Warning: If you have not read the first book or seen the first movie there are some spoilers included.
74 years prior to the first book there was a revolution, the reasons for the revolution were not covered. The government won over the rebels. Instead of addressing the reasons for the uprising, the government decided that the best way to handle the situation was greater control.
The United States is cut into districts, each district specializes in the production of one type of resource. Your job is for the most part decided by where you live. Where I am would be agricultural, even though most of the food produced would come from our area. Anyone caught taking food that was not given to them by the government would face severe punishment.
The greatest control however are the games. Each year a boy and a girl from each district (except the capital of course) is chosen via lottery for a fight to the death. All of which is broadcast to the districts and required viewing.
The heroine of the story is just trying to take care of her family. But by trying to do so is thrust into the games. That should be enough of a summary. Now to why I really think everyone should watch the movies or read the books.
The government of Panem uses a variety of methods to keep the population under control. Here are some of those methods.
Each of the outlying districts are kept in varying states of poverty. Keeping people just barely making it keeps them working. If you cannot eat because you missed one day of work, you will work sick and you will work till you die.
By controlling all of the information a people receive you can shape most people's opinions to a point that you can predict how they will respond to every situation. Very few people naturally exercise critical thinking.
Many people will take what they get, complain about it but never really do anything about it.
There will always be some people who benefit from the suffering of others and they will never look at the injustice.
Some people are willing to risk everything for glory and fame.
Communication between the districts is limited to what the Capitol wants the people to see. Huge fences separate the districts and no travel is permitted unless sanctioned by the government.
Fear is used to control the masses. Fear can destroy hope. Hope is dangerous if you are trying to dominate people. There is no quicker way to instill fear than through a person's children.
Lessons Taught in The Hunger Games
Skills and Knowledge Are Important
Katniss, the primary heroine' had become the primary provider for her family since the death of her father. How did she do this? By foraging and hunting. The book of course covers this in more depth than the movie. Katniss is named after an aquatic plant that has edible tubers. I have included a picture of the plant below.
One of the most powerful quotes in the first book for me was,
I knelt down in the water, my fingers digging into the roots. Small, bluish tubers that don’t look like much but boiled or baked are as good as any potato. “Katniss,” I said aloud. It’s the plant I was named for. And I heard my father’s voice joking, “As long as you can find yourself, you’ll never starve.”In the first part of the first book, time was spent showing just how much knowledge Katniss's father had imparted to her. She knew which plants could be eaten, how to catch fish with a net, how to rob nests of eggs, and how to kill small game. This was a really resourceful young lady and she was driven only by feeding her family. This is worthy of admiration from those of us who think that way, but not from the general public.
Primitive Skills are Good to HaveThe only people who have firearms or advanced weapons of any type are the government. Everything everyone does to provide for themselves is with very basic weaponry. Katniss is extremely good with a bow that she keeps hidden to keep the "Peacekeepers" from taking away from her. This skill proves invaluable when she is thrust into the Games.
I am a big fan of primitive weapons, weapons that can be made. This book series and the subsequent movies have caused a surge in interest in these type of weapons. Mostly bows because of the primary character, but swords, spears, ropes, and even a trident are mentioned individually.
Before the Games the contestants, as they are called, are allowed to gain knowledge that will help them in the terrain into which they will be thrust, things like camouflage, foraging, herbal medicine, primitive fire starting, and the like are taught. The contestants can choose to learn them or not, it is their choice. All of the survival skills that are mentioned are real as are all of the tools shown.
Every Show of Kindness is Rewarded in Some Way
During the Games, Katniss befriends a young girl from another district named Rue. They work together. Little Rue reminds her of her sister. When Rue dies, Katniss takes the time to give her a worthy memorial and salutes the family. This expression tenderness endears her in the hearts and minds of everyone in that district. That is saying something. Katniss is not a very likable person, she is strong and responsible but not very likable. If you did not understand her thought process you probably would not like her. But Rue had struck her heart.
I want to do something, right here, right now, to shame them, to make them accountable, to show the Capitol that whatever they do or force us to do that there is a part of every tribute they can't own. That Rue was more than a piece in their Games. And so am I.
A few steps into the woods grows a bank of wildflowers. Perhaps they are really weeds of some sort, but they have blossoms in beautiful shades of violet and yellow and white. I gather up an armful and come back to Rue's side. Slowly, one stem at a time. I decorate her body in the flowers. Covering the ugly wound. Wreathing her face. Weaving her hair with bright colors.
Being True to Yourself
All this time I have talked about the heroine, but there is also a hero in this story. His name is Peeta. He is much more likable than Katniss, he is also softer. He would have been considered middle class in his district. He was the son of a baker. He did not face starvation, but he did face the Games. I love this quote.
"I don't know how to say it exactly. Only…I want to die as myself. Does that make any sense?" he asks. I shake my head. How could he die as anyone but himself? "I don't want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not."
I bite my lip, feeling inferior. While I've been ruminating on the availability of trees, Peeta has been struggling with how to maintain his identity. His purity of self. "Do you mean you won't kill anyone?" I ask.
Now tell me that quote is not powerful. The will to maintain who you are even in the face of adversity even to the point of death if necessary. That is true bravery."No, when the time comes, I'm sure I'll kill just like everybody else. I can't go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don't own me. That I'm more than just a piece in their Games," says Peeta.
True Hope can Spring Up Anywhere
I will not go into any detail, but hope grows through all of the mess. People will come together to deal with a common foe. It has happened throughout history. Tyranny only lasts for so long.
I have heard some say that the books are about the empowered poor rising against the ruling class, I do not see it that way. With the exception of the military or Peacekeepers, the population of the Capitol are kept ignorant on purpose. They honestly do not know of the hardships in the other areas of Panem. They honestly think that competing in the Games is an honor for those who are chosen. I believe it is more about a people rising up against a dictatorial/communist government, trying to claim the freedom that is their God given right.
I watched the first movie before I read the books. I do not remember if my wife brought it in or if it was my daughter. When I watched the movie, I was angry. I can see a government doing exactly the type of things Panem did to control its citizens. There is a much deeper message.
There is a lot of violence. I would not suggest this for young children, but if you have children or grandchildren old enough for the theme, these books or even the movies can start some very deep conversations. Be ready for them. Allow the books to challenge you to learn new skills.
I am not telling you to go to the theaters. I am saying rent the movies or buy the books used or in digital versions. (Sorry movie guys, I am not your primary target audience)
I wish you Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes
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