Love as a political act in the Hunger Games

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In a book of essays that looks at some of the themes in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, the editor, Leah Wilson, writes: “You could call the Hunger Games a series that is – like its heroine – on fire. But its poopularity, in itself, is nothing new. We live in an era of blockbuster young adult book series: Harry Potter, Twilight, now the Hunger Games. It’s more unusual these days for there not to be a YA series sweeping the nation.

All of these series have certain things in common: compelling characters; complex worlds you want to spend time exploring; a focus on family and community. But the Hunger Games is, by far, the darkest of the three. In Twilight, love conquers all; Bella ends the series bound eternally to Edward and mother to Renesmee, without having to give up her human family or Jacob in the process. In Harry Potter, though there is loss, the world is returned to familiar stability after Voldemort’s defeat, and before we leave them, we see all of the main characters happily married, raising the next generation of witches and wizards. In the Hunger Games, while Katniss may conclude the series similarly married and a mother, the ending is much more bittersweet. her sister and Gale are both lost to her in different but equally insurmountable ways. The world is better than it was, but there are hints that this improvement is only temporary – that the kind of inhumanity we saw in the districts under Capitol rule is the true status quo, and that the current peace is ephemeral, precious, something toward which Panem will always have to struggle.” (Wilson, p.vii)

“The Hunger Games,” Wilson continues, ” is more than Gale versus Peeta; there’s so much more at stake in this series than love (and so much more at stake in loving, here, as well). The series takes on themes of power and propaganda, trauma and recovery, war and compassion. It’s about not just learning one’s power, but learning the limits of one’s power as well.” (Wilson, viii)

The abstract for Mary Borsellino’s chapter reads: “We see some really memorable weapons in the Hunger Games series. The wolf mutts with the eyes of the dead tributes in The Hunger Games stand out, as does Katniss’ bow. There are Gale’s snares, as effective at trapping people as animals, and of course the multitude of horrors contained in the Capitol’s pods in Mockingjay. For Mary Borsellino, though, none of these even comes close to the most powerful weapon in the series: love.” (Borsellino, p.29)

Bree Despain writes: “Being a tyrant is easy, really. All you have to do is take away people’s freedom. Many people in today’s society take certain liberties for granted: freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, free commerce, free press, and more simple freedoms such as travel and easy communication – all things that make a coommunity strong and viable. But what if in one swift movement all of these liberties were taken away? That’s what the Capitol does to the districts of Panem. After the first unsuccessful rebellion of the districts against the Capitol seventy-five years ago, the Capitol retaliated by taking every measure it could to destroy the feeling of community within the districts and between the districts, controlling and isolating people in order to keep them from rebelling again.

The most literal meaning of community is ‘to give among each other.’ Essentially, to share something amongst a group – whether that’s information (communication), goods, common goals, or a sense of family. If you destroy the ability, or simply the desire, to give or to share amongst a group of people, you will destroy the heart of the community. And if you destroy the heart of community and replace it with fear, then you will control the people.” (Despain, p196)

“Katniss doesn’t intentionally stir up dissent, and she certainly isn’t the cause. The people of Panem were unhappy long before katniss appeared on their television screens. So what is it about our heroine that makes her such a threat? Bree Despain suggests that the answer lies in Katniss’ greatest skill – not her dexterity with a bow, but her knack for creating community wherever she goes.” (Despain, p.195)

Refs: Leah Wilson (2010) ‘Introduction’ pp.vii-ix AND Mary Borsellino (2010) ‘Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist; Love as a political act in the Hunger Games’ pp.29-40 AND Bree Despain (2010) ‘Community in the face of tyranny; How a boy with a loaf of bread and a girl with a bow toppled an entire nation’ pp. 195-210 in Ed. Leah Wilson The Girl who was on fire:Your favourite authors on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy. Smart Pop: Dallas, Texas

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