Reviews


Book series analysis

The Hunger Games

You'll all have heard of the Hunger Games series by now; mostly because it seemed to be all the rage - and because what I'd heard of the plotline didn't sound really cheesy/lame, unlike the Twilight series (sparkly vampires are the good guys...riiiight) I decided to read it and see what the big deal was about. Now that I've finished all three books, I decided to write down some of my thoughts...this isn't going to be a comprehensive review of any or all of the books (I have neither the time nor the desire to do that); it's just going to be a few of the things I like and dislike about the series.


First, what I liked:

1) The storyline is based around a society that has been suffering for many years under the oppressive rule of a totalitarian regime which forces each of the districts in the country of Panem to annually send a boy and a girl (known as "tributes") to fight to the death against each other and the other tributes in a gladiatorial contest known as the Hunger Games. I really like plotlines in which a totalitarian regime is defeated and overthrown (the movie, Equilibrium, is another with that as part of its plot - that movie is very interesting and thought-provoking, by the way). This theme is quite relevant today because just as it was during the days of ancient empires like Rome, governments continue to want more and more power, until they control every facet of an individual's life. And yet so many people are willing to sacrifice their freedom in exchange for what the federal government has to offer them - which is pretty sad; the government clearly doesn't do a good job of taking care of people. The Founding Fathers knew that weapons in the hands of the citizenry are useful not only for self-defense and the defense of others, hunting, etc., but also for providing a check to a tyrannical government. In the Districts, weapons were illegal because the Capitol was afraid they could be used to start a rebellion; naturally, a disarmed populace is much easier to control than one that has plenty of weapons (particularly military-grade weaponry).
2) Katniss willingly offers to take her little sister's place as her District's tribute, and Peeta and Katniss each try to keep the other alive at their own expense - they don't expect to make it out of the arena alive, but they hope to cause the other to be able to.
I see that as a good example of what John 15:13 is talking about when it says, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

3) Willow brought up a good point that I had neglected to mention and/or hadn't really considered (you can actually read it in her comment below)...I'll actually just quote what she said and give my thoughts on it:
"One good thing about this series that my mum mentioned was that it is set in an environment where there is no religion and the people are governed by a dictatorship, showing exactly how well those two things work out for the good of a society."
Modern secular society looks down on God and religion in government, but something many people fail to see is that secular humanism is a worldview, and worldviews are inherently religious. A religion answers the following questions: "How did we get here?" "What do we do while we're here?" and "Where do we go when we die?"
Christianity says "God created the world and us, while we're here on this earth we should live to glorify him, and if we are His, we will go to heaven to be with him when we die - if not, the "other place" awaits. Secular humanism says "We're just a product of chance (random processes) and we evolved from lower forms of life, there's no real purpose to life - life is essentially meaningless, so do whatever you want and take what you can while you're here, and when you die, you're buried and cease to exist (so that's why you'll want to take all you can while you have the opportunity).
The Marxist/Leninist worldview also answers those questions and the ansers it gives are similar to secular humanism's in terms of evolution having caused everything, but proponents of the Marxist/Leninist worldview want the state to carry the evolution of society forward and eventually create a utopia (a "heaven on earth") - I'm going to have to check to see if the secular humanists share that goal. At any rate, all worldviews are equally religious, so don't let people tell you there's a debate between science and religion; it's a battle of worldviews: a debate with religion vs. religion.

While I thought the storyline was fascinating and as I mentioned, there were multiple things I liked about the books, there are also a few things I didn’t like about it:

1) [Note: this first thing is a personal preference of mine rather than a strong belief, so keep that in mind]
So many of the characters in the story died, and some of those were ones I’d come to like quite a bit. While the deaths of most of the characters usually had some purpose in driving the plot forward (mainly to give Katniss more motivation to overthrow the Capitol, it seems), it got to be pretty sad…although even Prim’s death moved the plot to its conclusion and a possible reason so many people who were close to Katniss died in the story was to show that the human spirit can endure through incredible pain and loss and life will go on, but I found all that and the ending to be rather depressing…but that’s just my opinion - I like happy endings (and the ending of the last book was only somewhat happy, in my opinion).

2) Toward the end of the third book, President Coin speaks to the victors in the room: "What has been proposed is that in lieu of eliminating the entire Capitol population, we have a final, symbolic Hunger Games, using the children directly related to those who held the most power."
The victors then vote to decide whether or not to go through with the plan: some, like Peeta, see it as a very bad idea and vote against it; the rest - including Katniss - vote for it. Katniss reflected, All those people I loved, dead, and we are discussing the next Hunger Games in an attempt to avoid wasting life. Nothing has changed. Nothing will ever change now.
Katniss, I'm afraid you are sorely mistaken. True, many you loved are dead because of the Capitol. But where will this end? Imagine if the Capitol citizens managed to return to power and started killing you and your friends again? And then you defeat them and do the same to them once they are at your mercy, and it will go on and on in a vicious cycle, forever. True, nothing has changed, but you could have done something to change it - you made a difference in your world by fighting the Capitol, by being the Mockingjay, by fighting for what you believed in - you saw how much influence you wielded as the one who represented the oppressed by standing up to the Capitol, but by simply casting your vote against this atrocity like Peeta did, you could have shown that you were better than the Capitol, that you wouldn't stoop to their level.

Punishing the children for crimes the parents committed is utterly atrocious (and it’s not a good argument to say “they didn’t protest against the evils of the Capitol so they were guilty of all its crimes). Even if Katniss and the other victors had voted to force adult Capitol prisoners to participate in a Hunger Games, I would still say that would be a bad idea, if not completely wrong. The reason the Capitol gave for instituting the Hunger Games may have been a reason the Districts despised it, but it seems to me that they hated the Games themselves and saw it as barbaric. In that case, even using a Hunger Games to punish adult Capitol citizens would be despicable - it would be like peasants who were horribly mistreated by nobles but then retaliated with atrocities of incredible brutality, ranging from simply killing their former oppressors (like the bloodbaths of the French Revolution) to torturing them, as has happened many times throughout history. Like Batman said to the League of Shadows, “Our mercy is what distinguishes us from them [bad guys].” (that’s not an exact quote, but I think that’s the gist of what he said) Although later it seems Katniss may have changed her mind about both her decision and continuing to hate the Capitol, from what I remember, it’s not stated that she actually regretted voting how she did.

3) From what I can tell, revenge rather than justice and a desire for freedom from oppression was what motivated the rebels at times - although it’s likely those also played a large part.
For instance, when Katniss voted for the last Hunger Games and the people were said to need something to satisfy their desire for vengeance, like they were a bloodthirsty mob - just like the Capitol spectators were, during the previous Games, albeit with a thirst for vengeance rather than entertainment being the main point/motivation/etc. Also, while I would have wanted to kill Snow if I was in Katniss’ place, I would hope it would be because I wanted to try to prevent more innocent lives from being taken and not because of hatred and a personal desire for revenge - or even to mete out justice, because I would want the tyrant tried according to law and sentenced to death for his crimes, whether or not I would be the executioner. At least Katniss seemed to realize that Gale’s traps were abominable; waging war on women and children noncombatants is entirely unacceptable.

4) There is some nudity; as Riah said, "Johanna is naked at one point and its also made obvious that Finnick is barely covered." While it was used to make a point (at least in most of the instances it was mentioned), I think it wasn't unnecessary and would be much better ommitted.

5) Katniss and Peeta sleep with each other. While it is made clear that they are simply sleeping next to each other and "although it is made obvious that they didn't do anything, it's also wrong," as Riah said. Although I was kind of tempted to dismiss that since "sleeping with each other" meant just that - simply sleeping next to each other, and a part of my mind was saying "There were extenuating circumstances - they were doing it to keep up appearances," it's still wrong; even if their motivations were good, the ends do not justify the means, and sleeping with each other (even if it entails no more than it did for them) is something that should be saved for when they are married. It doesn't matter if it's another time and place with a very unusual set of circumstances, some things are wrong and not justifiable regardless of the situation. Katniss and Peete sleeping each other seems to me to be condoned or at least not seen as a bad thing, but among other things, I think 1 Thessalonians 5:22 could certainly be applied here ("Abstain from all appearance of evil").

6) There are a few other things I’m uneasy about in the series, such as Katniss taking an offensive role in the war and that being shown to be a good thing…the Biblical principle is that men should be the ones to go to war (which was an entirely different matter than the Hunger Games); the only time a woman/women did in the Bible was when a man failed to step up and lead the army in the battle and it was seen as a curse (particularly upon him) that the enemy would be delivered into the hand of a woman rather than his own.



So there you have it: my short analysis of the books; I'm afraid it's not very well-written but I hope it was at least somewhat thought-provoking. Any thoughts?
Ok, one last thing while we're on the topic of totalitarian governments and such: a few books to read. If you haven't heard of them, go look for the Uncle Eric series, by Richard Maybury, as well as The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible, by Ken Schooland. They both show principles of free market economics, show the evils and dangers of big government, and are very interesting and enlightening. While you're at it, you might want to look up worldview books such as David A. Noebel's Understanding the Times. Everybody has a worldview, and it's very important to both know that and talk to people with that in mind - show the inconsistencies of other worldviews and how they don't have all the answers.

6 comments:

Willow said...

hullo, max :)

I liked this review a lot and I think it was very good as you wrote of the good and bad in the series. this is probably my favourite book series, but I do agree that it was a very depressing ending. I find it was very realistic, though, and it showed true human nature, such as the revenge rather than justice, etc.

I know of people who think it is wrong to read these books because of the violence and depressing setting, but as it does not shed it in a good light or show that any of the bad decisions katniss made turned out well, I think it is a very thought provoking series.

one good thing about this series that my mum mentioned was that it is set in an environment where there is no religion and the people are governed by a dictatorship, showing exactly how well those two things work out for the good of a society.

another thing I love about THG is that every little decision made by one of the characters...you walked with them through it all...it showed how it turned out in the end...how their decision worked out and many of the decisions they made, did not turn out well, such as many of the revengeful ones.

I very much enjoyed reading this series and am definitely a fan of THG, but I do think that there is definitely a maturity level that must be reached in order to take all of the books contents in a good manner. I understand that a lot of teens could take it all in the wrong way, but I think for the most part, this series is a great example of human nature and living life humanely through the hardest of times.

that last paragraph probably did not make much sense...I'm trying to get my thoughts down, but it's hard.

...perhaps I could get it out in one sentence...

I see nothing wrong with this series and love it to death, but I do understand that it is not for everyone and that not every teen will benefit from reading it.

...I don't know if that made my stand on the books clearer or more clouded...

I'm terrible at book reviews.

but, yes.

I'd give this series a 5/5 rating for me as a Christian teenage girl reading them, but I wouldn't recommend them to anyone I didn't know well enough to know how they would take them in.

God bless!

-willow

Riah said...

Wow, this is really good. I agree with all of your points and have even thought them myself, but I've never done a book review and I don't think I should start :) I'd probably offend too many people.
Anyway, the one point I hadn't thought of was the "laying your life down for your friends" point. Although, yeah it is a good example of that, I didn't even think of it since the book is obviously written from a secular point of view.
Also my other thoughts on the book were that parts are rather inappropriate. Katniss and Peeta sleep together and although it is made obvious that they didn't do anything, its also wrong. And there is nudity - Johanna is naked at one point and its also made obvious that Finnick is barely covered. I think that would be a big thing to bring up if ever recommending the series.

Just my random all over the place thoughts. :) This is really well written!

Maximillian said...

Willow, thank you so much for the comment! I really appreciate how you put quite a bit of thought into what you wrote - your comment is exactly the kind I hope/d to get, because if someone just says "I agree totally; this is great!" but doesn't offer any other thoughts, I'll still appreciate the compliment but it won't have made me think and I won't really have gained anything from it. Similarly, if someone disagrees with me and says something to the effect of "You're completely wrong, and I love the Hunger Games" or even "I have a different opinion, but let's just agree to disagree" but doesn't give a logical answer, that's not helpful at all. As opposed to that, I like when someone brings up points I may have missed, shows me how I was mistaken or incorrect, or otherwise gives me something to think about; I can then make revisions and corrections.
I'm afraid rambling is a fault of mine (I understood what you were trying to say; now I'll have to see if you understand what I'm saying)...I was just trying to say thank you for your insightful comment; I really appreciate it.

You brought up some things I'd missed or hadn't really considered, such as the story being set in an environment in which the people don't follow God (which leads to totalitarianism) and how that does not work well for the society, and you may have noticed I've already made some revisions - and I plan to make more as I get more input and put more thought into this.
Thanks again for your thoughts and for the nice words. :)

Maximillian said...

Riah,
Thank you very much for the compliment. :) I don't think I write well at all, but I try to be logical and in this case, back up the points I make with arguments, biblical principles and examples, etc.
I'd noticed the things you thought were/are inappropriate in the books as well and although I didn't think of them at the time I was writing this, those were some of the things I mentioned that I was uneasy about. When I get a chance, I'll be adding both of those things to my post.
About what you said about Katniss and Peeta sleeping with each other: although I was kind of tempted to dismiss that since "sleeping with each other" meant just that - simply sleeping next to each other, and a part of my mind was saying "There were extenuating circumstances - they were doing it to keep up appearances," you are definitely right; even if their motivations were good, the ends do not justify the means, and sleeping with each other (even if it entails no more than it did for them) is something that should be saved for when they are married. It doesn't matter if it's another time and place with a very unusual set of circumstances, some things are wrong and not justifiable regardless of the situation.
Also, I think 1 Thessalonians 5:22 could certainly be applied here ("Abstain from all appearance of evil").
Thanks so much for bringing those points up; you got me thinking some more about the whole thing and what else I could write about it. I'm afraid I seem like I'm just parroting back to you what you said and a bunch of stuff you already know and agree with...but it is nice to hear that a friend agrees with my thoughts and also has some helpful input to add. Ha, it looks like my "short analysis" isn't so short after all. :P  

Willow said...

Eeeeeek, I was just reading over my review and it didn't really say what I was thinking about it not being for everyone. Not so much a maturity level, as I put it, but rather a "how much depression and human depravity can my stomach handle" is basically what I was aiming to say.

Thank you so much for the comment! I had not heard of that camera deal, but thank you for telling me! That would be something to look into.

How are you doing?

Maximillian said...

Ah, I see. I might try adding that bit in later. You're welcome. :)
Thanks for asking; I am doing better than I could be, but my life is still far from how I wish it was right now, and since I've already graduated from high school and very soon I won't be a teenager anymore, I should be farther along in life than I am now...I'm hoping things will change for the better soon.
I forgot; are you 15? (if you don't want to answer, that's ok; I'm just curious) And how are you doing?