of our own?


Bentham, Jeremy. Panopticon or the inspection house. Vol. 2. 1791.

Childs, Ann M. M., “The Incompatibility of Female Friendships and Rebellion.”Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction, edited by Sarah K. Day, Miranda A. Green-Barteet, Amy  L. Montz, Ashgate, 2014, pp. 195.

Oliver, Lauren. Delirium. Harper, 2016.

15 thoughts on “From Passive to Less Passive: Lena’s Transformation in the Panoptic Society of Delirium (Alex L. & Emma L.)

  1. I really enjoyed your analysis of Delirium! You both made a lot of great points about Alex’s role in Lena’s transition from passive to active.
    In response to part of your argument and your first question, I would argue that Lena’s initial steps toward a transition were influenced by Hana, not Alex. Hana is the first person to question and act against their societal structure. Even small, mostly inconsequential acts of rebellion are instigated by Hana, like crossing the gate into the medical facilities lot marked “Private property. No trespassing. Authorized Personnel only” (Oliver 57), where Lena literally follows Hana’s lead. On a larger scale, Lena goes to the illegal party in order to prove to Hana that she isn’t “scared all of the time” (110). While her relationship with Alex is central to her transition from passive to active, it is not the only relationship to influence her perspective of the society she lives in. Ultimately, I do agree that Delirium presents her romantic relationship with Alex as the most significant influence on her development, despite the potential that her relationship with Hana demonstrates.
    With that in mind and to fully address the discussion question, I think without Adam there were still opportunities for Lena to reach her “transition point”, but with Hana as the primary catalyst. Love is an important aspect of the society in Delirium and directly informs the ways in which Lena rebels. These acts could have been accomplished through her relationship with Hana, romantic or otherwise. I do recognize that Hana’s willingness to rebel further than expected teenage behaviour (from our outside perspective) is limited, however the starting point it provides Lena is significant. It influences her to act rebelliously and selflessly out of concern for Hana, like when Lena leaves home after curfew to warn Hana about the raid. This alternate route the novel could have taken would provide a framework of development outside of heteronormative ideals and stereotypes of femininity.

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  2. In terms of associating leadership qualities to men and passivity with women, then I believe Lena and Alex’s heterosexual relationship plays an important role. It is through this relationship that Lena starts to question the oppressive government. However, it may not be that she depended on Alex to tell her this information, but merely that he is an individual who came into her life and educated her about the ways of the world and informed her that she must step up for what is right. As children, we are so blind to the negativity in the world and it is not until someone comes along and teaches us that we are freed from a blind innocence. It doesn’t help that Alex is male because, of course, it makes Lena appear more passive against a so called dominant figure.

    I do also agree that this turning point could have been addressed in other ways, perhaps through another female character like Hana. Lena does try hard to warn Hana about the raid and seemingly steps up as an individual who isn’t just concerned about herself. Since the novel revolves around love, Lauren Oliver could have portrayed Lena as a more dynamic character by fleshing out her relationship with Hana instead of just depending on a heterosexual relationship to make her more oblivious to the world around her.


  3. I’m glad you highlighted passivity in Delirium. I really enjoyed what “The Incompatibility of Female Friendships and Rebellion” had to say about it and am happy to have another chance to explore the issue. I also appreciate the sassiness of your title, it made me laugh out loud.

    Regarding if the last passage of the novel is an accurate portrayal of Lena’s character, I believe it is. While those last few sentences are blatantly didactic in their emphasis on the importance of rebellion and love, I think it highlights Lena’s evolution as a character. Over time we see Lena become angrier, such as when she finds out her family was lying to her about her mother’s death. She becomes more critical of the system she lives in, which is seen through the way she talks about the regulators’ brutality towards citizens during the raid. This passage may be a bit of a sudden shift in tone, but it is acknowledging authentic character progression. As well, I do believe that Alex was necessary to Lena’s growth, but I think a lot of his value to her development is based on his position as a knowledge keeper outside of Lena’s world. Lena doesn’t know anyone affiliated with the rebellion, and so it’s difficult to expect her to uncover these issues on her own. Alex is the one that tells her about her mother and who confirms that Invalids are real. Lena responds based on this information, but she needed the initial information to become more of an active participant in her own life. Alex is definitely more active in this novel than Lena, but this can be attributed to her identity as both a recognized citizen of the United States and someone who uniquely has a lot to lose because of her past traumas and class position. If Lena doesn’t score well on her evaluations, her family could face serious consequences. Alex faces an immense amount of danger because of his identity as an Invalid, but he also experiences the panopticon quite differently. Unlike Lena, he never believes that state surveillance is for his own good or that there is something wrong with him for being different. As a result, it makes sense that he is more willing to rebel and able to understand systemic realities quicker than she is.


  4. Hi Alex & Emma,
    Before answering your questions I want to address one aspect of your post and that is the fact that Lena doesn’t question the governmental system until Alex plants the ideas in her mind. I find it difficult to fault Lena on this. Unlike the worlds that Katniss and Lauren live in, Lena doesn’t see the injustices and/or oppressions of her society. For Katniss and Lauren it is plainly evident who benefits from their government systems and that makes it easy for them to question it. However, the people of Lena’s society have been conditioned to trust and believe in what their government is doing. Since they have been taught to see these surgeries as a way to save them from themselves, it wouldn’t be crazy for Lena to trust the system and not question it. It can only be someone from outside the system who can show Lena the injustices flooding her beloved system. That someone just happened to be a boy.

    Now, to address your first question, I do believe that Lena would have reached her transition point without Alex. We were already starting to see her question the methods of the government before she got together with Alex. The obvious scene being when she finds her neighbour’s dog and is disgusted with how it was treated by both it’s owners and the raiders. Another scene follows shortly after when Lena is in the house trying to find Hana when the raiders storm it. She ponders the fact that these people who are meant to protect them are actually the ones attacking them. Just from those two scenes, readers can see that Lena is already starting to ask questions about the society that she lives in. So yes, I do believe that her transition would still happen the only difference would be perhaps the speed of her realizations. Through Alex, Lena was given a lot of information regarding the truth about her city and that progressed her transition at a rapid rate. If Lena had to figure all those things out on her own the process would be significantly lower, but it would still happen.


  5. Alex L and Emma L, you did a really good analysis of the panoptic society of Delirium, and looking at passivity in the novel. First, I would like to address an excerpt from the fourth paragraph in your post. You guys talked about how girlhood is commonly associated with passivity, docility and submissiveness. I agree with this point, but would like to bring up what you guys said next, “This depiction is dangerous because it can reinforce these ideals to the readers, and thus have them be mimicked in our own society.” I could see how you guys would come to this conclusion, although I disagree. In Delirium, the tropes of passivity and docility are consistently reinforced, as you guys have mentioned in your post multiple times. Although, in Delirium these tropes are so exaggerated to the point where it makes the book a fictitious story. As readers, we see how much control the government has on it’s citizens, so far as making the citizens so terrified of punishment and constant surveillance that acting out against the law is seen as the worst possible thing a person could do. The punishments for acting out, (e.g. Prison for loving someone, brutal beatings for going to a party and death for loving someone) are so extreme that I believe readers of this book would not mimic these ideals in our own society. This is because the submissiveness and docility are so inflated that it would actually make readers be sure not to reinforce these ideals in even the slightest way in our society. We can see how reinforcing these ideals can lead to a world that no one would want to live in. Therefore; I think the depiction of docility is not dangerous because I believe it’s exaggeration would actually detour anyone from mimicking Delirium’s society. It is so amplified that it acts as a warning to it’s readers.

    Second, I am going to speak to your first discussion question, regarding Lena’s transition point. I do believe it is possible that Lena could have reached her ‘transition point’ without her falling in love with Alex. I think this because, we see Lena start to rebel before Alex, with the influence of Hana. That being said, I do not believe Lena would have reached her turning point so quickly, or would that turning point be so extreme if it weren’t for Alex. It is commonly known that the power that romantic love has over a person tends to be a stronger force than the love of a friendship. Also, romantic love, in Delirium, is seen as the ultimate crime. Keeping these points in mind, I don’t think Lena would have realized the faults in her community to the same extent without falling in love. If the biggest fault in the community is the way the government views love, it would be hard to recognize this fault without the experience of actually falling romantically in love, because you wouldn’t know what you are missing. This being said, I do not think it is a bad thing that Lena didn’t realize the faults in her community until she fell in love. I could only imagine how hard it would be to challenge your own government, especially when you have been taught a certain way your whole life. I’m sure it would take a big change or event in someone’s life to make them discard what they have known all growing up. I think the power of love can make someone realize this. I certainly don’t criticize Lena for not realizing these faults in her society until she fell in love.


  6. I find your first discussion question very interesting as I found myself disagreeing with some of your arguments as I was reading. I do agree that Lena’s turning point was her falling in love with Alex, but I don’t think this should be a negative thing when you consider the context of her society. If the plot storyline had been about anything else, then yes, showing love as the solution is problematic. In the context of this society however, it is the ultimate crime. If we were to remove Alex from the equation, Lena would not have the ability to rebel to the same extent because she would have no idea how to escape, considering all of the know-how came from Alex and his experiences. She should have no idea what it was possibly to life peacefully and safely in the wilds if it were not for his experiences as an invalid. There would be no point in rebelling as she was under the impression that she was surrounded by electric fending and it was impossible to make it out alive. Furthermore, without the turning point of falling in love, Lena would likely have ended up just like Hana. They could both go out to parties together and listen to unregulated music, but what good is that in the long run when they have no options except to be cured or die. I agree with what Cassie said in the above comment. Lena didn’t know what she was missing prior to falling in love with Alex. No person would understand the problems with their society’s understanding of love unless they were to fall in love themselves. You cannot rebel against something that you don’t understand, and you can not truly understand what it is like to fall in love until you do. So to answer your question, no. I don’t think that Lena would reach this transition point without Alex, and I don’t think she would rebel against her society without having fallen in love first. I don’t think this is problematic considering the context. Oliver is not telling girls that they need to rebel for someone else, but she is illustrating that love can be a catalyst for change, and in the society she created, it makes perfect sense.


  7. Thank you for your interesting blog post! I did not feel like the confident statement Lena makes in the last passage of the novel is an accurate representation of her character. There did not seem to be enough realistic character development to lead her to such a state of motivation and determination. Rather, as you mentioned in your essay, Alex was used as a means to hold Lena up to a position where she had enough motivation to change an aspect of her own life. It seemed as though it was added at the end as a moment of inspiration for readers where the protagonist acts in a way that is admirable in a certain way, so that the didactic quality holds, in fear that there may not have been a positive message for girls, other than being docile and using male characters to help you see truth and create change. This said, I think it is important to point out the often unrealistically high standard we hold girls to, particularly in young adult dystopian fiction, such as the characters depicted in The Hunger Games and The Parable of the Sower. However, I do not think the way Lauren Oliver depicted Lena was a good way to pushback against potential harmful expectations placed on girls. A better method, I believe, would have been to create a more complicated character that was not almost solely reliant on another person to recognize her agency and potential for change.

    To answer your second question, whether it was only a momentary episode of confidence in an otherwise insecure person or not, I think the position Lena is placed in at the end of Delirium seemed more like a momentary episode of confidence. However, no longer having Alex by her side and being in her the position she is now in will force Lena to become a more active agent in her own life. The problem with this depiction is that rather than having created a character that came to certain realizations and fought for change through her own resolve, at least partially, the author made her rely on a male character to reach that point.


  8. Hi all,

    I’d like to speak to your first discussion question, because I think there are some nuances in Lena’s rebellion that might otherwise be ignored. I do think Lena would have reached her transition point without Alex, as others have said, because of Hana, who is eternally curious about rebellion, Invalids, and the Wilds. Lena’s desire to protect Hana would have led her, for example, to the party that is raided (although it is impossible to speculate what would have happened had Alex not been around to help Lena after the dog bites her); it is here that the realities of her society begin to really sink in, and she reacts with disgust when she recognizes that the raiders seem to enjoy causes harm to citizens (Oliver 218). We see, then, that the sparks of her rebellion begin not with Alex but with Hana.
    That said, had Lena not met and become close with Alex, she never would have been made aware that her mother was alive. I would argue that Lena’s anger regarding her mother is the catalyst for her rebellion; prior to this point, we never see Lena getting really, truly angry at her society. After being made aware that her mother is alive, Lena is “filled, suddenly, with white-hot anger, a blaze” and tells Alex that “I want to run away with you. To the Wilds” (374). It is not Alex, then, that ultimately convinces Lena to rebel, but her mother. Because of Hana, I believe Lena would still have reached her transition point, as you put it; however, she would not have the necessary conviction to actively rebel without Alex’s assistance in revealing the truth about her mother.


  9. I really like your comparison of the lighthouse to a panopticon vigilance – I think it’s very well thought out. However, I had a question about your argument in relation to the control and conformity of girls, specifically. You write that girls are especially repressed by societal ideals in the book, and therefore bare the brunt of the weight of conformity. I think you’re right that Lena is an example of the society’s forced obedience, but I’m not sure that I agree that the society they are experiencing is especially oppressive to girls. Aren’t all citizens, aside from the Invalids obviously, forced to conform and live according to the government’s strict regulations? Don’t they all have to undergo the process of being questioned, judged, and forced to marry someone who is assigned to them based on this assessment? Won’t both men and women receive the cure, in order to be that much more under the control of their government? I think you make a strong point that Lena may represent the repression of girls in our current society, because of her strict adherence to societal expectations. However, in terms of the characters of the novel, I’m not sure I think that female are more repressed than the males in the society.

    In terms of your first discussion question, I think that Oliver’s storyline is set up with Alex and Lena’s relationship being the catalyst for her transition out of compliance and conformity and into rebellion. Oliver makes it clear through Lena’s original strict adherence to the rules and ideologies of her society, that this would have continued forever if something did not cause her to change. That is Alex’s role. However, I think that his role is more necessary to the storyline than just a love interest, and male approval. Alex provides her with the information that leads to her questioning of the government, and ultimately her rebellion. She likely would never have come to this information on her own, meaning that Alex is necessary to starting her rebellion. I think that this makes sense in the creation of a cohesive storyline, and is not problematic in and of itself. That being said, I do agree that the way this is presented makes it more problematic. Her lack of self confidence throughout the novel, and the damsel in distress behaviour that you describe makes Alex’s character more than just the catalyst to change in Lena; he is needed to encourage her actions every step of the way. This is the element that I think sends the problematic message of dependence on male approval in order to feel and act strong. I think that is more of an issue than Alex’s involvement in Lena’s original move towards questioning her society.


  10. It is hard to say that Lena would have rebelled against her society without love, specifically in a society which love is controlled and believed as a disease. While I do not think that Alex was her only driving force to the end, he did play a significant role. Reading through the responses to this post, I agree that Hana was the initial steps towards the transition, she opened up to Lena about breaking the rules, even though they were small Lena still thought it was crazy even just going to a party. I have to remind myself of the specific setting they were living in. To me, sneaking out of the house to go to a party seems like not a big deal as I did it as a teen, but we need to remember that if they got caught they could get hurt, killed or put in prison. If we continue to think this way, then yes I believe that Alex played a role in Lena’s transition, but within the context of where she lives, it is the only way for her to rebel. For her to have these emotions and believe that she should be able to live this way. Another point to consider is that she only decides to leave once she finds out about her mother. Her love for her mother drives her over the edge to actually leave the society and not get cured. I think that without her love for Hana, she would not have left to go to the party to warn her about the raid, without her love for Alex she would not have gone to the Wilds or gone to see her mom, and without her love for her mom she would have gotten cured.

    It is important to note, even though she needed to fall in love in order to break free from her society, this is a reoccurring theme in most YA dystopian novels. I think that the storyline for Delirium works in favour of the context it is set in, but we need to remember that this happens in almost every young adult dystopian novel. Because of that, I do not agree with how this plays out because it continues to put the idea that young women and girls need help from a young boy or man in order to succeed.


  11. Though triggered by Hana Lena has already begun to question the system, I don’t think she would rebel against her society without having fallen in love with Alex. She keeps praying Alex to save her and without him she could have been in danger which is frightening enough for an ordinary girl to keep silent. Love is a great power and romatic love is especially fierce. I don’t think based on her friendship with Hana Lena could turn to rebellious in such a short time – she could have been “cured” by then.


  12. Good post! I really liked the comparison between the panopticon and Delirium’s society, it suited the narrative of the novel really well! To answer the first question, I don’t believe Lena would have reached the “transitional point” without Alex because he was the only character who sparked her rebellious actions. I also don’t believe she would have realized the faults of her society without experiencing romantic love because she stated numerous times before meeting Alex how she felt comforted and at ease with her limited choices. To answer your second question, I feel that Lena’s last passage is a momentary episode of confidence in an otherwise insecure person because Lena sought validation from those around her throughout the entire novel. The validations from Alex were the most valuable to her, however, and even Hana could not boost her confidence in a significant way. To answer the last question, the heterosexual relationship between Lena and Alex does hold significance, because it reinforces the notion that heterosexuality is the default, and any narratives engaging with queer characters would be viewed as outside the mainstream or “normal” narrative. Their relationship also confirms Delirium’s societal notion that heterosexuality is the “correct” relationship when it comes to seeking a marriage partner.


  13. I completely agree with the reading you presented of Lena as a damsel in distress. It became very clear to me near the end of the novel when she needed to escape her room so she would not be forced to take the cure, and she couldn’t find a way out. She looked out the window and there was Alex, her knight in shining armour, looking up at her in her tower, needing to be rescued.
    Regarding your third question, I do think that the love between her and Alex needed to be a heterosexual attraction. If she ended up with, say, Hannah, I don’t think that she would have been inspired enough to leave her society. It would just have been seen as something that happened regularly because of all the time and girls are forced to spend with each other. The fact that her love with Alex is forbidden makes it that much more exciting for her. When she starts lying to her aunt she seems to feel guilty at first, but she enjoys the thrill of being somewhere where she isn’t supposed to be. This shows that the society doesn’t regard homosexual love as anything real. It doesn’t pose a threat to their society, showing that they don’t believe that any real feelings are involved in it. This plays a role in our society, because heterosexual love is regarded as the norm. The constructs of our society don’t show homosexual love as equally important, just like the society in delirium doesn’t regard it with high enough regard for it to pose a serious threat to their society. They view it as something that can be easily taken away, because they don’t believe that there is a basis of deep love in it.


  14. Hey Alex and Emma,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I agree with you when you say that the act of passivity plays a prominent role within the Delirium society. It is definitely problematic that Lena needs to experience romantic love before beginning to claim agency over her life and decisions.
    To answer your first question, perhaps maybe it was depicted in a way that doesn’t empower young female readers the way it should, but Lena’s romantic relationship with Alex is vital to her reaching the “transition point” of being an active agent against societal injustice. Since the entire story is based on the fact that love is a disease, it makes sense that one must fall “ill” to the disease and experience love to know it is not what the government puts it out to be. Alex supports but isn’t the sole reason Lena becomes an active agent.
    However, in relation to your third question, there is something to be said about the heterosexual attraction between Lena and her lover. In the Delirium society, since the children are so separated by gender (boys schools/girls schools) and they are conditioned to limit interactions with the opposite sex before they receive the cure, it’s hard not to see heterosexual romantic love as the only kind of romantic love. If the government in Delirium even entertained the possibility of homosexual love, they would then have to cure the children before it was safe or alternatively they would be further segregated and life would grow increasingly regulated and bleak for the children. To some degree, I think that the fact that Lauren Oliver doesn’t even consider multiple sexualities and types of relationships echoes the approach in our society to turn a blind eye to things that push us out of our comfort zone rooted in convention and norm.


  15. I really enjoyed reading your post!
    In response to your first discussion question, I don’t think Lena would have even thought her society was remotely harmful in the slightest without Alex. Lena is obedient and fully immersed in the expectations of her society, (which is fair, as it is all she knows.) When Hana shows her the possibility of censored media, Lena’s reaction is angry, as Hana’s soft rebellion challenges Lena’s moral beliefs. Lena accepts all information given to her about her mother and panopticizes herself as a compliant member of her society. Lena’s enlightenment, which mirrors Plato’s allegory of the cave, is sparked by Alex. In turn, her rebellion is directly and solely linked to Alex, as her initial idea of running away to the Wilds is to be with him freely and continue being in love without the demands of her society. Lena begins to question the legitimacy of the explanation of her mother’s death by Alex, as well. As your post outlined, when in trouble, Lena relied on Alex to save her, like the classic trope of a damsel in distress, as she limits her options to “either finding Alex, or killing herself…[and] never considers going to the Wilds by herself, searching for her mother, or joining the rebellion on the outside of the fence.” There is zero chance that Lena would realize the fault of society on her own, as even Hana’s harmless, soft rebellion angered her. Lena needed to be told to rebel and needed a reward, such a loving relationship with Alex, to even contemplate the decision of running away. At the end of the novel, when she makes it over the fence, she only does so because Alex saved her, was assumed to be behind her and would make it over the fence as well. Lena’s entire rebellious finale was directed by Alex and without his control, there would no rebellion in the novel at all.


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