By: Filasha Finley
Imagine a world where there are no wars; a world where everyone lives in peace and harmony; a world where you could walk into a store, grab what you want, and walk out without paying; a world where you have universal health care and get healed in minutes without going bankrupt or into debt. The healing would take mere seconds. Imagine a world where there is no pollution and the earth is thriving, rather than slowly dying. That seems like a perfect world to live in, right? Would you want to live in this world, even if it meant losing your identity? Stephenie Meyer’s book The Host is an example of what seems like a perfect world to most, can be a nightmare for some.
The Host is set well into the future, where aliens called “souls” have invaded and taken over human bodies, making them hosts. Souls are a peaceful species; they have traveled from planet to planet, inhabiting different creatures to survive. They do not lie and, in their eyes, are genuinely good beings. They believe that their coming to Earth is a favor for the humans, since the planet was being destroyed by unnecessary war and pollution. People who end up hosting a soul have access to “luxuries” like health care, unlimited food, and peace, but they do not have the luxury of free will. They lose themselves to the souls, who will eventually wipe out the human race.
The feeling of not being able to control your body or live the way you want to make the humans resistant to the change that the souls bring. The promise of a perfect world does not outshine the desire for individual freedom that is built into every human from birth. Souls can enter a human’s body and can access their memories while the human slowly fades away, but in some cases the human stays conscious and does not leave their body. This is the case of a soul called Wanderer, who is placed in a human known as Melanie Stryder. Melanie does everything that she can to resist her, but Wanderer begins to tap into her memories, which includes Melanie’s brother, Jamie, and boyfriend, Jared. Wanderer’s mission is to key in on those memories and find other humans who are resisting the souls.
As the story progresses, Wanderer and Melanie bond, and Wanderer starts to understand why people are resisting the souls, even though they are making the planet a better living place. Since Melanie is still conscious, she resists and forces Wanderer to go find her family, and when she does they initially attack her, because they do not believe that both beings can inhibit the same body. After some time, they realize that Wanderer is telling the truth, and she becomes an ally to the humans while becoming her own individual person separate from Melanie. As in her own person Wanderer develops feelings that are separate from Melanie’s.
The Host focuses on the broad theme of good vs. evil and examines how one person’s utopia could be another person’s dystopia. It also calls us to interrogate historical patterns of colonialism in which people enter and settle “new” territories. The people who take over feel as if they are making the conquered territory a better place, but it ends up making it a nightmare for the natives. This is clearly seen in The Host, the souls believe they are doing the humans a favor by coming to their planet and taking over. With the souls in charge, there is no war, money is not important, and everyone who has a soul inhabiting their body gets medical care. What they are creating seems like an ideal world. This may be perfect for the souls but for the humans it is a nightmare. The humans fade away when the souls are inserted in to their bodies. They have no control over their actions or words. Many humans do not want to be taken over, and if they are close to being captured, many people turn to suicide rather than be taken.
A utopia cannot be forced upon people. As in The Host there were small amounts of people resisting but, they were still resisting. Free will cannot be taken away easily. No matter how perfect situations are, there will still be people fighting for their right to free will.