Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

23 Mar 2012

The Hunger Games by: Suzanne Collins

(Reaction) Defiance is (not) an Option by: Jara Lucero

The Hunger Games, the first installment of the trilogy created by Suzanne Collins, narrates the story of a girl named Katniss Everdeen, who willfully volunteers to be a tribute to the annual Hunger Games as a replacement for her younger sister, Prim. It describes how she survives the competition as she represents her hometown, District 12, in a battle of endurance, life and death (or as they call it, The Hunger Games) against other tributes from the other districts. The game is a fight to death and Katniss has to survive.

The book can pretty much be analyzed in relation to the world, the societies and the people who live in it because of its many symbolisms and parallelisms. Furthermore, the novel also uses historical facts as inspiration for particular details of the story. The book may as well be a critique on the way societies are run by those in power, and how those who oppose and act against the standards and the norms are either unfortunately punished or luckily succeed in their feat.

The central themes of the book are survival, power and rebellion and these were all evidently laid out throughout the unfolding of the events, the construction of the characters and even the other things that were highlighted in the book.

Premise

The book is generally set in Panem, a post-apocalyptic region in North America. After the catastrophe, a form of authority was needed to keep the entire place in control, and this role was acquired by Capitol, the wealthiest district. It is surrounded by twelve poorer districts (originally 13) who each specialize in a certain resource (e.g.: District 12 - coal) and supply these to the Capitol. This set-up is rather similar to the a period when the British Empire took over a certain region of North America and the place was divided into 13 different colonies (e.g.: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia) who also supplied the British with the resources.

The name Panem apparently comes from the Roman saying, Panem et Circenses which translates to Bread and Circuses. This saying could possibly mean that the Capitol is able to get hold of its necessities (such as bread) from the surrounding Districts, and in return provide the entertainment for these districts (in reference to circuses) in the form of the Hunger Games. Bread and circuses was also the technique employed by Rome to keeps its citizens content and docile. Food and entertainment, the staples of life, are also used by the authorities in Hunger Games to distract any rebellions urges amongst the populace.

The book clearly speaks of authority and power throughout the entire plot and the Capitol is the central source of these. An annual competition is held called the Hunger Games. It was created as a punishment after the 13th District decided to rebel against the authority. The competition fostered an unhealthy rivalry and hostility because the Hunger Games required each District to sacrifice a male and a female tribute (of young age) to compete against each other in a game of death. This was the only way the Capitol was able to keep its power at hand because no one dared to go against them. The Hunger Games not only represented the power the Capitol had but it was also a reference to historical Roman gladiator battles which forced people to fight and brutally kill each other.

How the Capitol dictates the outcome of the lives of many people (randomly choosing tributes instead of asking for volunteers) is a manifestation of its power over the people. Selecting younger members of the districts instead of older ones also shows how the Capitol wants to imbibe the value of unquestioning obedience in the young ones before their heads are filled up with uncertainties and questions. The youth are also deemed to be incapable of going against authority because of their immaturity and lack of strength and power.

The Hunger Games is broadcast to the public from the very start to the very end, highlighting big and even small events that occur in between. Some pieces of footage are not shown to the public while others are romanticized in order to create a story for the people to follow - which was illustrated at the final scenes of the book where the recap of the entire competition was edited in such a way to emphasize the blossoming love story of the two tributes of District 12. Members of the different districts religiously monitor the coverage of the competition, day in and day out, to be updated with the rapid change of happenings.

The broadcast of the competition only clearly depicts the dependence of the people on media and how their main source of either entertainment and news or information is from media - which is most definitely controlled by those who have the power. The omission of footage and sensationalism of events also show how the limited people with the authority and power to do so can alter the way people view their reality - given that the people from the districts are only bound by what they see on their television sets since they are not in the arena themselves. Reducing the Hunger Games to a mere source of entertainment by the Capitol also shows how their power has given them the confidence to manipulate lives (even to the point of death). This is also similar to how commanding Romans treated the gladiator battles back then.

Characters

The protagonist of the story, Katniss Everdeen is representative of a strong independent woman, and not the typical damsel in distress needed to be rescued. She is firm and has a strong will that kept her alert and alive throughout the duration of the competition. Despite these, her characteristics are still very feminine when she gets in touch with her emotions and feelings, especially for those people she cares about the most. She is the epitome of rebellion in the book when she displayed actions of insurgence towards the Capitol.

At first, Katniss was not certain about things because all she cared about was to get back home to her mother and to her sister, Prim, but due to the events that have occurred during the Games, her mindset has changed and she has realized that the mere fact that she and the other tributes are there must be questioned.

Katniss comes from District 12, the coal-mining district. This could possibly symbolize how she is similar to a coal. Coals are black, ordinary-looking rocks that seem to be unnoticeable. However, despite not being likened to gems or crystals, coals are burned as fossil fuel to produce heat or electricity. This just goes to show how Katniss, even if ordinary, can spark changes (or inspire uprisings) in the long run.

Peeta and Gale are the reasons for the internal conflict of the protagonist. Katniss has feelings (though she is loath to admit it to them) for these two characters, but in different degrees. Her feelings for Peeta have emerged from their time together during the competition but her uncertainty was brought about by the fact that she knows Gale is waiting for her back home. Though she does not confess her feelings towards any of them outwardly, she does know that she cares for the both of them.

These two characters also served as inspirations for Katniss - for her to realize that the Capitol must be overthrown. Gale's words of despise against the Capitol and Peeta's desire to die in the games as himself only goes to show that these two recognize the power the Capitol has.

Prim basically symbolizes the hope and inspiration of Katniss from the time she volunteered to take the place she was supposed to have in the competition, down to the time she knows she has to survive until the very end. Katniss' thoughts always loom around the images of Prim and of home and this has kept Katniss up on her feet during the Hunger Games.

The whole name of Prim, which is Primrose, also suggests the delicate and fragile nature of the character and this only proves how Katniss always feels that she needs to protect and look out for her sister against the Hunger Games and the Capitol in general.

During the Hunger Games, one of the tributes named Rue created a friendship with Katniss. Rue reminded Katniss of her sister Prim and she felt as if she also needed to defend and safeguard Rue against whatever the Gamekeepers or the other tributes planned to do. In one of the events, Rue gets killed and this death turns out to be the turning point for Katniss. After that particular moment, the heroine realized what she had to do and her belief that something must be done to the Capitol was only strengthened.

Rue's name also means regret which Katniss felt after not being able to protect Rue until the end. Other than that, rue is also a strong herb use to help cure sore eyes. This means that Rue served as Katniss' cure, so she can fully open her eyes to the reality that the Capitol should be overthrown sooner.

The Capitol and the fashion gurus represent the superficiality and selfishness of people. They are only concerned with how they look and make sure that their physical appearance is always above par, especially when a crowd can see them. The people from the Capitol are very different from those that live in the poorer districts. Statements such as not being human or looking more human were made to describe Katniss and this only signifies how the members of the Capitol see themselves as more superior (or more human) than the rest.

Signs and Portents

The bow, which is the primary weapon of Katniss, symbolizes two things. First, the limited arrows indicate the need for Katniss to survive on limited resources. Because she is more adept in using this weapon, she has to make sure that she uses the arrows at the right moments so as not to waste any of them. The moments Katniss has used her arrows were also significant events in the duration of the competition. Second, the weapon illustrates Katniss's single minded focus on her goal - to survive and rebel against the Capitol.

The Cornucopia shown at the beginning of the Hunger Games was provided by the Gamekeepers and is basically an image of how, even up to the competition, the tributes had to rely on what the Capitol had to give and make use of what was there for them. The arena and the environment of the place is also a manifestation of the power of the Capitol because the tributes had to adjust to what those in power intentionally want.

Mockingjays are the greatest sign of rebellion in the novel (aside from the protagonist, Katniss). Mutations were made by the Capitol, but unlike the rest, these birds were not meant to live because they were a mistake, and their mere existence shows that insurgence can be achieved. The fact that Katniss wore a pin that had a Mockingjay on it and that she was able to communicate (through humming) to these birds illustrated how she was someone the Capitol had to look after because she had it in her.

Review:

Not everything should be accepted without question because there are things that must be doubted. Small acts of opposition and resistance can shake up a system - a system that favors only a powerful few.

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