Ready Player One

Ready Player One


Ernest Cline

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Themes and Colors
Reality vs. Illusion Theme Icon
Nerds, Underdogs, and Obsession Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Collective Theme Icon
Inequality, Elitism, and Corporate Power Theme Icon
Utopia vs. Dystopia Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Ready Player One, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Reality vs. Illusion

The central question posed by Ready Player One is whether reality is necessarily better than illusion, particularly if reality has become an increasingly nightmarish place. In the world of the novel, a global energy crisis, poverty, and famine mean that the vast majority of the world’s population live extremely difficult lives. This is certainly true for Wade: he is poor, both his parents are dead, and he is forced to live in a cramped…

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Nerds, Underdogs, and Obsession

The heroes of the novel—Wade, Art3mis, Aech, Morrow, and Halliday—are all united by the fact that they are nerds and underdogs whose power lies in their shared obsessions. None of them possess the typical attributes of a hero. They lack physical strength, and Wade, Art3mis, and Aech in particular are described as overweight. In the real world, the characters—particularly Wade and Halliday—lack charisma, and find interacting with other people…

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The Individual vs. the Collective

Ready Player One is in some ways a story of individual achievement and success, yet it also highlights the importance of alliances, teamwork, and community. Throughout the novel, Wade and the other characters struggle to reconcile their impulses to act alone with their desire to connect with others. At the beginning of the story, Wade only has one friend, Aech, and no family members; he is essentially a loner. To some extent, his inclination…

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Inequality, Elitism, and Corporate Power

The world of the novel is afflicted by a variety of problems, but perhaps the most significant stem from corporate greed, elitism, and inequality. As most people on Earth become increasingly poor, the oppressive power of corporations like IOI increases. IOI, which stands for Innovative Online Industries, is a communications conglomerate and internet service provider that embodies the trope of the evil corporation. Indeed, the reason that Wade is so desperate to win the Easter…

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Utopia vs. Dystopia

The Earth on which Ready Player One is set is dystopian, meaning that it is an imagined world in which everything has degraded to a terrible, oppressive state of existence. In contrast, the OASIS at times resembles a utopia, a fact that is even reflected in the game’s name. An oasis is a place in a desert containing water and fertile plant growth; similarly, the OASIS is a haven of hope, possibility, and joy in…

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