Why the Hunger Games is a Series We Need to Revisit and a Series We Need, Period

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Why The Hunger Games is a Series We Need to Revisit, and a Series We Need, Period The first time that I read The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, I couldn't put down the book. The horror of watching teens fight to the death in an arena broadcast on reality television was terrifyingly possible, yet captivating. I could even imagine contemporary society heading in this type of direction someday. So, for me, the concept of how teenagers must face their lives in Collins' dystopian world works. Suzanne Collins's choice to write the series using the first person narrative was daring and provocative --- seeing the world from Katniss's point of view forced me to empathize with the dilemmas the main character faced. What would I have done had my sister been offered up for death, or if I had been selected to fight to the bitter end against brutal teens who had been training for such a scenario their whole lives? But when I finished reading Mockingjay, the third and final installment in The Hunger Games series, I distinctly remember setting the book down, thinking, "Huh. That was... interesting." I was unsettled by the death of Prim, Katniss's sister, and by the physical and psychological damage that had been wrought upon Katniss. I was intrigued by Katniss's choice to kill District 13's president, Alma Coin, instead of Panem's own devil President Snow. It took me days of contemplation, but I eventually came to grips with the novel's ending. Each choice made, each event that occurred did so to illustrate the horrors of war. That made sense to me, and I came to peace with what happened. As time has passed, and as I have been exposed more and more to Katniss's story, I have come to not only accept what happens in it, but to realize that this story is important. This opinion needs to be voiced because so many people dislike Mockingjay. They don't enjoy it as much as the other works in the series. They criticize it for being slow. The story and the pace are entirely different. And it doesn't end well for anyone All of these criticisms have merit. The third installment in the series does not have a sequence depicting a Hunger Games as the other two have (despite the fact that Finnick Odair refers to the streets of the Capitol and their pods as one in Mockingjay). The book is weighted down with political discussions and implications for the future. Parts of it are ploddingly slow. But it is important to wade through the mire and analyze what Suzanne Collins is telling the reader. Quickly, here are the most important parts of the story and why they are worth multiple examinations: One of the most poignant moments of the movie occurs when Gale and Katniss discuss the bombing of the mining tunnels in District Two, an act which condemns innocent people to death. "It's war, Katniss," Gale says to the girl he loves, a girl suffering from rather serious post-traumatic stress disorder, who's personally taken lives of those who would have taken her own if she had not fought back. He asserts to her that sometimes, taking lives in war isn’t personal and tells her that he figured she would know that. "I, of all people, know that it's always personal," she corrects him.  In the darkness of the theater I could feel the weight of this conversation impacting immediate decisions from each audience member present. I could feel the script probing, "Are you a Gale or a Katniss? Is killing ever impersonal?" This sequence definitely could have made audience members uncomfortable. I do not like hypothetical situations, but I couldn't help asking myself that question all the same. While hopefully not many people viewing this movie will ever be forced to face a reality in which this question is relevant to their personal survival, it is important to consider that we live in a world in which countries wage war and slaughter the innocent. A world in which drone strikes make impersonal killings a common occurrence. Knowing where one stands on this issue helps us to be better informed in terms of political decisions we make in the future. Another moment that required a difficult decision was when the surviving Tributes are asked by President Coin whether or not they would support another Hunger Games in which only the Capital's children, who were formerly exempt, participate. It's a peculiarly horrific moment, one which hopefully every person viewing the movie (or reading the book) follows up with the immediate thought of, "No!" Here, Panem is starting over with a new government, hopefully one that is fairer than the one they just ousted. However, the fledgling government begins with an offer of renewed barbarism, of the act that assists in Katniss beginning the ultimate rebellion against the government in the first place. But one of the first voices that speaks is that of the fantastically awful Johanna Mason, a girl who is more vicious than Katniss but one can't help but having a soft spot for her. She votes in the affirmative, as does the next voice, that of Enobaria. These two women assert that the Capital should have a taste of its own medicine moving forward. After these opinions are voiced, I believe that some viewers and readers may be reassessing their thoughts. They have a point, some people may think. Perhaps exposing the members of the Capital to the same horrors that everyone else had experienced will let them know how awful life in the Districts was and keep them in check. But then, of course, everyone should question what the more humane path is – retribution or forgiveness? Knowing which kind of person you are and which you put more value on tells you a lot about yourself. It lets you know which side of the modern day fence you fall on. Should we strike back against countries in which we believe terrorists who have stricken against us live, or should we let innocent people who live there go on living their lives and try harder to find the actual culprits? It's the same question that Coin is asking the Victors. It is a question that has no definitive answer, but one on which people should have an informed and thoughtful opinion. It is most important to become comfortable with being uncomfortable with the story of Mockingjay. What is alarming is that many readers and viewers of The Hunger Games series seem only to be interested in a story that is about children violently killing other children because it's full of action. They might recognize that the concept is "messed up" and be spurred on to continue reading by that, but when issues of morality in war and complicated politics surface, well, they'd just rather not engage their brains that much.  Children killing each other has been done before. Books like Lord of the Flies and Battle Royale have dealt with such horrors before. The fact that The Hunger Games series then brings that page turning concept into the political and ethical arena is what sets the series apart from the other books that have come before it. These books were saying, "Look at man's inhumanity to man;" The Hunger Games says, "Be careful of what happens if all we do is look at man's inhumanity to man and don't act to quell it. Be careful of complacently sitting by and watching something awful happen and not actually doing anything about it." Questioning government is one of the more essential rights to which Americans are entitled. At times in our history, some in the distant past and some in the very recent past, we have seen some people trying to squash that right in others. This criticism of people who dared to have their own thoughts and question what was right was as terrifying as it was sad. When we stop having opinions, when we stop questioning the government, when we stop standing up for each other and instead start trying to stamp out the rights of others, we start on a perilous path towards a government more interested in controlling its citizens than managing society in a way that serves in everyone's best interests. We start on the path towards Panem. This would be a path that leads to a country divided by the haves and have nots, by allowing some to have more power based solely on where they were born, by favoring those who are uneducated and blindly follow one person's orders instead of opening the discussion for what's best for all citizens. This is the sort of controversial discussion that I'm talking about - it's uncomfortable for most. So many people would rather go along with someone else's decisions rather than start a fight, so they stay quiet. However, if we are a country that prides ourselves on standing up for the freedoms of our own citizens as well as those globally, we have to continue to encourage work towards positive change. To work towards positive change, we need to challenge our own thoughts. We need to be able to ask ourselves uncomfortable questions and be more comfortable with our own answers. And then we need to get comfortable with asking these questions and having such discussion with each other. This is what Mockingjay helps us to do. It helps us to ask ourselves, "What would I fight for? What would move me enough to put my life at great risk?" For Katniss, the answer is her sister, who represents the future generation. Is there a person or a group that each of us feels so strongly about that we would fight savagely for them? What value does each of us put on life? What does each of us think is worth fighting for? Towards the end of Mockingjay, Collins writes, "Something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices it's children's lives to settle its differences... The truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen." Agree or disagree, but I challenge you to have an opinion. I challenge you to ask these questions and then discuss them with others. I challenge you to revisit The Hunger Games series, find the terrifying truth in it, and come together to work towards a future where killing each other to find peace is not the answer.

 

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