I have been thinking about proposing a new course on apocalyptic, so I decided once classes ended to read The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins’s dystopian trilogy. I found myself drawn into the world of the Hunger Games and quickly began to care about the characters. Although I found it hard to put down the first two volumes, I had a harder time with the third volume, and found myself skimming to get to the end and discover if the novel ended on a hopeful note. On that point, I remain puzzled. Does the book suggest there is any reason for hope? I’m not sure. Perhaps the main message is similar to that of the New Testament book of Revelation (at least, according to some readers): “Stand firm! Don’t give in to those who seek to overpower you. Maintain your integrity.” I came across a quotation from the late Vaclav Havel recently that seems apropos. About hope, Havel says, it “is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” I will need to reread the third volume in order to figure out if I think anything makes sense in the world of the Hunger Games.
With both the New Testament’s Revelation and Collins’s Hunger Games, I feel uncomfortable with the amount and degree of violence. Some readers may say the authors use violence to promote nonviolence, but I am not convinced that a message of nonviolence comes across clearly to all readers. Janet Potter recently reviewed the film version of the first volume and in it she, too, questions the violence. She observes that in some theaters, the audience cheers when one of the children gets killed in the games. This suggests to me that readers (and viewers) identify closely with the main character, Katniss, and root for her survival, but they also root for the destruction of the characters they perceive to be enemies of Katniss. Doesn’t the real problem lie with the abusive use of power and violence, and shouldn’t our goal be to find nonviolent ways to rid the world of that abuse?