Is the Concept of ‘Measure’ inherently Dystopian?

In the intricate world of literature genres, the concept of dystopia often ignites discussions When assessing whether a book fits into this category or not, we must consider its key elements A dystopian storyline often portrays a future society that is fundamentally dehumanizing and unwelcoming, often resulting from an unintended consequence of an attempt to create a utopia or a perfect society

Let’s dive into the novel “The Measure” by Nicki Erlick and examine if it incorporates these elements

Understanding “The Measure”

“The Measure” presents a unique, thought-provoking premise: a mysterious box, delivered to every adult, containing a string representing the length of their life. This innovative concept instantly disrupts society and illuminates a social commentary on how we perceive life duration and mortality questions.

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Dystopian Elements in “The Measure”

  • Societal Disruption: The arrival of the boxes provokes a global frenzy, a key characteristic of dystopian novels, where societal order is often upended by a radical change.
  • Discrimination and Inequality: The novel iterates a pronounced division between ‘short-stringers’ and ‘long-stringers’, prompting institutional discrimination. This echoes the dystopian element of societal division and ensuing inequality.
  • Pervading Unease and Fear: The knowledge of life expectancy plunges individuals into a state of perpetual dread, shaping societal perceptions and relationships—an atmosphere akin to many dystopian worlds brimming with fear and uncertainty.

Contemporary Ethical Drama

ERlick’s novel, though showcasing some dystopian elements, is more centered around ethical and romantic aspects. Characters’ bonds, life choices, and responses to the known length of their existence play a central role in this novel. Therefore, it’s also fair to categorize “The Measure” as a contemporary ethical drama.

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How Dystopian is “The Measure” Truly?

Although “The Measure” includes few dystopian characteristics, those elements alone might not suffice to fully categorize it as dystopian novel. Stronger components of the book are the exploration of philosophical questions connected to mortality knowledge and the implication of personal relationships in the face of disclosed life spans.


The classification of a novel into a genre is primarily subjective, varying with different interpretive perspectives. While “The Measure” undeniably contains some dystopian elements such as societal disruption and a climate of uncertainty, at its core, it includes a more substantial exploration of ethical dilemmas and personal relationships. Therefore, it is a blend of dystopian aspects woven into a contemporary ethical drama. This novel successfully prompts readers to confront their own mortality and ponder on how they would navigate their lives if they too had such knowledge, making it a powerful and immersive read.

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