Like any good dystopian romance, The Selection is as focused on the state of its world as it is on the personal relationships of its characters. In this instance, that world is Illéa, one of the most messed-up countries we've ever encountered.
Welcome to Illéa, where the princes play, / And they Select them girls like every day.
As we learn, Illéa was built out the ashes of the former United States, which was destroyed after losing World War III to China. The resulting country—the American State of China—rebuffed an invasion from Russia, which led the entirety of North America to unite behind one businessman with a plan: George Illéa. The details get hazy at this point, but the guy basically declared himself king, and Illéa was born.
In geographic terms, Illéa spans from the bottom tip of Central America all the way up to the northernmost regions of Canada, and it's cut up into thirty-five provinces. Some provinces are directly named after their modern parallels—America's home province of Carolina, for example, is named after the former states of North and South Carolina. Others have a more difficult names to figure out.
And That Caste System
Illéa's chief innovation in the realm of governance is the most simplified caste system of all time. The system ranges from One to Eight—One being the best and Eight being the worst. To make it more absurd, caste members are legally required to work specific jobs, even when they show no aptitude for those jobs. Here's the full breakdown for all you uber-nerds out there:
- Caste One —royalty and religious figures
- Caste Two—celebrities, athletes, pop stars, politicians, and military and police officers
- Caste Three—scientists, doctors, philosophers, writers, and other educated professionals
- Caste Four—business owners and managers
- Caste Five—performers
- Caste Six—secretaries, housekeepers, seamstresses, cooks, and clerks
- Caste Seven—manual laborers
- Caste Eight—homeless people, the sick, and other undesirables
Although this nonsense is totally insane, most Illéans treat the caste system like it's Holy Scripture. Not America. She's one of the few people who can see through the absurdity of the caste system: "It seemed unreasonable to limit everyone's life choices based on your ancestors' ability to help the government, but that was how it all worked out" (3.65).
And the Gold Medal at the Obvious Olympics goes to....
Livin' Like a King
In the novel, we spend the bulk of our time in the palace. For a Five like America, this place is garish and even a bit disturbing at times. The garden is a swell place to hang out in and all, but like most things in Illéa, it seems like little more than a façade to distract the masses from some gross abuses of human rights.
So would you move to Illéa? We know our answer—it's the biggest no on the planet. After learning about the country's history, its political system, and its social values, it's clear to us that Illéa is one of the most brutal fictional countries we've ever encountered. Though it looks pretty, Illéa is as oppressive as Oceania, or the World State, or whatever dystopian futurescape is nearest and dearest to your heart.