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In the book The Emissary, the main characters live in a dystopian society in Japan. There are many aspects of this book that differ from typical dystopian novels. One of the more obvious differences between Yoko Tawada’s novel and other dystopian books is that the technology component is missing/severely limited in the communities. A common theme in dystopian novels is that people are under constant surveillance, which is mostly done through the use of the technological component, i.e. cameras; this book does the opposite. While there is no technology for Mumei and Yoshiro, they fear breaking the law. “The entire country looked up to the inhabitants of Tokyo’s temporary housing blocks, the very first to give up their electrical appliances, as a model of the most advanced lifestyle.” This quote from page 51 shows not only the dynamic of the society, but it also shows that the people willingly gave up their technology for hopes of a better life and lifestyle.

Another thing that this novel interweaves into this new idea of dystopia is the gender transformation.

In areas where culture dictated that female fetuses should be aborted, Nature, enraged at humans disrupting her balance this way, had started playing various tricks. One trick was making sure that no one stayed the same sex all their lives. Everyone’s sex changed either once or twice and people couldn’t tell ahead of time how many times their sex would change.

This quote from page 92 shows that Nature is personified as it often is. The difference this story proposes is that Nature is seen as cunning and able to get back at the humans for killing females and disrupting her balance by turning their sex. This is similar to the Common Reed frog of West Africa; the species of frog will change sexes throughout its lifetime based on the balance of female to male population ratio. In a dystopia, it is usually more of a societal change and not a physical one. I thought of the frogs because it was something that happens in our world, so this book is pulling from the natural world and the author is pulling from our world and making it absurd.

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