Ok, so I know I’m a little late in catching up with this, but I watched The Hunger Games last week. (And I’ll come clean and admit that I haven’t read the books yet- but they are definitely on my list to do so.)
Before watching it, here’s the extent of my knowledge: there is a character called Katniss, people are forced to fight to the death in some big arena, and every teenage girl in the country is now wearing a mocking jay pin. So I really was going in with fresh eyes.
What struck me straight away was that this is another example of totalitarian literature. Along with George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I was reminded too of films such as V for Vendetta or The Matrix.
These fictions all represent worlds either in the future or historically where the state has complete control over people’s lives. Often you’ll find that people have been divided into categories or castes, which is evident in Hunger Games. People are either genetically formed or forced through submission into different roles. In one of the storylines of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, another novel with similar themes, the human race has been divided into purebloods who are the ‘real’ humans, and fabricants who are produced for specific roles for example waitresses who can work for 18 hours a day and are sustained by a protein substance that also keeps them repressed and subservient.
I’m not going to go over the synopsis of Hunger Games, but there is a very strong base theme of dystopian society. I find this interesting because I think that often the key to understanding literature is to look at the environment in which it was written.
I certainly don’t pretend to have a very deep or thorough knowledge of politics, but I do know that no matter how perfect a political model on paper, the practical implication of it is complex and tricky. People and power rarely mix well and these fictional worlds act as both an outworking of fear and a warning of what could be.
Even in the real world here in the UK there are complicated positions and standings in society. While we may be attempting to move away from such stark class divisions as were evident when Orwell wrote 1984, there is an ever present malcontent with the pattern of our society where some have much and others little.
There are questions to be asked, and answers given in literature to be considered, about where responsibility lies for inequality. I am looking forward to watching Catching Fire which I know develops these themes further.
Plus, Katniss is the most awesome strong female character and I can’t help love her!