Deconstructing the rhetoric of fear in post 9/11 young adult literature
Straight, Ronald Dean
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This study demonstrates how M.T. Anderson's "Feed" (2002), Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies" (2006), and Veronica Roth's "Divergent" (2011) offer young adult readers alternative messages through tropes and rhetorical devices within a mediated reality. The outcome of these messages offers mixed messages about rebellion and conformity to young adults living in a post 9/11 global community. The development of this message begins with teens in "Feed" exploring a dystopian future where society is tied together through technology that eliminates boundaries. The teens within the story explore a world, for a week, where those boundaries are reestablished due to an act of terror, resulting in their being exposed to a new understanding--or clinging furtively to the old. In the second novel, "Uglies", another dystopian society is deconstructed to examine the messages young adults are receiving when they are told that being pretty and compliant are safer alternatives to being an individual and taking risks to improve society. The third novel is "Divergent", which further examines the rebellion motif prominent in contemporary young adult fiction, but ultimately and ironically conveying a message that conformity is the only safe route. The text has been viewed through the theoretical lens of the works of Kenneth Burke, specifically his theory of motives and identity, along with Ulrich Beck, a professor of sociology at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, whose 'risk society' model compliments the ideas of Edmund Hussurl's study into the field of phenomenology. The first chapter introduces my theoretical framework and the rhetorical laboratory, which includes socio-historical data about the concepts I use to establish my rhetorical analysis. I also have included secondary information about false memory syndrome and mediated reality to establish a baseline from which to explore third-party shared experiences in teenagers through literature. In the second through fourth chapters I have summarized the stories and offer rhetorical analysis that offers reconstructed alternative messages for readers. The fifth chapter offers my conclusion about the significance of the study. I also explore potential steps and other methods of research to help continue research in this field.