Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy

I finished Mockingjay last night. The three books are actually a single book printed in three volumes. I suppose a 900+ page novel would appear too intimidating for the young adult readership -- unless it was the last book of the Harry Potter series. Any way, if there is anyone left who hasn't read the books I highly recommend consuming them successively for the full effect of the story arc.

My reaction on completing the series was "Wow!" I was also disgusted by the commercial success of the poorly written Twilight novels when compared with The Hunger Games trilogy.

Near the conclusion of Mockingjay, Collins sums up her theme:

...something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children's lives to settle its differences.
We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.

Some folks will point to the child warriors of Africa, but I'm not so sure the western nations can be left off the hook. Eighteen is hardly mature -- with a prefrontal lobe that is not fully developed. As for poor memories and and a gift for self-destruction -- the history of our species speaks for itself.

Collins says her inspiration for the books rose from scenes of the war in Iraq and the popularity of "reality" shows. The final scenes of Mockingjay involve street fighting that comes right out of the nightly news feeds from the Middle East. Her descriptions reminded me of newsreel coverage showing American GIs fighting their way into Italian villages. Panem, the remnants of the United States after a vague disaster, hints at 1984Brave New World, or North Korea. It is is a centralized totalitarian government that controls its citizenry by keeping it underfed and overworked. The techniques for maintaining an ancient empire still work today. Or tomorrow?

Instead of the passive Bella of the Twilight series, Collins' Katniss takes action at a young age to care for her mother and sister after the death of her father. She volunteers to represent her district in the Hunger Games in place of her little sister. Katniss has no taste for the acts she must commit to survive the Games. As the Mockingjay figurehead for the rebellion against The Capitol, Katniss is aware that she is once again being used. She does not relish placing others in danger, deeply feels the loss of friends and fellow rebels, experiences PTSD, and suffers from survivor's guilt. 

I did balk at the "love triangle" of Katniss, Gale, and Peeta. I feared it would be similar to that of the Twilight series with vacuous Bella mooning over controlling Edward. Katniss, in contrast, wasn't pining for anyone. She cared deeply for both youths, but was too busy surviving to waste much time examining potential romantic relationships. Each youth represented an aspect of Katniss:  do whatever is necessary to survive versus maintaining her humanity against all odds. Who would she be by the final pages of the third book?

For the parents concerned about the violence contained in The Hunger Games, be forewarned. Mockingjay is worse. Parents would benefit by reading the books to evaluate their own thoughts about the theme. Collins is making a point, not tossing in action to enliven a dull moment.

The Hunger Games trilogy and Harry Potter series both deal with young people finding their inner strength when faced with extraordinary circumstances in imaginative settings. Maybe not great literature, but done well enough to absorb readers and initiate discussion.

1 comment:

Rising Rainbow said...

When I first heard the premise for The Hunger Games it reminded me of a book I read many years ago. I don't remember the name but the premise sent young people on their eighteenth (if memory serves me)birthday willing off to some unknown, supposedly higher plane when, in reality, they were being zapped out of existence. The stories may be different but the morality much the same.

If this work doesn't make "great" literature, I think it's because most people don't really want to face how base humans really can be if we are not careful and mindful of our potential for evil. Head in the sand behavior, when it comes to evil. produces a much "safer" feeling than accepting the truth. After all, if we reallly recognized what evil people are capable of, we'd have to get actively involved instead of sitting on the sideline blaming others for the mess the world has become.

Hopefully, this trilogy will provoke more thought and have more longevity than the other work did. Although I do believe it is some kind of cult classic. For me it has always been a reminder even if I can't remember the darn book's name.

Thanks for the review. It makes me want to actually read this series even though reading a single book is tough. Tackling a trilogy I have to be very motivated.