Sometimes it surprises me all over again how good books stay good even as you get older. Some concepts just have a huge impact on us all. The idea behind The Hunger Games is definitely one of those concepts. As a child, the idea of competing in the games was terrifying. I couldn’t imagine having to fight for my life. I live in a world of comfort. As an adult, the idea of the games is absolutely horrifying. These are children being sent off to kill each other. Babies. It is horrible to think about. Imagine a world where you make an entertainment platform off of the deaths of children. It’s disgusting.
But that’s why I can still enjoy this book and it’s why millions of people have enjoyed this book. The distaste for this event is universal. Yet, it’s also universal to enjoy the drama and intrigue. This idea is so out there that you just have to read more. What is the world like in which this could happen? How do the citizens of the Capitol justify this? How can they enjoy watching kids die?
Back of the Book (Amazon.com)
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Still, if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, from the chapter that they are covering.
Chapter Three Thoughts
I never fully appreciated the differences between Prim and Katniss. Katniss is so strong and bold. Everything she does is geared towards survival. She is an adept hunter and woodsman. Prim is much, much softer than her. It is a testimony to Katniss’s strength that she has enabled Prim to, more or less, remain unchanged. Prim has been able to have a childhood. She is able to be soft and kind. It is admirable that Katniss has been strong enough to protect her from the harsher sides of their life.
Relationships like that between siblings are always really touching in my opinion. I know most of the time it’s due to lackluster parenting, but it’s still a powerful bond. Being protective of your siblings is nothing to shake a finger at. It’s wonderful that Katniss has been her sister’s protector in life. I also feel like her relationship with Prim gives a lot of children who have the same type of parental relationship with their siblings a role model. It’s hard to feel like you’re the only one who has to take care of your siblings. It’s too easy to feel alone when you’re in that type of situation.
I also love Madge as a character. She is so completely understated, yet ends up having a huge impact on the storyline. Katniss would never be the same without her mockingjay pin. It completes her persona throughout each novel in the series. Another thing I never fully realized is how casually Suzanne Collins threw in Madge giving Katniss her pin. It seems so unimportant for something that ends up vital to the series.
Good writing at its finest.
Katniss’s conversation with Gale during this chapter has always interested me. His take on her involvement in the games is so blunt and to the point. He believes she can win because she hunts and, at the heart of it all, The Hunger Games is just a hunt. You just have to think of your competitors as prey instead of people. It is an absolutely brutal thought process, but it isn’t incorrect. A normal human will have a hard time killing someone they view as a person. If she refuses to view her competition as people, it will be easier for Katniss to win. It makes sense, but it’s still horrifying.
Once Katniss is on the train, the descriptions of wealth begin. The Capitol is so exceedingly better off than people in the twelve districts that even their train cars are decked out beyond the amenities that Katniss has in her home. There’s a shower with hot water! Katniss had never showered before. The difference in wealth and lifestyle between the various districts as well as between the Capitol and the districts catches my attention every time I read this book. They have so little in common. The Capitol takes their wealth for granted; people in District 12 starve to death. And, of course, there’s parallels to that in the real world. While I make a four course dinner for eight people one night, people around the world starve to death. It’s horrible, but it’s real, and a lot of it is based on the decisions of worldwide governments. I think I read somewhere once that we have more than enough food to feed every person on the planet; we just don’t.
Plus, I love the extra attention Collins pays to details when describing the better parts of life – the luxuriousness of the shower, the taste of the food, everything. I could read about the food for hours on its own. It all just sounds so wonderful. Even just the description of taking a shower makes me want to take a shower of my own.
However, Effie Trinket does really bother me, but, of course, she’s meant to. Her derision towards people of District 12 is so obvious that it hurts. She has no real understanding of their experiences. When she looks down on the previous tributes for how they ate with their hands, it’s disturbing. Those two children had never had enough to eat. The sheer amount of food they were given as their first meal in the train would be overwhelming to them. Table manners would be the last things on their mind. It “upset her digestion” to watch two kids that had been slowly starving to death eat. How ridiculous is that.
And yet, again, realistic. As a society, we judge people everyday on traits they can’t help. We judge them for being dirty if they don’t have access to a shower. We judge them as poor if they don’t have a good job. We judge them as stupid if they can’t get a good education. It’s unfair. But it’s real. It is to be expected that a spoiled rich girl from The Capitol would judge a poor child from District 12 and find them wanting. They have had none of the benefits growing up that she has had. Even regular access to food is out of reach.
Chapter Four Thoughts
Learning more about Katniss’s mother’s mental illness always hurts a little bit. The distance that can emerge between people because of mental illness can be all consuming. Losing your mother to it is hard. I lost my own to her bipolar disorder. She became someone I couldn’t recognize. She became someone dangerous.
Of course, Katniss’s mother isn’t necessarily dangerous in a physically life-threatening way. But she is dangerous in the fact that she loses herself to her depression. She becomes unable to care for her children. Treating people who suffer from these conditions needs to become a priority for our society. They deserve better. Their children deserve better. You can’t raise a child if you can’t care for yourself in any regard.
The same is true in The Hunger Games: they all deserved better. Katniss’s mom should have had access to proper healthcare. Katniss should have had access to food for her family. They should all have gotten better from their government and their society. But they didn’t.
And, worse, The Capitol makes a game of their deaths. When Katniss and Peeta depart the train, Katniss is “…sicked by their excitement, knowing that they can’t wait to watch us die.” They are excited to see the tributes, even fully aware of the fact that they will be forced to fight for their lives as a form of brutal entertainment. They don’t see children, they see deaths. And they love it.
But it’s hard to blame them. Do you think you would believe any different if you had grown up in The Capitol? They have no real understanding of what life is like in the district. The concept of starvation is unfamiliar and nonthreatening. They don’t view the tributes as people, just entertainment. How would you feel, living life in paradise, if you had no entertainment? The Hunger Games are their best and most interesting entertainment all year. It prevents boredom from setting in. Their lives are actually meaningless, they just don’t know it yet.