Life After The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins makes a powerful statement in her trilogy and it is most certainly not one that should be ignored.
As is my usual approach to any book, I tend to look with the point of view of how it can influence its readers, normally with a mind on how it can affect young people and their relationships. I will look at how someone could possibly follow by example; displaying detrimental behaviour or merely making poor decisions due to wanting to be like the characters. Influenced by their attractiveness; their successful lives or even the love interest. My interest is to see how seriously a writer takes their responsibility.
Straightaway I loved the main character, Katniss. Throughout books one and two I felt increasing warmth and affection for her. I admired this person and thought, yes this is definitely someone young adults could read about and be influenced by in a positive way. She has been dealt some heavy blows in the grief department, but manages to scrape through and saves herself from the despair of self-pity. Coping with the loss of her beloved father, her family is now struggling to avoid starvation. Her mother, having fallen victim to grief and her younger sister who is too young to understand, Katniss is forced to fight for her family’s survival single-handedly. Ultimately volunteering to replace her sister in The Games.
The Capitol of Panem, city of wealth, technology, fashion of the highest distortion and of course, The Games; a yearly reminder of how much control the Capitol inflicts on its subservient districts. This year, Katniss is a contender along with 23 others. All of whom are children. The aim is to fight for survival and kill your opponents in order to win. A seemingly far-fetched idea? There could be no way that children would ever be placed in such horrific situations, even years and years down the line? But, really, we know they recruit 16 year olds in the Army, the Navy and other similar armed forces all around the world. They are trained to fight for their countries. What’s so different to that of the Hunger Games? It’s still our next generation they are sending out there on the frontlines.
She proves she is capable of using the skills she was taught when growing up and is able to teach herself even more. She is strong and defiant, unwilling to fail. We follow our heroine as she fights to survive the horrors thrown at her and her fellow ‘Gamers’. However, unbeknown to her, she has brought about a rebellion throughout the Districts through her undeniable bravery and her infectious determination for survival.
By the second book we are beginning to see her mature but she struggles with the emotional challenges from surviving such horrors. The repercussions have brought about consequences for her and those she loves and she finds herself back in the Games. Only this time the Capitol has it’s sights set on her failure. She isn’t a rebel by nature, she has absolutely no idea of her influence over the public. She struggles to comprehend her actions and the repercussions she has brought on her surrounding districts. I admired, yet pitied, her attempts to rectify her actions, only to find she has incensed the people’s desire further. Thus invoking her own death wish.
By book 3 it’s all out war and rebellion. Katniss transforms and becomes the Mockingjay and signs up for battle. Now we really begin to see the cracks forming and this affects her actions, her mental health and her personal relationships. This was where I began to get a little frustrated with Katniss.
With literature of a fantastical nature It’s sometimes easy to forget that the characters are ‘real’ people. I started to view her as a fantasy character that would/should ordinarily metamorphose into a superhero of sorts, in places I simply thought she was turning into a spoilt brat. However, I realised this was exactly Collins’ intention. What’s important to remember is that this girl is still only a child. Collins works hard at maintaining our memory of this fact by involving this display of difficult behaviour. How else would we expect a child like her to act after all she has been through? It may be fantasy fiction, but there’s a statement being made here.
I have read fantasy books and I have watched many a film in which the main character(s) are supposed to be only 16-18. Because it is fantasy they are given abilities beyond what would be their usual means and we as an audience accept it. Well some of us. I tend to shout at the screen claiming “that would never happen!” I tend to overthink things, I would be the one philosophising about what happens to these characters after they just saved the world, or changed the future. Whatever it is they get to do in fantasy, I always think; so what happens now? Friends of mine would just go, it’s finished, get over it.
I believe Collins has watched films and read other books and thought the exact same thing. How many times does a story end on the ‘happy-ever-after note’? The audience goes away with a sense of completion, safe in the knowledge that all is well. These people have just faced death, defeated monsters, suffered inconceivable injuries, are they really expected to just get on with it now? What Collins does is ask the question, “Does it really ever end?”
I think about the personal battles I have fought, I think about my successes and my failures. I think about the things that have happened in my past. I believe our troubles have a way of staying with us no matter what. They can make us stronger, but they can also have long lasting side-effects. This is true of all battles; from wars around the world to battles in homes from violent partners or abusive parents; bullying in schools, government control, law, crime… the list goes on. After the final chapter of our own life experiences we can try to ‘close the book’ and forget them. Collins makes us think further. She doesn’t allow us to forget easily. She takes her responsibility as a writer seriously and does not mislead us. We are not influenced into thinking we should take on the world. We all have battles to face in life and what she reminds us of is that we can.We can aspire to be strong, clever and brave. However, it’s not always the case that everyone will end with their own ‘happy-ever-after’. But we can and should always try.