Thoughts on The Hunger Games

Snow shakes his head in mock disappointment. “Oh, Miss Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not to lie to each other.”

In a clear black sky, a comet sometimes blazes through the darkness and the twinkling stars, burning everything else away in a trail of fire… and then slowly smoulders back into nothingness. The catapultic rise of the Twilight and The Hunger Games Series is reminiscent of such an event. Twilight has indeed earned a lot of fame, a great deal of success and a lot more flak all at the same time. The Hunger Games, however, appears to promise more. Here’s a truthful account of what I really feel about The Hunger Games.

I watched the movie before reading the first book, which, I think, led to my largely negative impression of the book. My first thoughts on watching the movie was that within the fabric of the story, I seemed to detect shades of a lot of other novels. Reading the books only reinforced the idea. Katniss reminds me very strongly of Yelena from the Yelena Zaltana novels by Maria V Snyder- in fact, I found several similarities in the plots and structures of the contexts and landscapes.  Later, in Mockingjay,I got a nagging feeling that the scene in which Peeta and Gale are talking while Katniss lies apparently asleep was very similar to the one in Eclipse, the third book of the Twilight series, in which Jacob and Edward are talking while Bella lies sleeping. The characterisation of Katniss struck me as inconsistent. I did not expect her, with her cynical practical mind, to fall in love with Peeta or even be confused about her feelings for him as quickly as she was. It still seems more realistic for her to have been very clear, initially, that her ‘relationship’ with Peeta was purely for survival, and then later develop conflicting emotions leading to the climax of the series. The presentation of the world of Panem was undoubtedly fantastic, done the Tolkien-like vividness. Within the issue of the Games, smaller concerns besetting our own world, such as the horrific surgical procedures the people of the Capitol undergo in their endeavour to look thin and young, and the dangers of environmental pollution, were cleverly woven in. The first book, then, was a very fair introduction to the series for me- but as a stand-alone novel, hardly a satisfying one in any respect.
I was really excited about the second book, because the open threads at the end of the first one left a lot of potential for development and a lot of unanswered questions. I wanted to explore the complications between Katniss and the Capitol and I wanted to witness the Capitol’s power- I wanted to see what it could really do to punish the Mockingjay. But Catching Fire really disappointed me. I had expected the book to focus equally on the Capitol’s motives and actions as well as Katniss’s-it definitely did not do that, and this time, I could not induce myself to believe the happenings because they fell so entirely short of what they had been built up to. The events which really struck a chord were Gale’s punishment, Darius being made an Avox and the deaths of Mags, the morphling and Wiress. I liked it when Katniss pointed out to the Gamemakers just how absolutely they are under the power of the Capitol. I loved the way the victors were portrayed- that winning the Hunger Games was quite as destructive, and sometimes worse, than losing them; the way the victors were so broken on the inside. But the issues I had with the characterisation in the first novel, remained – Katniss’s character still failed to earn my respect, although she did have my support, and I did not quite believe the incidents that lead to Cinna’s death, for it seems very strange that with Cinna’s practical mind, he would ever attempt something as risky as turning Katniss into the Mockingjay on live television. The book also disappointed me in the exploration of Gale’s character. In fact, I think the whole series was grossly unfair to Gale. The first book set up the foundation of a beautiful relationship in between him and Katniss, and his character really appealed to me. But never in the following books did we get a chance to see his potential being fulfilled. He was nothing- he was just… there, a stick figure, only to give Katniss’s character a dilemma. His actions were warped and aimed at making Katniss come to the inevitable conclusion of choosing Peeta. I really liked the reason why she chose him- because what she needed was ‘the promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses.’ But I would have liked for Gale’s fire to burn and smoulder and smoke and finally be the acrid hatred Katniss wanted to avoid, and not for it to flare once and then burn out.
The third book, Mockingjay, is stunning. 

Most of the trouble I had with the first two books stemmed from the fact that they could not convince me of the reality of the world they portrayed. Perhaps it’s because I’m a hopeless optimist, but I just couldn’t believe that anything like the Hunger Games could, actually, ever take place. Yes, even as I say this, I remember the Roman gladiator games, from which, I believe, the idea of The Hunger Games was inspired. But these are children, and forcing children to kill each other and watching that on TV as live entertainment seems too bizarre to me, even for humans.  In Mockingjay, on the other hand, there is the stark reality of war, of rebellion and of the refugees of war- a dystopia we live in right now.With Mockingjay, the series zoomed out of its immediate focus on Katniss and her battles to a more universal representation of the human condition. The characters were enduring and intact, the emotions of the book strike you straight in the face with a solid punch- and I loved it. It was heartbreaking, and so intense, and so believable. It made up for the inadequacies I felt in the rest of the series.
I loved Peeta’s journeythe most. One of my friends made me realize how much I appreciate the raw reality of it when she asked, “What did Peeta do to deserve so much pain?” The truth is that he didn’t, at all. That’s the tragedy of the whole rigmarole of hurting innocent people- that’s what the Hunger Games are about. None of the characters, like Rue or Madge or even Cato, deserved what happened to them. They were just a piece in the Games. 
The book presented some extremely likeable characters, although I was disappointed by the lack of growth in Katniss’s mother’s nature. At the end of the series, she’s right back to square one- escaping from grief and leaving her daughter alone, unprotected and starving, just as she had done so many years ago when her husband died.The evolution of the relationship of Buttercup and Katniss was incredibly touching; the scene where Katniss tells him, ‘She’s never ever coming back here again! She’s dead, you stupid cat. She’s dead’ and starts to cry, broke my heart. 
But the reason I respect Mockingjay so much as a piece of literary work is the ending, when Katniss is faced with the reality of President Coin’s intentions. The book drives home the fact that the Hunger Games are everlasting and omnipresent- that they can never really be over, because mankind’s thirst for power will never be fulfilled, and there is nothing they will stop at to gain it. For Katniss to face the fact that President Coin was just another President Snow and to act as she did, was quite possibly the bravest act in the whole series.It showed so clearly that the concept of evil is not all black and white- it’s so much more complex and it can hide itself under the most prominent show of righteousness.
It has been pointed out to me that such an ending is ‘hardly original’. This has been shown before in other books. And I don’t disagree, because the very concept of good triumphing over evil after a fight for freedom is highly overused. However, by the nature of humanity, the concept of ‘relative evil’ does remain eternally contemporary, and I was glad to find it emphasised- albeit as an overused concept under a new heading.
Mockingjay, for me, is stuff of classics. If only for this last installment in the series, I think the odds are in favour of the Hunger Games being a part of our cultural psyche for a long, long time.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Mannat Verma says:

    I really liked your review… But there are something's that I disagree with.
    eg. I was really touched by the scene where Rue died and Katniss sung her to eternal sleep. I also kind of knew that Cinna would do something rebellious to Katniss's dress and it was believable because he had been wid the rebels from the beginning. Also, I found it completely ok to have feelings for Peeta and to have doubts about who she should choose because up until she was forced to think about her relation with Gale it was just a platonic bond to her.
    I agree with you that Gale's charachter was not properly described his history as well as present moments with her were described briefly and hazily, they could have described better and that is the reason why I always knew that she would choose Peeta over Gale. If Collins wanted us to have second thoughts about who she would choose, she could have made their moments a little bit… I don't know.. Sparky ? Well, moving on… I loved like LOVED Peeta's charechter !! It was just amazing and so well written ! And love every moment that was about Peeta ! I loved how Katniss and Peeta's history was so well written ! Starting from the first time Peeta saw her to when she sung to the bread to the DandelionS… Everything was just perfect…
    My favorite characters were Peeta (of course), Cinna, Haymitch, Boggs, Mags, Johanna and Finnick..
    Finnick was just awesome ! When Katniss said that it's not the beautiful people in the Capitol, that he loves but a helpless mad girl back home… That just broke me.
    And , like you, even I liked Mockingjay best ! It was so much better than the other two books.
    And I really liked the reason she gave to choose Peeta over Gale was just amazing.
    The epilogue was totally something that we can relate to what is happening in today's world… Instead of having beautiful hearts, we choose physical beauty and end up devastated. All in all I really liked the series and just loved Mockingjay… :):)

    Like

  2. Hi Mannat 😀 Thanks for the review :3
    I'm just going to briefly comment on the Cinna part. You see, it wasn't about WHAT Cinna did, it's about WHERE he did it. I knew he would do it. It's just that I didn't think he'd put Katniss in as exposed a position as that on live television, IN the Capitol. 🙂
    Also, I do not think that it's wrong of Katniss to have doubts about her feelings. I just think that maybe she got confused a bit too SOON for someone who's supposed to have such a strong character and who's had such a long relationship with Gale 🙂
    Thanks again :')

    Like

  3. Mannat Verma says:

    Ok… I guess we have our own views… :):) And it's my pleasure… You're welcome…. :):):)

    Like

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