Finding Dystopia in Utopia : Gender, Power and Politics in The Carhullan Army

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Engelska institutionen


Sarah Hall’s feminist dystopia The Carhullan Army presents a near-future society by using oppositional binaries traditional to the genre of the literary dystopia; Utopia/Dystopia, Male/Female, and Good/Evil. This essay deconstructs these binaries in order to unveil the inherent complexities in power structures that cannot be captured by such binaries. Previous research on the novel has approached it with feminist theory, and different branches of feminism such as ecofeminism. In this essay, I use feminist theory as a starting point to discuss the Authority’s oppression of women in the novel, but I also show the limits to this approach when considering the apparent post-9/11 context in which the novel is situated, which decisively inflects its treatment of power. Michel Foucault’s theories on power and knowledge are used in order to examine the complex power structures in The Carhullan Army, which relate to—and transcend—borders of gender. I find that the subtle political presence of American imperialism in the novel is vital to understand the power struggles that are apparent in both the patriarchal city of Rith and the matriarchal Carhullan farm. This essay examines the novel both as a critique to the political submissiveness that Great Britain showed when it followed America into war against Iraq in 2003 and as a depiction of what this submission might lead to.

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