The Hunger Games and Children of Men

Posted in The Hunger Games with tags , , , , , , , on April 11, 2014 by Call Me Dani

The Hunger Games and Children of Men are both stories that revolve around disaster leading to oppression leading to uprising. There are many differences among the stories, of course, but there are also similarities, the most striking of which being the symbol of hope seen in Kee with baby Dylan and Katniss.

In the case of Kee, she has a baby, and after over 18 years of infertility among the entire human race, that is the one thing everyone has been waiting for.

As for Katniss, her aim to protect her loved ones and willingness to sacrifice herself (volunteering to take Prim’s place, going for the medicine for Peeta, willingness to eat the berries with Peeta since they couldn’t kill each other) is the hope the people in the districts of Panem need.

Another similarity is the cruelty shown by the government. In Children of Men, the government sends people that aren’t British citizens to refugee camps, where they live in run-down conditions with little to no food. In Panem, the districts are given little to no food and must work for the Capitol in tough conditions, putting their names in the reaping more times for more food simply to survive.

In both cases, this leads to an uprising in which the government uses full force to defeat the people rebelling. The Capitol bombs District 12 until it no longer exists and the British soldiers even kill those emerging from a building with white flags to show their surrender.

Another similarity is the difference between the wealthy and the poor. Theo’s cousin lives in a huge place with comfort and technology and plenty of food, thinking nothing of those living in the refugee camps. The Capitol citizens live the same way.

Finally, both stories contain hints of an organization that many think doesn’t exist, District 13 in The Hunger Games and the Human Project in Children of Men. They both turn out to be real.

Gender and The Hunger Games

Posted in The Hunger Games with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2014 by Call Me Dani

Last week in class, we had two guest speakers. One was a sociologist to discuss how gender is constructed in society, which was especially interesting to me since I’m writing about gender for my final paper, and the other was the president of the college to discuss leadership.

The discussion of gender raised the idea that Katniss embodies both masculine and feminine ideals in how she is presented, which is not very surprising since she is a hunter and the protector of her family while also being part of a huge romance and put in dresses and make-up throughout her story, even twirling around in her dress in her first interview for the games. I feel this is one of the reasons the story can relate so well to both men and women; women like the strong female and men don’t feel as if they’re reading something they shouldn’t.

However, the most interesting thing about the discussions from last week, in my opinion, was when the college president asked if the story would be the same with a male protagonist. I said yes immediately. I like the way the character is portrayed and the world the books created, not just that it’s a woman.

However, it wouldn’t really be “the same.” It wouldn’t be as popular. The books might not even have been made into movies. The simple reason for this is that the books’ popularity is a result of the effort of lots of teenagers, especially teenage girls, that love it, and if the book followed traditional gender roles with a male protagonist, that following wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be as strong. Also, if the breaking of gender roles would have happened, with the protagonist being like Peeta, the plot wouldn’t have been as exciting. After all, Peeta spends much of the time not knowing what’s going on, trying not to die in a river, and then being tortured in the Capitol.

So, although the world itself would have been equally fascinating, and while I personally would have rooted for the characters just the same if Peeta and Katniss were the opposite genders, the books would have been falling strictly into gender stereotypes, where the man has to save the woman and the woman is the one interested in the romance. Therefore, the books are better for having a female protagonist, simply because they push the boundaries of what it means to be a man or a woman and promote the idea that both men and women can fall into all classes of people.

It’s also good because Katniss isn’t the only one pushing that boundary. Peeta is, as well, in that he doesn’t fit up to our society’s idea of what it means to “be a man.” He needs help from Katniss. He can’t survive on his own. One guy in my class made the wonderful point that maybe guys don’t like him so much because they know if they were put into The Hunger Games, they wouldn’t do better than him, and might actually do worse. Plus, Peeta is constantly compared to Gale, and Gale fits our society’s idea of “masculine.” However, female fans often choose Peeta because they think Gale is too heartless and Peeta is super sweet, so it’s really a toss-up who people like better overall.

The Onion takes full advantage of the Peeta VS Gale debate, focusing on the “hotness” of the characters to show how ridiculous it is when some people compare them.

The Middle East and The Hunger Games

Posted in The Hunger Games on March 30, 2014 by Call Me Dani

Last week, my class attended a lecture by Dr. Shibley Telhami on “Understanding Tumult in the Middle East.” It was rather interesting and drew a few parallels between the uprisings and wars in the Middle East and the world of the Hunger Games. Here are a few things I found rather interesting:

  • Every revolution begins with a spark. In The Hunger Games, it’s clear that Katniss, the “Girl on Fire,” gives the people in the districts the spark they need for the rebellion. It’s not just her, of course, but she’s the face of hope and defiance. The real world equivalent to Katniss at the moment is Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire as a protest against harassment by government officials. His actions paved the way and gave the inspiration for the Tunisian revolution and the Arab Spring. This happened after the books were released, so it’s interesting to see how someone on fire (literally or figuratively) connects the books to real life with no direct communication between the two.
  • Even dictators have to rely on public opinion. Dr. Telhami mentioned that leaders in the Middle East that Americans see as dictators care a lot about public opinion in their countries even if they can make any laws they want. One reason for this is to avoid assassination, which is a possibility especially when the public is angry, and it’s also to avoid the people uprising together against the government. This same scenario (someone in absolute power worrying about public opinion) happens in The Hunger Games. President Snow can, in a way, do whatever he wants, but he knows if he crosses a line or allows certain ideas to get into the public’s heads, there is possibility for uprising, and that’s exactly what happens when Katniss comes to embody defiance of the Capitol. Johanna points this out during the Jabberjay scene, when she says Snow couldn’t hurt Prim because the whole nation loves her, and even the Capitol citizens would be rising in anger.
  • Identity matters. The people in the Middle East are coming to mainly identify themselves as Muslim or Arab over being a citizen of whichever country their from, which means they are starting to identify themselves as part of that larger group and care about what happens to everyone in those groups, not just the people in their own country. This is similar to The Hunger Games in that when the districts saw themselves as entirely separate and almost enemies thanks to the children killing each other in the games, especially the careers VS everyone else, there was no chance for rebellion. It was once Katniss, Rue, and Thresh showed allegiance to each other (Katniss and Rue by making an alliance, Katniss by spreading flowers around Rue when she died, and Thresh by sparing Katniss’ life for her treatment of Rue) that the districts realized they weren’t so different after all and the other districts weren’t the ones to blame for their children dying. Many of them went from identifying themselves as their districts to identifying themselves as rebels, which is a larger group that encompasses people from other districts and allows a sense of unity that was not present before.

The Hunger Games: Dancing, Music, and Appalachia

Posted in The Hunger Games on March 9, 2014 by Call Me Dani

The songs within the three Hunger Games novels, “Deep in the Meadow,” “The Valley Song,” and “The Hanging Tree,” aren’t dance songs, but they’re extremely important and “Deep in the Meadow,” at least, is a lullaby. All three songs share similarities with Appalachian music, such as a connection to nature and often sad yet uplifting lyrics and a focus on family and home.

The connection between the three songs in the Hunger Games and Appalachian music is important since the people of District 12 are supposed to be descended from the Appalachian region. Those that live in the Appalachian mountains historically have a good relationship with nature, using natural remedies and living off the land. They also tended to live far apart from neighbors, leading to close-knit families and a deep connection to home, to the place they grew up and the people they knew.

“Deep in the Meadow” is probably the most well-known song from the Hunger Games. It’s the lullaby Katniss used to sing to Prim and the one she sang to Rue when Rue died. It’s all about comfort, despite the sad undertones.

Deep in the meadow, under the willow
A bed of grass, a soft green pillow
Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes
And when you awake, the sun will rise.

Here it’s safe, here it’s warm
Here the daisies guard you from harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

The mention of daises in the chorus bring to mind graves, but the overall tone of the song is peaceful and comforting, an emotional blend common in Appalachian music and literature.

With music comes dancing, a way to socialize and have some fun while the musicians play away. As Katniss says in Mockingjay:

We may have been the smallest district in Panem, but we know how to dance.

The dance she’s referring to is Appalachian dance, although the book doesn’t specify if it’s clogging, flatfoot, or another form, like swing. However, it’s portrayed as a good time, teaching those in District 13 the steps and bringing up everyone’s spirits.

I personally prefer the Appalachian swing dancing, which just looks like a lot of fun. The following video is a group of college students dancing to some more contemporary music instead of songs that have been passed down. The dancing starts at about :57.

The Hunger Games as Reality TV and a Dystopia

Posted in The Hunger Games with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2014 by Call Me Dani

This week in my Hunger Games class, we had our first guest speakers. On Tuesday, the topic of discussion was Dystopia and on Wednesday, we discussed Reality TV.

I don’t know anyone that will argue that The Hunger Games is not a dystopia, but what makes it so? On Tuesday, we discussed 8 aspects of a dystopia and how those aspects relate to The Hunger Games.

Dystopia is “a utopia with a fatal flaw.”-Robison Wells

In essence, a dystopia is a society that is created to be perfect for all the inhabitants but has something, sometimes more than one thing, that twists that perfection into something horrible. In the case of The Hunger Games, Panem has the possibility for all people to live happily. There’s enough food, there are jobs for everyone, and there’s plenty of technology to keep people healthy. However, the resources aren’t spread evenly throughout the districts, people are controlled with whips and gallows, and the technology is used to host the Hunger Games every year, sending 24 children (48 on the second Quarter Quell)  to die. This takes Reality TV, something many people in our society hold near and dear, and changes it into something terrible and dystopian.

Stability is valued at all costs.

President Snow’s goal throughout the first two books is to keep the chance of rebellion down or to stop the rebellion. He wants to keep the country stable and moving smoothly, whether that means sending children to The Hunger Games, shooting the occasional rebellious citizen, threatening the victor’s families and selling their bodies, or any number of terrible things. Nothing that happens to anyone is as important as keeping Panem under the same stable system that it has been for 75 years. However, it’s The Hunger Games, the very thing used as the main weapon in controlling the districts, that ultimately leads to the destruction of the country.

Whose interests are being served?

In dystopias, the interests served are always those in powerful or privileged positions. For instance, most Capitol people live their lives in bliss, with enough food and concerns that might only be which party to attend or how to do their hair. People in the wealthier districts, such as 1 and 2, have enough to eat and relatively easy lives. The rest of the districts and anyone that might not be entirely for the Capitol, such as the victors, are a threat and therefore, their interests are not being served, which is why Finnick’s body is sold by Snow and many districts don’t have enough food.

They reflect societal problems or tendencies.

Dystopias reflect the concerns of the present whether they’re set in the past or future. For instance, 1984 worried about government surveillance, as do many dystopian books and movies, and Brave New World worried about increasing technological advancements eventually making everything, including reproduction, part of any assembly line.

Dystopian themes in the 21st-century.

The Hunger Games reflects societal problems and tendencies in today’s world, those being:

  1. The gap between the have and have-nots. The difference between the lives of those in District 12 and those in the Capitol reflect these concerns.
  2. Environmental destruction. Panem is created as a result of the environment breaking down, with sea levels rising and changes in climate.
  3. Technology and surveillance. The ability of the Capitol to see almost anything they want to see outside the arena, and to see absolutely everything in the arena, reflect the growing concern of surveillance. The mutts and weapons created reflect the concern about technology.

Control of information.

The Capitol controls the information that gets sent to everyone in Panem, allowing them to twist stories how they wish and keep certain things, such as the initial uprising in District 8, from the rest of the country. That’s why in Mockingjay, one of Beetee’s jobs is to take control of the airwaves in order to show clips created by the rebels, showing Panem that the Capitol doesn’t have complete control and others are taking some power.

Control taken by fear.

This is done in Mockingjay by using Peeta to declare the threat of human extinction as a result of the rebellion, which is why is should stop. It’s done in Catching Fire by putting gallows and a whipping post back in use in District 12 and sending the victors,  the strongest of them all, back into the arena. It’s done in The Hunger Games by continuing the tradition of putting children in the arena to fight to the death and controlling everything they can have access to, from food and water to medicine and safety.

Reality TV within the Dystopia.

The Hunger Games as a show within Panem causes the dystopia created to be perpetuated. It teaches districts that they’re supposed to dislike each other due to their children killing each other every year. It gives general opinions of each district, leading Katniss to believe the careers are just mindless killing machines while knowing little about the other districts, and makes everyone extremely surprised when District 12, who hasn’t had a victor in over twenty years, manages to have two.

It also takes that murder of children and changes it into something that’s meant to be celebrated until it can happen again. The tributes are dressed up and interviewed, given a persona that may or may not match their personality. The victors are cleaned up and dressed up again in order to give another interview and watch a recap of the games. Six months later, they have to go on a victory tour, and then they need to come back to mentor for the next Hunger Games. Throughout that time, their lives are followed if they’re interesting, leading to everyone being interested in Katniss and Peeta’s marriage.

It’s a world in which the best entertainment involves death, so why would anyone in the Capitol care if people are starving in the Districts, even if they knew? The rebels from the Capitol are few and far between, so it’s clear that many of them don’t care.

The Hunger Games: My Favorite and Least Favorite Book in the Trilogy and Why

Posted in The Hunger Games with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2014 by Call Me Dani

Of the three books in the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire is definitely my favorite. For me, the character development was wonderful. Her relationships with Gale, Peeta, Haymitch, and Prim evolve as the plot moves forward, which is development I search for in novels. The introduction of new characters that are fascinated by Katniss (Mags, Plutarch, etc) and enjoy making her uncomfortable (mostly Johanna) makes the world seem wider and more real. It’s no longer just her and Peeta against everyone, and that introduces more chances for Katniss’s character to change and shine through as well as more instances for some humor.

Many of these also Johanna.

The plot also grabs my attention, since Katniss, and therefore me as the reader, doesn’t actually know what’s going on and why people are acting certain ways. I can guess, and now I know, but it’s still very gripping to not know what’s happening and always wonder whether or not the next move on people’s agenda is to kill Katniss or Peeta. Even before the arena, the stakes are made pretty high, and Gale is whipped, and the uprisings have begun. There are things to fight for.

But of course, there are things to fight for in Mockingjay, and that was by far my least favorite. I’ll keep this as short as I can.

Some people say that Mockingjay was too rushed, which was one reason it wasn’t that good; there weren’t enough pages for her to include enough detail.

I disagree, although I do think Suzanne Collins might not have had enough time to write the book. With the plot the way it is, and Katniss’s role the way it is, I think more pages would have been boring. The parts that seem like they should be interesting that are skipped over (such as Katniss’s time in District 2, or her and Johanna’s training) don’t sound as if they’ll actually be interesting simply because Katniss doesn’t seem to do anything important.

That’s my main issue with the book. I enjoyed the beginning with her trying to recover her mental health, but once she was back in the game, I lost interest in her role in the story and personally didn’t care too much about what happened. I mostly wanted to get to the end for other characters, such as Finnick, Johanna, and Peeta, not for her or the rebellion. Her job was, for the most part, to be on camera and look hardcore and pretty. Even when they went into the capitol to fight, it was originally to get footage.

Katniss’s defiant moments, such as fighting the planes in District 8 and making her way into the heart of the capitol at the end, don’t even seem that rebellious to me. It’s just something Katniss does and should be doing more of. Putting restrictions on Katniss’s role, especially with her allowing that, just seems out of character for her and is boring for me. I wanted her to stay in District 8 longer, to have an active role in District 2 outside of that speech and getting shot, and to be helping lead the rebel troops in the Capitol, not hidden from everyone so that it’s her and her team against the pods in streets reminiscent of the Hunger Games but not in a way that makes me feel very nervous for some reason. It just seems too forced.

If the plot would have included more of Katniss doing things than Katniss narrating as others do things or pretending to do things, I would be all for a longer third book or even a fourth one. I’m hoping the movies, since they’re split in two and can include perspectives other than Katniss’s, have more tension and interest for me.

The deaths of Prim and Finnick don’t sit well with me, either. It seems to me that more of them could have gotten away from the mutts in the sewers if they would have moved up the ladders and onto the street faster. When reading it, it seemed as if they stopped to shoot at the mutts for a bit, which could have saved him.

As for the death of Prim, it seemed random and pointless. The appearance of the rebel medics in the middle of a place that was a battlefield a moment before seems strange. They should have been behind lines, not in the thick of things. With how little time seems to elapse between the first and second bombs, they had to have been right there waiting. Also, Prim isn’t old enough to be considered eligible for being a soldier, so why would she be eligible to be in the field as a medic?

My theory has always been that there had to be a sure fire way to make Katniss make a decision between Gale and Peeta, and having Gale’s bomb idea kill Prim automatically puts him out of the question and has Katniss end up with Peeta.

That’s my last issue with Mockingjay: the very end. With Katniss’s personality, I can’t see her settling into a life with Peeta and eventually her kids, living calmly in District 12 with no mention of what else she’s doing in the society. For one, that takes Katniss, an independent, strong, mentally unstable, rebellious, smart woman, straight into the typical “and the woman marries and has children and lives happily ever after” character. In my opinion, the kids and her happiness could have been involved, but it should have ended with something more about her helping her community, such as an administrative position within that part of the government. It could even have ended with her teaching her children to hunt. Either way, she should have been portrayed doing something besides being a wife and raising kids.

The only thing in the second half of the book I really applaud is Katniss killing Coin.

Catching Fire: Differences between the Book and Movie and the First Two Books

Posted in The Hunger Games with tags , , , , , on February 17, 2014 by Call Me Dani

Differences between Book and Movie:

  1. Plutarch’s watch VS rebellious conversation.-In the book, Plutarch shows his pocket watch to Katniss. When he runs his thumb over the face, a Mockingjay flashes, which is the first indication of something with a deeper meaning at play within the Quarter Quell. I’ll admit that I was a bit upset in the movie when the watch was replaced with a conversation that was more obvious in its rebellion. For one, I wanted to see the Mockingjay effect, but for two, I didn’t think Katniss would miss the quite obvious rebellion connotation.
  2. No meeting with the people in the woods.-Bonnie and Twill, two women from District 8 that escaped and were on their way to District 13 when they ran into Katniss in the woods, are missing from the movie. This is a bit understandable. The scene would make the movie even longer and the characters don’t reappear in Mockingjay. However, this makes the existence of District 13 something that isn’t revealed, as far as I can remember, before the end of the movie.
  3. No training sequence.-In the movie, they show the tributes working in the Training Center. However, there’s no training sequence before that, when Peeta, Haymitch, and Katniss are preparing themselves for the arena. This is something minor that is certainly not needed in the movie, but it is something I noticed.

 

Differences between First Book and Second Book:

  1. Tributes: All trained somehow VS some trained somehow.-In the first book, only some of the tributes, the Careers, had any formal training, although unofficially, for the games. In the second book, on the other hand, every victor that became a tribute again had some sort of training or experience in the game. They could use axes, tridents, swords, knives, and their brains to cause a lot of damage, and they knew exactly where to hit someone to kill them. This made the strategies considered different for each game.
  2. Katniss: Her knowing the plan VS her having no clue about the rebellion.-In the first book, Katniss was the one making the plans with Haymitch, albeit in a round-about way by using the gifts as clues to what Haymitch wants. However, in the second book she has no idea what the plan is. Her plan is to save Peeta, but she doesn’t know that there’s a plan set in place around her and Peeta to protect them both (mostly Katniss) and get them out of the arena so they could help lead the rebellion.
  3. Katniss and Peeta: Peeta always wanting to protect Katniss and her only protecting him when they could both win VS them trying to protect each other so the other gets to live.- In the first book, it was quite obvious that Katniss was willing to kill anyone, including Peeta, in order to go home, whereas Peeta was willing to do anything to get Katniss home. It isn’t until they believe they can both win that Katniss becomes fiercely protective of him. In the second book, they both set out from the beginning to protect each other and make sure the other one is the victor. This is important since it shows Katniss’ character development from unwilling to sacrifice herself or admit to truly loving Peeta in some way to planning on sacrificing herself because of that love.
  4. Strategy: No alliance VS alliance. In the first book, Haymitch knew that the best way to get Katniss out of the arena alive was to have her go off by herself, especially if she didn’t have a bow. In the second book, however, he knew she needed people on her side to make sure she survived long enough for them to escape the arena.
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