Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Hunger Games, Or How I Remembered I Love Reading

I waited about a week to write this post, because if I had written it moments after I set the third book down, like I wanted to, this post would look a whole lot less like intelligent literary commentary, and whole lot more like EEEEEEEEOMGOMGOMGOMGPEETAMELLARKOMGGG!!!!!  So I waited a bit, dialed down my fangirl, and now I can speak to you like a regular human being who was not raised by wolves or preteens.

Remember this post?  Well I found it. This series reminded me why I love reading, and reassured me that there do exist new books (or rather, authors) that can sweep me away like my old standbys can.  Needless to say, I highly recommend it. (It being The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, beeteedubs. Look it up.)

I could gush on and on about the characters and the story, but I’m trying to spoil as little as I can, and what truly fascinated me was their world.  So if you want everything to be a complete surprise when (WHEN) you read the books, stop reading now, but I promise to keep the plot points to a minimum.

The main character, Katniss Everdeen, lives in Panem’s District 12, in what was formerly called Appalachia in the former United States.  I imagine it’s been about 200 years since the fall of our current society, but it’s never explicitly stated. The characters simply don’t know this kind of information, as anything not directly related to either their district’s given function or glorification of the Capitol is not taught.  The twelve districts are each mandated with a very specific purpose for serving the wealthy, exorbitant citizens of the Capitol.  Starvation is as common in District 12 as plastic surgery is in the Capitol.  Sound familiar?

What struck me most was how vital television is to the everyday lives of the citizens of Panem.  Television crews are a constant presence in the series, but in a much more recognizable way than, say, 1984 or Brave New World.  The Hunger Games are essentially the ultimate reality show in which, as an annual reminder of the Capitol’s might, each district is forced to give one boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to the Capitol to fight to the death, for the viewing pleasure and horror of the citizens of Panem.  If, in the Games, a child proves to be interesting or likable, the viewing audience can sponsor gifts of food or medicine to help keep him or her alive.  If nothing interesting happens over a long period of time, ie. if no one dies in the course of a day or so, the Gamekeepers will create something in the arena to drive the kids together.  It’s grisly, and oh so human.  There is, of course, the constant reminder that everything in this world has actually happened in the realm of human history:  There are currently hundreds of reality shows on the air in which people are hurt, physically and emotionally, for our entertainment.  Ancient Romans made official sport (innumerable modern societies, unofficial sport) of watching conquered peoples, doubtfully any older than the kids in the Hunger Games, battle to the death.  But it is not this world’s relationship with our history that I found the most interesting; it was its relationship to our present.

Even in the ensuing [SPOILER ALERT: but who didn’t see this one coming] revolution, reality TV plays a pivotal role for rebels and the Capitol alike.  The most important battle fought is over the airwaves of the single Capitol-controlled television station, and in the heart of actual battle the main characters are most focused on winning over their viewing audience.  And there continues to be an unwavering viewing audience; in the middle of a civil war, in the middle of chaos, it is a given that people stay tuned in to their televisions.  In an increasingly image-based, privacy-less, information-barraged world in which kids are taught to market themselves from the moment they first set foot on the internet and revolutions are organized via twitter, this message hits home.  If we were to fall into anarchy tomorrow, you better believe the internet would be the last thing to flicker out.  Technology is our crutch and our ticket to freedom, our burden and our boon.

I’ll admit my bias: I have an affinity for young adult lit and social commentary, so this series was essentially written for me. But good luck not getting addicted to these books… and may the odds be ever in your favor.*

*Just read it. You’ll know what I mean, then.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hooray, I think I recommended those to you! Aren't they SO GOOD?? Glad you liked them as much as I did. :-)