Monday, June 11, 2012

Pro-life themes in The Hunger Games

Reading Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy left me an emotional wreck, I admit. But despite all the violence, or perhaps partly because of it, I perceived a message of life and love threading its way through the story. For those of you who have not read the book, it basically shows reality TV to the extreme: 24 children and teenagers from the 12 districts of the nation Panem are released into an arena to fight to the death, and only one may return alive. These “Hunger Games”, for which the book is named, are the government’s punishment for a rebellion that happened generations before, and are televised to remind the nation of the government’s absolute power.
As the people of Panem starve to death and watch their children forced to kill each other, we meet Katniss, the main character. She has sworn to herself from an early age that she will never have children, so that they will not be forced to participate in these lethal games. This comes up again and again throughout the book, illustrating how tragic a world these characters inhabit. A world where people fear to have children must be a gravely wrong world. In our country today, how many people also go to such lengths not to have children, though most of our lives are substantially better than those of the people in the book? What are we afraid of? Loss of personal “liberty” to do what we want? Responsibility? Lower living standards in the future? I am not saying that everybody must have ten kids. But a thought came to me while reading these books, probably one of those old thoughts that everyone hears a million times but must ultimately figure out for themselves. Children are hope. A world full of children is a world full of hope. To love a child is to trust that the world will go on and that the future will hold good things for that child. In many circumstances on this planet, the only reason for anyone to have such hope and trust is God. Take him out of the picture and the future seems a lot more depressing.

Another theme in this book is that of love and solidarity as resistance to evil. When Katniss finds herself in the arena with a slain twelve-year old girl, she stays by her side, singing and surrounding her with flowers. This gesture of love shows that the two have not succumbed completely to the evil dog-eat-dog “game”. The people of the young girl’s home district send Katniss a gift of bread in thanks for this act; it is the first time a district has given a gift to a tribute from another district. Normally the districts are not even allowed to communicate with each other—the growing solidarity is frowned upon by the controlling government. Divide the people, turn them each against the other, is part of the evil strategy. As the districts begin to interact more, a rebellion slowly begins to rise against the tyrannical system. Even though this was never Katniss’s intention. But love cannot help making evil its enemy, or else it is not love. In the end, though the revolution ends up bringing about a time of peace, the book makes painfully clear what the war has cost, as well as the danger of living on anger, no matter how justified it may be/seem. This is shown heartbreakingly (for me) in the character of Gale, Katniss’s best friend for most of the books, who helps win the war by thinking like the enemy, but goes too far, inventing a cruel weapon that is ultimately used against those he loves. Opinions may vary, but I find him quite tragic in the end.

I won’t spoil the story by saying more, but, as much as love can be seen as a “liability” in these books, it is the only real weapon against evil, and the only thing that makes life truly livable in the end.

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