Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Hunger Games

My name is Linze Struiksma.  I am twenty-five years old.  My home is in Utah.  I was at BYU.  I escaped graduated.  My favorite color is yellow and I have two webbed toes.  Today, I finished The Hunger Games series.

If you have NOT read these books and are planning to (which you should, because they're amazing!), I give you fair warning that this entry may does included some spoilers - some minimal and some sufficient.  Once read, there is no turning back... You're brain can't erase the words on the screen, so choose wisely.  Also, this entry MIGHT make me look a bit over-analytical and nerdy... I embrace it. 

Remember, I gave you fair warning...

I think I will choose to begin where it ended, and circle back around.

In a matter of moments, a few final chapters, all of the thoughts and emotions I was feeling throughout this series were wrapped up into a little package with a feeling on finality attached.  That doesn't always happen in the conclusion of a series, but I think that this particular one articulated what was needed by the reader.

Answers to all of my questions regarding Katniss and who she really is past the war zone arenas were revealed/confirmed.  All my thoughts about not only the dictatorship of The Capitol, but also District 13 and their duly fascist approach to maintaining life, were voiced.  My feelings about Katniss and her need to truly break before being rebuilt was made manifest. The "love-triangle" between her Peeta and Gale was, in my eyes, resolved... and the feelings that I had about each of those individuals need for the other was pronounced so perfectly.  They were feelings that I had felt all along, but couldn't justify feeling until the ending of the book.

I wanted to give each "player" a chance to win me over... I wanted to see each side of the issue.  Perhaps, just as the governments turned out to be created, neither would be right.  However, I didn't see that... I saw a clear-cut choice for (and by) Katniss inside of my mind, developing and mostly staying the same with each book.  However, comments of friends about one or the other man jarred me a bit while reading the series, and had me looking back to analyze the intent behind actions of each character... It was kind of cool to re-read sections with that mind set, and equally with that analytical take regarding government and human agency.

First, the love triangle.  [For those who haven't read the book, this part will probably appear confusing and moving onto my sections regarding political and social themes might be better - or equally boring?]  You do not have to agree with me on my take... just know that if you don't, you're wrong.  Haha!  No, really... I can see the points others make to a certain extent, but nonetheless, I don't agree.  That being said, I was content and comfortable with Katniss and Peeta's ending together - happy even.  I don't think that there was necessarily a "right answer" between the two of them, but I think her choice was valid.

Some can argue that there was no choice - that the two were forced together through the games and the government/media.  In the ending of the series, they didn't have to choose to be together... She could have gone after Gale, written him, and been with him.  She made a choice, and it was because love had started to form prior to the ending of the series.  Gale made a choice too.  He made a choice to stay away, believing that would be best for her and what she wanted.  Peeta also made a choice.  He chose to be there, and to make an effort to take care of her again.  I believe both choices were made out of love for Katniss, but ultimately one choice landed two individuals together.

I have heard four or five of my friends say that they believe Peeta is manipulative... The thing that strikes me as odd is that I see KATNISS as manipulative.  I mean, her strategy to win the games comes from pretending to love someone in order to gain favor from her mentor and sponsors - someone who was merely being honest about his feelings.  He had no idea she wasn't doing the same.  Also, take to heart the fact that after Peeta finds out Katniss does not in reality love him back (after truly believing she did), he must still allow her to play pretend.  We are not all built to be actors and actresses to that extent...

He is forced through media and an image to maintain a closeness with her - emotionally and physically.  Think about it - this is a SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD BOY!  Imagine the thoughts going through that head.  Add to that, the girl he is in love with holding his hand, kissing on him, and displaying an emotional response to him in public... Then inviting him to sleep with her (even if no sex was involved) in the nights.  Words spill out and honesty is released from the "love stricken" teenage boy, while it remains a vague concept coming from girl.  I would be so emotionally distraught and thinking, "Well, if she's asking me to do emotional, personal, and physical things off camera with her, perhaps I just need to try harder... perhaps I just need to keep letting her know how I feel and she'll see she could feel the same way too."  Except, I would be talking about a boy - keepin' it real.

This might all sounds crazy, but when someone is throwin' out signs, then you state how you feel about the person and they say, "Oh, you're just my friends - I'm not sure I feel that way about you...," are you not perplexed?  I would be.  I have been.

I'm not doggin' on Katniss - that's not my intention - I just don't get the bad rap Peeta gets from people.  I think it all comes down to agency and the fact that both Gale are different people, with different things to offer, and she loves them both for different reasons... Circumstances guide her to each at a different time, and ultimately, a choice is made.  It's not wrong for her... even if it's not right -for you.

In fear of dragging this entry on and on, I will make this next assessment brief.  Who is more brave: Gale or Peeta?  They're both brave - and equally yoked in this aspect.  Again, they just exhibit there bravery differently.  Example:  Gale is more of the "get in your face, stand up for what you believe in man," while Peeta is more of the "talk about it, straighten it out through words man."  Neither is right, but handles situations where lies their strengths.  To me, Peeta truly fought by saving Katniss, because he knew who she could become.  No pun intended, but he saw the fire in her before it was burning.  He knew that most powerful thing for the rebellion would be for her to be there to lead people... and he loved her.  Love is beyond powerful, especially when everything The Capitol was breeding spawned from hate and insecurity.  Cheesy?  Yes.  True?  I think so.

For me, I liked the way Katniss put in the end of the book, "That what I need to survive is not Gale's fire, kindled with rage and hatred.  I have plenty of fire myself."  I'm not gonna lie - I'm probably a mix of both... but I am all about handling situations with the least (or no) amount of violence as possible.

Sidenote:  I think it's interesting that Gale says to Peeta that Katniss with choose that which she can't survive without, and how stung she is by that assumption, yet that's that she does...  I think love is a part of surviving too, though, and she realizes that with her understanding of her feelings for each individual. 

Moving on, I have to take a moment to discuss the themes of Suzanne Collins' (author) work.  For those who have read the books, you can completely see the anti-war themes within the book.  You can see themes relating to power and the use of power within the government.  You realize how controlled the people of the districts and The Capitol are by the government, but also by District 13 and their leadership.  Daily schedules tattooed to their arms, limits on where they can go or what they can eat, and extreme forms of punishment for mild infractions... Killing children in order to gain power (by both Snow and Coin)?  It reminded me slightly of 1984, which is one of my favorite books.  She also touches on social issues - bulimia, plastic surgery, skin color, the importance of economic status, etc.  She begs the question: what is beauty, and how to obtain the right look?

Their society is driven my violence, to the extent that those in the capitol enjoy the Hunger Games and watching children die... until it is their own children and they realize the reality behind the games.  I think that's a problem in our society today.  Obviously we are overridden with violence in films, music, television, games, books, but it's more that we find enjoyment in it... because it's fake, right?  When reality kicks us in the gut and something really DOES happen to kill those close to us, we lash out at the media, claiming it's their fault.  However, are we not asking for it to some extent?  I think we are... 

The media is ever-present in each book... When something bad happens, it is filmed and tweaked.  When something good happens, it is filmed and tweaked.  The media presents things in the manner they wish them to be seen, and makes each "tribute" in the games sustain a particular image... Even Katniss finds herself acting a certain way (holding back emotion, or showing it) when in the games because she knows she is on camera, and must be what the viewers wish in order to receive sponsor's favor.  We do this today as well... We dress, dance, talk, walk, act like those who are portrayed to us as "cool" or "beautiful."  Even when we overcome to an extent our insecurities, and embrace who we really want to be/are, we still emulate who media tells us to emulate... We still ask media to "keep it comin'!" and hope to catch a glimpse of someone from a movie or a show on a magazine, commerical (propos?), or (gasp!) in real life.

It's a vicious cycle... but I admit one I'm a part of each week -watching the Bachelorette or American Idol and gossiping about who on TV reality shows are "hot-or-not."  I'm not ashamed - I DO enjoy it.  However, some people... a lot of people, let it consume who they want to become.  I'm not talking about "dreaming big," because I'm all for that!  I'm talking about people who says, "Ashley is SO pretty and has the BEST legs!  I need to have those legs."  Why?  No, you don't... Media tells you that's hot, but what you are can be considered that too, if you allow yourself to look past the raging signs telling you what to become.  How can you do that when media is ALWAYS right there telling you what to do next, or what to believe in?  How can you do that when everything that you do, every move you make, is made for someone else?

In The Hunger Games media tells people to dye their skin, to celebrate violence, to obey the oppressor, or to the fight the oppressor... It tells you what to believe, and gives you little option to form your own opinion because it's busy shoving it's opinions down your throat - just like many of today's forms of media.  I say this as a woman who wants to be a part of the industry, too. 

Wow - I am a nerd... This is getting FOREVER long!  If you're still reading, you deserve a cookie.

One more thing (though, I might think of more, to be honest - Haha!)...

I am not a crier - you all know this.  However, did I cry when reading the final book?  Laugh all you want (Ken!), but yes... Yes, I did cry.  I get emotional with books, movies, and babies for some reason.  Eh.  Now, you pose the question: where did you cry, Linze?  Let's just say not in the "traditional" spots of the book.  Well, perhaps the second time I cried (yes, I cried twice...) was legit.  I cried when the ending was wrapping up and you found out that Katniss had children - see, this was books AND babies... a double wammy for me, which is so unfair.  Haha!

The first time I cried...?  Nope, not when Prim died, and not when Peeta calls Katniss a mutt (though I did choke up a bit).  When all the tributes left in the end (6) are to vote for if they should have another Hunger Games using The Capitols children in order to even out the deaths they caused over the years to the district's children, I cried at Katniss's response.  She thinks, "Nothing has changed.  Nothing will ever change," and yet still responds, "I vote yes... for Prim."  The thing they had been fighting against, they were about to let happen again... I know rebellion was about more than the games, but they were about to endorse and support the sicklycle cycle that began the rebellion in the first place, and I literally felt sick.

I know it's just a book... but books are never really just books for me.  They're often an escape - and I get invested in the characters.  I didn't want Katniss to defile what she was striving for because of revenge of resignation to defeat.  I wanted her to take this most poignant moment to fight back.  I think she really changes when she chooses to shoot Coin, but at first I was so nervous that the cycle was beginning again... and I wanted her to really win the war.

In the end, through her ability to marry and bring children into the world, I think that is exactly what she does.

Song of the Day: I had a friend show me this song the other day when driving home and I felt instantly in love... It's beautiful, and it's called "Paperweight" by Josh Radin and Schuyler Fisk.  Enjoy!


Jordan said...

I loved this thorough interpretation of The Hunger Games series. I'm a big fan of the books and so reading your examination of the themes was definitely my cup of tea. I also love that song; it plays throughout the movie Dear John which I also recommend.

Amanda K said...

Excellent! I get invested in characters, too. Oh well, that's just the way I am! What are you reading next?

Cami @ You Seriously Made That said...

I was so mad when Katniss voted to have another cycle. I didn't expect her didn't seem like a response I would normally see in a book with a nice little moral at the end...It really gave Katniss an increasing complexity, and to me was like a "Not everything ends perfectly" moment.
I loved the books.I was okay with her ending up with Peta, but only after she said the part about Gale's fire, and her having her own fire.
Nice response

kenfrei4 said...

Very comprehensive post. Sorry to laugh at your crying :)

I agree with many of the things you said, however, you know my feelings about Peeta. To each his own

Matt and Autumn Stone said...

Great books! Hopefully the movies will be good but never as good as the books i'm sure!