The Hunger Games – Who’s the bully now?

The Hunger GamesFor those of you who are not aware of the content of this book, I thought I would write a very brief summary before putting my thoughts out there. Before I go on though, I must say that I will go into a few details of the book that may give away some of the content. So, if you are the kind of reader who does not appreciate knowing a few details before reading them yourself (as I am)… be warned! If this applies to you, go read the book, then report back and share your thoughts.

So – In summary, “The Hunger Games” is the first of 3 books in a series. The story revolves around several characters with Katniss and Peeta as the protagonists. Basically, the book is set in the future at which point North America does not exist, due to an unsuccessful uprising/revolution. It is replaced by a nation called Panem, comprised of one Capitol overseeing 12 Districts. Each district serves the Capitol and specializes in one industry or another. The people of these districts are ruled under the Capitol’s dictatorship and have no means of contact between one other. The people of each district live in isolation of the realities of every other District around them. Panem has been divided and conquered.

The Hunger Games is a completely televised “show”/”competition” where one boy and one girl, aged 12 through 18, of each of the Districts are randomly chosen to participate. The “tributes” are made “celebrities” and are placed in a man-made arena that replicates any given natural habitat. Tributes are expected to survive and fight one another. The winner is the sole survivor. This takes place on a yearly basis as a reminder of the atrocities of the uprising to all the people of Panem, to stop any ideas of people uprising again.

“The Hunger Games” is one of those books that had my thinking process in constant flux. Not only was the story unfolding like a rollercoaster ride but so were the implications of each of the twists and turns throughout the story.

That aside though, the reoccurring message that is presented to the reader in so many different approaches on so many different levels is the idea of obsessive control and the incessant need to be at the very top of the hierarchy. Of course, I am referring to the Capitol.

The Games are a weapon of mass control used to keep the people sucked into the frame of mind of being forced into helpless submission. It’s a way of brainwashing the people into their way of life. They are not convinced that it is right but they are convinced that they are unable to do anything about it. Katniss refers to District 12 as a place “where you can starve to death in safety.” A bit of an oxymoron but one that is reality.

It gets more interesting. Katniss, with her hate of the system, and knowing the power of media, learns to manipulate the system through the media. She adds drama to her “performance” in the arena to win the hearts of her viewers. She is very aware of the power of media and sees how the people of the Capitol are taken by it. This other, even more powerful, weapon of mass control, has seriously desensitized the masses especially in the Capitol (as their children are not in danger of becoming tributes). The fact that children are turned into killing machines and are being murdered through those “games” is completely irrelevant, “everything is about them, not the dying boys and girls in the arena.”

After winning the hearts of many by watching her every move in the arena to send the right messages to the outside world, Katniss goes ahead and has the “audacity” to insult the Capitol on two very pivotal occasions: 1) Showing all of Panem the love and care she had for Rue by draping her in flowers and singing to her after she had been killed knowing that the cameras were on her through the entire process; in turn insulting the games and what the Capitol stands for; and 2) Instigating the threat of a double suicide with Peeta during the very last moments of the games. She knew full well that the Capitol could not end the game with no winner. The one thing that was now in her control was her choice of living or dying. She took the chance of ending her life! She shocked the entire nation by playing the Capitol’s game by her own rules succeeding in bending the system. She mastered the weapon of mass control and controlled it herself.

I truly admire Katniss’s strength to standing up to such a power greater than her own. The only problem is that, to the outside, she stands alone. She managed to reverse the roles of bully and victim. So… who’s the bully and who is being bullied?

Alone, anyone is vulnerable, especially when fighting a battle. Her rebellion is extremely threatening. She needs to build an army of followers for her to be safer. The first step has been taken and there is no turning back.

This book ends with the reader being aware that Katniss’s efforts are supported by the few that know her. However, they are not ready to make this public. As far as the Capitol is concerned, she still stands alone. I wonder what the second book of the series will reveal.

For the time being though, my questions to you are: Do the Capitol’s ways ring any bells at all? Do you think our media is just as controlling of us? Are we aware of the control or not? Do we choose to ignore the implications and bend to the rules of the media?

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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

This is a book that has been on my ‘to read list’ for quite some time. I’m glad I finally picked it up. It’s a pretty easy read as far as langauge goes but the content is very heavy! It was one of these books that made me be extremely thankful to have been born away from a place where a child would need to face horrific events and live with the memmory of them. Things that adults are unable to deal with. It also brought tears of sadness, pitty and hope into my eyes at several sections of the story.
This is a very honest, raw account of what life was like for Ishmael when forced to become a child soldier in Siera Leon. He fought against the rebel soldiers who also ‘recruited’ children. The account takes the reader on his journey as he transformes from a regular child who has learned to love Shakespeare and loves to rap and perform in talent shows, to a child suffering from insomnia who is most comfortable with his gun and ammunition and can not function without his daily dose of war, blood, cocaine and marijuana.
I remember writing a research paper back in grade 13 about child soldiers. I chose the subject because it was so new to me and I knew I had a lot to find out. What I dug up was shocking! I know I still have my research paper somewhere in the basement. I’d really like to take it out and go over what I had written 8 years ago.
Although I am now familiar with what child soldiers are and what they are forced to go through. This book gave a very different perspective to the issue because of it’s being a first hand account of true events with the use of a child’s voice. It has presented the issue from a different prespective. It’s not an outsider looking in. It’s not about an observer or journalist telling us a story of a boy. It’s not about statistics and numbers. It’s about the innocence of a child robbed; and it’s written by the boy himself.
The book also brings a tremendous amount of hope. I don’t know too much about Ishmael now. However, I do know that he is a part of the Free the Children Organization as well as the Me to We effort, based in Toronto, that bring together youth to carry out global projects building schools and providing basic facilities such as clean water in remote areas in underdeveloped regions. I believe he is also a motivational speaker. Now here is a person I’d really like to meet!
This is a story of one of the lucky ones though. One of the very few who have made it out alive.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who can appreciate what it is to be human.
p.s there are quite a few links in this post but I think they’re well worth checking out :@)