Dystopia is defined as a society characterized by poverty, squalor, or oppression. Most authors of dystopian fiction explore at least one reason why things are that way.
Dystopias usually extrapolate elements of contemporary society and are read by many as political warnings. Many purported utopias reveal a dystopian character by suppressing justice, freedom and happiness.
EXAMPLES: Samuel Butler's Erewhon can be seen as a dystopia because of the way sick people are punished as criminals while thieves are cured in hospitals, which the inhabitants of Erewhon see as natural and right, i.e. utopian (as mocked in Voltaire's Candide.) Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World is a more subtle and more threatening dystopia because he projected into the year 2540 industrial and social changes he perceived in 1931, leading to a fascist hierarchy of society, industrially successful by exploiting a slave class conditioned and drugged to obey and enjoy their servitude. George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian novel about a coercive and impoverished totalitarian society, conditioning its population through propaganda rather than drugs. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale describes a future North America governed by strict religious rules which only the privileged dare defy.