Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games was published in 2008 with a film released in 2012 featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson and others.

A gripping story
Tim Keller's observation is true: "As hope based creatures we respond to the beauty of narrative." My work keeps me immersed in the true myth and I don't make time to read as much fiction as I should. But, life is better with it. I watched The Invention of Lying last week. It floats the idea of a world without lies in which (unnecessarily) there are no actors, no fiction...   horribly lifeless and subhuman.

I read The Hunger Games in two sittings while on holiday. I was gripped. I'd seen the film earlier this year. I knew where it was going, but story has the power to catch us up and carry us along, drawing us into another world with characters who tug on our emotions. Suzanne Collins has written a book that is hard to put down.

The character's self-consciousness of their media, the effect of imagination - the girl on fire - and romance, the fear, the taste of greener grass, the value of human life, the happy face of a totalitarian and abusive ruling class crash into our world as we read.

An uneasy hero
Katniss is a strange kind of self-sacrificial hero; noble and yet comprehensively playing to the cameras. Fighting for survival, and to win. The climactic moment grates for me - it'll take more than that to change the world, though the way love disarms oppression is something to chew on.

Nate Wilson is highly critical of the decisions Katniss makes and the way she isn't revolutionary enough.. I find myself agreeing with him. I do think Collins portrays our darkness, and even Katniss is tainted by it and unable to break the system that defines and controls her. The book breaks into our superficial optimism.

In it's broken world, Mark Meynell observes, "we really get to know Katniss, in all her doubt, confusions and even less attractive qualities. She is not a cardboard cutout heroine." Katniss comes across uneasy with the story she has to follow and yet compliant with it. Perhaps its less that she's a true hero and more that Collins is using Katniss' story to reflect our badness. Peeta seems more heroic in many ways, but too passive .

The darkness in us
The dystopian world in which The Hunger Games take place seems far fetched yet probably not so much darker than ours. Perhaps more brazen with its child killing than we allow. The story wraps everything in spectacle and entertainment which feels all too recognisable today.

Meynell, for Damaris, and Sophie Lister at Bethinking.org both reference Neil Postman's excellent and disturbing observations in Amusing ourselves to death that Aldous Huxley's vision of the future is more tangible than that of George Orwell. For me The Hunger Games sits somewhere between, the Capitol entertain themselves with the tool they use to oppress the watching Districts.

As a teenager my favourite books were Lord of the Flies and 1984, and this feels like it sits in that kind of company. Reflecting the darkness of our hearts, what control or the lack of it can reveal, and showing our desires and longings. I expect I'll read The Hunger Games again, and I'll get hold of the second and third books too.


  1. Great stuff Bish. Lord of the Flies any good?

  2. To read HG1 without HG2 and HG3 is to miss half the weight. In my opinion, it was HG3 that made the series.

  3. I plan to get to 2 and 3 as soon as I can afford to go book shopping again! :)

  4. And btw Paul - nice to have you back commenting!