The Hunger Games and the politics of survival

How are things going in the book lover’s community? I just finished a whole slew of finals and have only one to go (Shakespeare Course), but its at the end of the week, so no worries.

After my intense chem final, I kicked back and read all day… and into the night… and well into the next day. I swear, I never pull all nighters to study for my finals, but I do pull all nighters to read.

Guess what I was reading?

The Hunger Games speedily followed up with Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. The entire month of school related reading has made my reading experience of these two books all the more awesome. Ah, the irresponsibility of staying up all night to do what you will. And now, I’m eating fettucine and silently cursing Suzanne Collins for leaving such a cliff hanger to her books. Agonizing. The third book comes out in August…

Did I ever mention I’m a sucker for books about survival? I love dystopian novels where the characters have to deal with long hours of loneliness and fear. I’m a Hatchet, Castaway and Survivorman lover. I eat up all the details about how they scrounge for food, make a shelter, fight against the raging elements and the slinking beasts. Use their wits to stay sane. Especially if the beasts are mutants. It gets so much more interesting.

I think the appeal comes from the fact that life gets so much simpler when all you focus on is survival. The world is seen in a new perspective. Every day is beautiful because who knows if you’ll survive to see the next day. You might as well be true to yourself, or face your fears, because its now or possibly, never.

When you were little, did you ever pretend that you were lost out in the wilderness and you only have these many items… what would you do to try to survive? I used to spend hours outside, playing with my brother, mashing up “herbs” and building makeshift forts.  I find myself thinking that if there ever was an apocalyptic event, I’d die before the real surviving even began. I’d die trying to make a fire. I’d die eating something poisonous. I’d die from cold. Maybe I’ll die because of something stupid, like I’m too weak-willed to skin and gut a cute cuddly animal. I’m so ignorant when it comes down to real survival. Isn’t that the irony of living a comfortable life? We’re really removed from the basic skills of survival. Humans are incredibly intelligent and advanced race, however, there are still many of us who don’t even know how to keep ourselves alive for a day if anything were to happen.

The Hunger Games is a sadistic game that a few powerful people in a city called the Capitol, make the youth of their districts do. The gist of it is that 24 youth are randomly chosen to assemble in an arena, which is usually a distinct landscape (i.e. jungle, forest, desert etc.), and they have to fight to their death. The last one standing wins. All this is aired across the 12 districts, and everyone is obliged to watch it on TV.

So you get to read all about how this girl from the Seam, (the poor area of her district), steps up to replace her younger sister in the Reaping (the day when they randomly chose who has to go). She and another boy from her district are herded away from their home and sent through all these pre-game preparations. Politics and general scheming ensue, as all the contestants must try to vie for sponsors (who pay for certain necessities in the games), and general audience appeal.

There is an interesting relationship between Katniss and Peeta (the boy chosen from her district), which I won’t reveal because it may spoil the book for you. It involves romance, of course, and much more in terms of complications of deciding who to ally with and who to watch out for. Everyone has to die, ultimately, in order for you to win. So that’s another thing to keep in mind. It’s basically a psychological as well as a physical battle that a bunch of bloodthirsty, violence desensitized people from a city far away and safely protected, can view for their own enjoyment. Even when Katniss is apparently by herself in the wilderness, she has to watch what she says, because hundreds of thousands of viewers may be tracking her and watching her every move. This also shades and colors all her decisions and cause inner turmoil that she can’t sort out. It makes for an interesting read.

Catching Fire … well, I can’t really even say what happens in this one unless you’ve already read Hunger Games. So, we’ll leave it at that.

As a heroine, I like Katniss. She does her survival thing really well and proves that she has her wits about her for the most part. She herself doesn’t feel like the heroine that the audience vie for (they place bets on who will win, and she’s a favorite), she doesn’t fully understand how her actions are impacting the people from all across the twelve districts,  even in the Capitol, where people are half insane already. That makes me frustrated sometimes. I want her to make a huge scene, cause a ruckus, but she’s not that type of girl yet. She’s changing, though, as she realizes that trying to keep her tiny private world protected becomes more and more impossible if she keeps on with her current mentality.

I like Peeta, too. But he’s frustrating sometimes, too. He’s a great character and I think he’s much smarter than Katniss gives him credit for. I think he and Katniss need to be apart so that he can act on his own, make his own decisions and own up to them, instead of always basing his decisions on how will it affect Katniss.

As for Gale, is he even in the story, really? Aside from being in Katniss’ thoughts and ocasionally kissing her and reminiscing with her about the good ol’ times – I don’t feel like he’s that important of a character right now. He definitely helps to add complications that Katniss needs to sort out, though. Maybe in the third book he’ll have his time in the limelight.

Haymitch. Interesting character. Very secretive. Outwardly a drunkard, but knows more than he lets on. I like how he and Katniss are so alike and in tune with each other so that Katniss can interpret the significance of certain things happening based on what Haymitch sends her during the games. There’s more in store from Haymitch, that’s for sure.

Oh, when will the Capitol and President Snow be overthrown? I hate Snow’s guts. But I guess he’s not really the only problem that Katniss has to face. He’s just a representation of how insanely warped these people have gotten in their desire to oppress and stay in power. Most of the people in the Capitol are too drugged up or insane to think about the state of things clearly. Until it hits them in the face and they can’t distance themselves from it.

Rating: 4.5/5 mockingjays for both of them.

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4 comments

  1. I read both of those books recently, and reviewed them. I have similar feelings about them. I wish Suzanne Collins hadn’t left us at such a cliffhanger!! At least I know that the next book is coming out in August…

  2. Oh you are completely right about Peeta. I’d love to see him on his own for a while – it’d be interesting to have him as a point-of-view character for a bit, because right now he’s all Katniss-centric, and it’d be nice to know he can think other thoughts with his brain. 😛

    (Cannot wait for the third book.)

  3. I’m probably one of the few left on the planet who have yet to read these, but I really do want to! Like you, I’m a sucker for survival stories.

  4. Allegra – Oh, I hate cliffhanger endings. There are ways to make your ending less cliff-hanger-y… more conclusive and yet leave a few dangling strings that need to be resolve: hence the next book. These ones are a little too suspenseful and abrupt in their endings.
    Jenny – Yeah! I wonder if Suzanne Collins is going to make Gale die from one of his heroic acts of rebellion, and Peeta comfort Katniss but do something incredible to advance the rebellion, too…Speculation Time!
    Bellezza – Haha, I thought I might be one of the last ones! I love dystopians, post-apocalyptics anything of that sort.

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