When I started writing this one, I never expected it to be so long. Somehow, I made it last for like 8 pages in Word, so I decided to divide it into 5 parts. Every day I plan to post one part.
This one was prompted by people laughing/criticizing The Hunger Games without knowing much about the series. But, it’s a good excuse to write why I like it so much. So, let’s begin with saying I’m generally not a fan of popular franchise, but I’m also not against, either. I take the neutral approach; I try to read them and decide objectively if I liked them or not. I didn’t enjoy Twilight, I’m not a fan of Divergent, though I still prefer it to Twilight; I do like Harry Potter and I love The Hunger Games. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the books are perfect, or the best written series ever. But I love them, despite their flaws.
In my humble opinion the worst mistake you can make with this series is to dismiss it as “another Twilight.” I remember when the first movie came out, it was called “a new Twilight.” I personally found those comparisons off-putting (which is interesting, cause one might think the comparisons were made to attract viewers/readers, not to put them off, right?). Fortunately, I am a sucker for dystopian movies/books, so I gave it a try. Was I convinced at once that this is not like Twilight? Yes. Was I in immediately in love? No. This came after I read the first book. I read all three in about 4 days. I am aware that these books are not perfect – truly very few are; and as my creative writing teacher says “We don’t write the kind of books we want to write, but the kind we can.” Nevertheless, they are worth the read.
Warning: major spoilers ahead.
I have a lot to say, so let’s try to make some order to it and divide into sections.
The trilogy consists of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. It takes place in the not exactly specified future. Where United States used to be, a new country was formed. A country Panem, with the rich capitol and 12 surroundings districts. There used to be a 13th district, but it was destroyed during the rebellion. As a punishment for the rebellion, the districts are forced to sacrifice two children aged 12-18 each year. The children are chosen during a public event called the reaping, when their names are drawn. Then they are put into artificially created “arena” and have to fight with each other and with many threats that the game-makers create. There is only one survivor, the victor, and the games end when all but one are dead.
Here enters our heroine, an average girl aged 16, Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers in place of her younger sister. This decision changes her life forever, and ultimately it leads to changing the whole Panem.
- Totalitarian system
First thing that came to my mind was the parallel between this and Orwell’s 1984. President Snow of Panem is the Big Brother of The Hunger Games. And The Hunger Games, like 1984, tells about the dangers of totalitarian system, though in a very different way and style.
One example of abuse and control of the poorest citizens in the totalitarian world of Panem: the children are selected by means of drawing. Your name is put there once if you’re twelve, twice if you’re thirteen, and so on. In exchange of putting your name one more time into the pool, you get the year’s supply of grain for one person. Katniss was doing this each year she was eligible, putting her name three times more each year – one for herself, one for her mom and one for her sis.
Another example: The victors were promised not to be forced to take part in the games again. Yet when President Snow feels threatened by what Katniss did in her first games, he forces them to take part in the games again. So, the tributes are taken from existing pool of victors. It’s President’s Snow’s way of saying “even the strongest of you are not safe.”
An aspect that reminds me of 1984: how they destroyed Peeta’s love for Katniss. In 1984 Winston’s and Julia’s love was destroyed by physical torture, here it’s destroyed by playing with Peeta’s brain. They messed with his brain so much that now he thinks Katniss is his enemy. And he never truly fully recovers. Major spoiler – she does end up with him, but in a completely different way that I would expect. It’s a bitter-sweet ending, since even after 15 years he still plays the game of “true or false” – the game that was invented in order to help him distinguish between what the government made him believe, and the reality. I do love their relationship at the end. It was based on companionship, on just being there for each other. I was still not sure whether she loved him or not, but they were happy – as happy as they could be under the circumstances .
- War and political games
Another subject introduced was war. Ever since my childhood I have been almost obsessively afraid of war, and its effects on the ordinary people. The Hunger Games books deal with this issue, also. It’s mostly visible in the last part, where war/revolution is going on almost in the entire country. It shows – in simple, and maybe blunt way, but still – the unfairness of war and how civil people lose their homes, hopes, loved ones, and their lives are shattered. Also in the first two it shows how political games/political war that is in the times of peace, can affect – and sometimes destroy – the lives of ordinary people.
to be continued…