Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Who's the Hero? Thoughts on the Hunger Games Series

Do not continue reading 
if you plan to read the Hunger Game books or if you have not finished the books!

     I just finished the Hunger Games series last night.  I closed the final book and tried to name the emotion I felt.  Satisfied.  I was satisfied.  
     Suzanne Collins is an incredible writer who created a page-turner with surprises so shocking that I actually gasped out loud once or twice.  However, she is not writing from a Christian point-of-view and that makes working out the tension between good and evil (sin) difficult.  She writes of a society gone terribly wrong with no Redeemer in sight.  That makes swallowing the story line and facing the incredible evil a problem, and although Katniss sparks the revolution, she is NOT the hero.
     Although Katniss is willing to die for her sister, her positive qualities are limited.  She feels compassion towards the Avox she did not save, and Rue, the little girl who reminded her of her sister.  Although she is smart, intuitive, resourceful, brave, and fierce, she is also quick to anger, selfish, distrustful, and suspicious, and she knows it. The girl on fire, fueled by hatred and revenge, becomes a murderer, a survivalist, a manipulator, yet her behavior is completely understandable considering she almost starved to death when 11, watched her mother descend into deep depression, broke the law daily to save her family, and acted as an adult simply to survive the cruel society into which she was born.  The girl's got baggage, but it's important to remember, she is a girl, and she is a survivor.
     Gale is no better.  He starts out angry and then becomes vengeful, creating traps that play on human sympathies in order to kill others.  Even Katniss is uncomfortable with his methods.
     Peeta, on the other hand, is the only one in the series who seems to have a grasp of what the society has done and is capable of doing to ruin all that is good about humanity.  In book one he says, "'I don't want them to change me in there.  Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not.'"  Despite President Snow's "hijacking," it is Peeta who is able to NOT become that monster.  When even Katniss stoops so low as to  call for a Hunger Games for the children of the Capital, Peeta, arguing with Haymitch, is appalled at "the atrocity he could become party to."  (Book 3).  While Gale is the one who brings Katniss the arrow to assassinate Snow, Peeta is the one who takes the nightlock from her.  
     Peeta.  I closed the book, and I was satisfied because of Peeta.  In the end, he redeems her.  He loves her unquestionably, faithfully, and unconditionally.  He never gives up on her.  He cares for her and those around him.  He does what is right, what is good.  He sees beauty in the darkness.  He never kills anyone in the book unless by accident, even when brainwashed.  Peeta.  It sounds like Peter, to me, and if so, it means "rock."  Peeta is a rock -- unchanging, steadfast.  Peeta is hope.  Peeta does not become the monster, never crosses that line, redeems Katniss with his love, and in the end, redeems the humanity that has become reduced to a Darwinian world of the strongest and most deadly survive.  Peeta makes Katniss and the world around him a better place, and that is why I am satisfied.

     For a different opinion, see Why the Hunger Games is Flawed to Its Core.  I respect N.D. Wilson very much, and I've read all his books.  However, I don't agree that Peeta is a wimpy, passive guy.  He's a teenager trapped in a hopeless system.  Yes, I would have loved it if, in the first book, Katniss cut out her arm tracker and saved the other tributes from the bad tributes, but then what?  The Gamemakers could have killed her off quickly, and then the books would be over.  Finally, I disagree that revolutions aren't started by small things like berries.  In that moment, she decided it was better to kill herself and Peeta than to let them win, to force her to do the unthinkable -- kill her friend.  That was a huge act of courage that could indeed spark a revolution if such a terrible world existed and that entire world was watching live, but that is just my opinion.  

NOTE:  Considering the darkness of the books, I think parents need to be very wary of allowing children younger than 13 to read them.  By the third book, the author is describing the tributes being used as sex slaves, and we must remember -- the tributes are children.  Alcohol and drug abuse, brutality, murder, evil -- all of this is dark and takes maturity to work through.

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