3 Great Reasons You Should Check Out 'The Hunger Games'
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2. Haves vs. Have-nots
Much of the excitement in the books arises from the events of the games themselves. Twenty-four tributes, only one survivor. It’s a reality show gone wild, the highest of high concepts guaranteeing plenty of fast-paced action. But what makes The Hunger Games resonate beyond the cheap thrill of the games is the steady drumbeat of rage building in Katniss, even as she marvels at the opulence of the Capitol and the beautiful clothes she gets to wear and the food she can now eat. This contrast between scarcity and plenty continues to increase in significance throughout the series. When Katniss first arrives in the Capitol, she chafes at the inequality:
"What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button? How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance it it were so easy to come by? What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment?”
The Capitol works as a metaphor for both America’s 1 percent vs. the rest of us and also American lives compared to the rest of the world. This passage is a classic dystopian indictment, a moment when the imagined future and the actual present become practically indistinguishable. Katniss’ anger isn’t just directed at the government, but at the people of the Capitol, at the reader, at our indifference and our refusal to lift a finger to help those who have nothing.
3. Defiant Heroine, Political Awakening
In the sequel, Catching Fire , Katniss realizes that the disparity is even worse than she thought; people in the Capitol have a drink that makes them vomit so they can keep gorging themselves. She recalls “the emaciated bodies” of starving children in her neighborhood as she watches the wealthy eat only “for the pleasure of filling their bodies.” Over time Katniss’ anger moves away from the rich people of the Capitol toward the evil machine in whose wheels she is just a cog: "To hate the boy from District 1... seems inadequate. It's the Capitol I hate for doing this to all of us.”
The defiant Katniss experiences a political awakening. Her instincts evolve from vague rage to a measured grasp of grim reality, from a desire to protect her family, to a realization that they will never be safe in a world where violence is a weapon wielded to achieve power.
Like other heroes of Young Adult literature, Katniss is sometimes painfully oblivious to the workings of the grown-up world--and the boys who have grown-up interest in her. She is a successor to a long line of literary tomboys, and as such she’s somewhat de-sexed, or “pure,” as one of her admirers tells her. Still, she’s a refreshing teenage heroine in her imperfection and grittiness. Her ascent to ubiquitous movie heroine is even more remarkable in a Hollywood that is a wasteland for complex female leads.
Her attitude toward the beauty rituals of the Capitol is appropriately bewildered: although she marvels over the details of her beautiful new clothes, she hates being shaved and plucked and sees herself in this ultra-feminine state as a different person, an avatar of herself. Most interestingly, she never lets the glitter and glitz distract her from her hatred of what it represents.
Perhaps its adolesent core of distrust is what makes The Hunger Games so appealing. Teens begin to notice the lie behind claims of a meritocracy, the way certain kinds of privilege are rewarded and bad authority, from a corrupt president to an arbitrary teacher, is obeyed. The Hunger Games, true to its YA nature, is propelled less by a specific agenda and more by a feeling -- the feeling that the system is rigged and the adults are just sitting around doing nothing about it. Perhaps that’s why the series has legions of adult followers--it allows us to give expression to a loud, seditious frustration that our sensible society has deemed unseemly and unrealistic.