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Christian Reflection on The Hunger Games Trilogy

I devoured the entire Hunger Games Trilogy over the course of a few days (see my general, spoiler-free reflections here). I can’t wait for the movie. My thoughts on the movie can be found here. Everyone has been talking about these books, and for good reason.

I’ll give my thoughts on the overall plot and what I take as the meaning in the books, from my own Christian perspective. I provide a brief look at things Christians can take from the books, as well as a discussion of the ethical theory one could see in the books.

This post focuses first on the reflections, and readers who don’t know the plot should read my summary before reading that section. Next, I briefly outline some content for parents. Third is my summary of the trilogy. Finally, I share a few interesting links, including one which I think will be very useful for Christian parents wondering if these are appropriate for their children.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS INCLUDED BELOW

I’ll first present my reflections, and follow it with a brief note for parents. Those who haven’t read the books and aren’t planning to do so can read 3. Summary for a broad summary of the plot. There are spoilers in the reflections section, so readers who don’t want to have anything spoiled should abstain from reading this post and perhaps just read the one linked above.

1. Reflections

[I have had the wonderful pleasure of interacting with many thoughtful Christian on this trilogy and found that there is so much more to the books than I could delve into here. Please see the links at the end for more reflections.] Initially, as I reflected on The Hunger Games Trilogy, I felt that the biggest issue was that there didn’t seem to be a major point to it beyond entertainment. I asked to be corrected, and I was. Many people commenting on this post have shared incredible insights. For the Christian reflecting on the Hunger Games, one can see it as a commentary on the horrors done to children in our time (Audra Franz below brings up this excellent point), a stunning condemnation of relativistic ethical theories (see A.T. Ross’s link), a narrative of Christian martyrdom, a critique of poor moral decisions, a horrible look at a nihilistic worldview, and more. In other words, there are any number of things Christians reflecting on the Hunger Games Trilogy can take away from the series. As such, I’ve lengthened this post a bit to take more of this into account.

I’ve been perplexed by Katniss’ decision to vote to hold a Hunger Games for the children of the leaders of the Capitol. Now, upon further consideration, I have to agree with the astute reader whose idea I put forward below, but I’ve left my original view untouched here [see the last few sentences two paragraphs down]. Consider the following passage in which they are voting on this very issue (p. 370 of Mockingjay):

Was it like this then? Seventy-five years ago? Did a group of people sit around and cast their votes on initiating the Hunger Games? Was there dissent? Did someone make a case for mercy that was beaten down by the calls for the deaths of the  districts’ children? …All those people I loved, dead, and we are discussing the next Hunger Games in an attempt to avoid wasting life. Nothing has changed. Nothing will ever change now…. I say, “I vote yes… for Prim.”

I’m just honestly confused by this passage and Katniss’ decision. The vote was, according to her and Coin, a way to avoid losing more life. Some want to kill everyone in the Capitol, while others think they should just integrate with them in order to help stabilize the population. These last Hunger Games were proposed as a solution–a middle ground. But it seems to me they don’t serve a middle ground, just another atrocity. And Katniss seemed to realize that, but voted yes anyway. It is unclear that these Hunger Games ever take place, however, because shortly after making this decision, Coin is killed by Katniss and it’s uncertain as to whether an announcement is ever made. One reader gave me an interest comment on this–that it seems Katniss’ vote for the Hunger Games was, in fact, a ruse to lure Coin into the open so she could take her down. This gains credence when one considers that she says “for Prim”–even though she knew it was not Capitol people, but rather Coin, who killed Prim. On such a view, her utterance of “for Prim” is ironic, and indeed may have been intended to show Haymitch what Katkniss was planning. This makes more sense to me. My thanks to the astute reader!

The world in the Hunger games is stark. It is real, and one can’t help but be drawn into it while simultaneously feeling repulsed. Perhaps that was Suzanne Collins’ point, however. There isn’t always a triumph. Sometimes it’s just bitter reality. The trilogy ends on a happy note, but the overall scheme is one which forces the reader to reflect.

So what do I take from the Hunger Games trilogy? I readily admit my worldview does permeate my thought, and the main thing I took from the trilogy is the sinful condition of humanity. Katniss acknowledges it, noting that it could be better to allow some less sadistic species take over. As I already said, there is a fairly happy ending, but looking at the state of Panem and the world–there has been war after war, there’s no clear idea that the totalitarian government hasn’t just been replaced by another under the guise of democracy, children are killed, and a “compromise” to prevent more death is to send the Capitol’s children to fight to the death once more. The sinfulness of the human race, it seems, is at the forefront. And I think that’s why I long for more in the Hunger Games–I long for that comfort of the Redeemer. There seems to be no hope in the books that things will be made right, only that eventually, the nightmares may get better. Having the comfort of redemption and hope, I can’t help but wish for that in the world of Panem–a Redeemer to come and wash away the tears. And so, because there is no such Redeemer, I see the stories as a reflection of the brutal reality of a world without God. In such a world the best that can be hoped for is that the nightmares may one day end; that children may have a better life than their parents. But ultimately, it is a hard reality, one in which there is no true hope, no way to atone for past wrongs. Perhaps that is the central message of the books, or perhaps I am reading my own worldview onto it. Either way, I find this central message compelling.

Some have expressed concern that the Hunger Games express moral relativism. A.T. Ross has an excellent discussion of this on his site. The books themselves never present a moral theory–obviously that is not their intent–but they certainly do not seem to espouse moral relativism. It is clear throughout that the government’s actions are quite evil and that killing, sexual exploitation, and the like are all wrong. Ross notes that some have complained that it seems all the actions are up to chance. The phrase used in Panem is “May the odds be ever in your favor.” But Ross has astutely pointed out that no fictional character ever survives by chance. There is an Author who guides and directs their destinies. As Ross says, “The world operates on grace whether we like it or not; what we see as luck is nothing more than a tiny slice of divine grace offered in the form of survival and the tensions of the story resolving.”

But the Hunger Games, as noted below in the comments, can also be seen as a critique of our own world and our abuse of our children. In our world, children are sold for sex, they are forced to fight, they are fearful for their next meal, just as they are in the Hunger Games. Collins has poignantly potrayed the reality of our own world in the fictional realm of Panem.

A final thought is that Christians can definitely see parallels between the Hunger Games and the plight of the first Christians as they were forced to battle wild animals in Rome. There are a great many parallels here, and I can’t help but think some of this may be intentional. I’m not suggesting Collins is Christian–indeed, I don’t know what faith (if any) she professes. But I do think that the Hunger Games trilogy brings in many concepts from Christianity–the hopelessness of life without God, the objective wrongness of certain actions (and one’s requirements to act against them [provided the alternative reading of Katkniss’ vote]), and even an allusion to the Christian’s martyrdom in the arena. These all provide significant talking points for Christians throughout the series. The books are not overtly Christian, but they can open up conversations about these topics, and that, in itself, makes them worth reading in my opinion.

Thus, it can be seen that even though the Hunger Games Trilogy is not explicitly Christian, Christians who are interested can take all kinds of talking points away from it. Parents will find much to discuss with their children, and readers who are simply interested in the series will be unable to keep themselves from earnestly reflecting on the series afterwards. My own thoughts have been wonderfully shaped by readers who have shared their comments, so please keep them coming. It is clear that the Hunger Games can captivate Christians and have us look at the world through the eyes of faith–observing what is wrong and praying for God’s aid as we turn to those problems highlighted in the series. Most of all, we have the message of redemption, which is notably absent in the series–a message which is necessary to avoid the nihilistic collapse of Panem.

2. Brief note for Parents

Parents interested in the Hunger Games should know the series is very violent and depicts the death of children in sometimes graphic detail. While not explicit, there is some sexual exploitation involved as well (again, it is never explicit, but it can easily be drawn out from the text that is there). These are not books for young children. Please see 3. Summary for more details about the plot itself to hopefully help decide whether it is for your children.

3. Summary

Katniss Everdeen narrates the series from a first-person perspective. The Hunger Games is an annual tournament in which the Capitol collects 2 children from the 12 districts of Panem–the mini-country that has risen from the dust of several wars–and makes them battle to the death. Only one of the 24 children will survive. Why does the Capitol do this? Because about 74 years ago, the districts revolted against the Capitol. The Capitol won and the Hunger Games serve as an annual reminder of the Capitol’s might. The Hunger Games are aired on national television and everyone in Panem is required to watch their children die. There are interviews and extensive coverage of the event.

In the first book, The Hunger Games, Primrose, Katniss’ sister, is selected to compete in the Hunger Games. Katkniss almost immediately volunteers to take her place–she can’t watch her sister die. Gale, her friend and hunting partner for years, agrees to take care of her family. Peeta, a boy who had saved Katkniss’ life by giving her food some years ago, is the male selected from District 12, their home. They get shipped to the Capitol, where they begin to gain popularity due to their stylist, Cinna, and their story of hopeless lovers. Peeta told everyone at an interview that he loved Katniss and she plays that up in order to get gifts from “sponsors”–people who like certain children and pay to send food, weapons, medicine, and the like to them while they’re in the Hunger Games arena. As children die and are killed (including Katniss’ ally, Rue), it becomes apparent that Peeta and Katniss may be among the last few. The Capitol changes the rules to allow two to survive if they are the last ones and from the same district. Katniss finds Peeta and nurses him back to health, pretending to love him the whole time (and occasionally feeling very real about it). They end up barely surviving, but then the Capitol decides to change the rules back so they must fight to the death. They are about to kill themselves when the Capitol stops them and allows them both to win.

It turns out Peeta wasn’t pretending about his love, but Katniss was. The Capitol is furious that they were outwitted by the attempted suicide, and Peeta and Katniss are in danger. The book ends with Katniss in confusion about her interests in Peeta, and Peeta totally disappointed.

Catching Fire picks up a few months later and highlights the political drama playing out as President Snow and the Capitol are still furious that Peeta and Katniss both survived. The year is the 75th Hunger Games and in it, they select victors. Peeta and Katniss once more go to the Games. There is more to the Games than meets the eye, however, and Katniss and Peeta are part of a bigger scheme now to overthrow the Capitol. Katniss is confused about her feelings for Peeta and Gale. During the Games, Katniss is rescued and transported to the previously thought-destroyed District 13. District 12, her home, has been bombed to rubble. There are revolts happening across Panem.

In Mockingjay, Katniss must decide whether to help District 13 unite the Districts against the Capitol. Eventually she does and the revolution begins to take over district-by-district. District 13’s own motivations are unclear and it’s not certain they are any better than the Capitol in some ways. Their leader, Coin, is particularly unforgiving. Peeta has been tortured and tries to kill Katniss due to brainwashing, but through the course of the book he is rehabilitated and begins sorting his false memories from his true ones. It becomes apparent Coin doesn’t like the political clout Katkniss has as the “Mockingjay”–honorary leader of the rebellion. Katniss continues to go after President Snow, determined to kill him for his atrocities. Eventually, she reaches his estate and witnesses the killing of dozens of children with a secret weapon that only the Rebellion knows about. Snow is captured.

Katniss votes to put the Capitol’s leaders’ children in one final Hunger Games as retribution[? see more on this in my reflection] for their crimes. She and Coin had agreed to allow Katniss to kill Snow, and she is about to when she shoots Coin instead, due to Coin’s involvement in murdering other children. Katniss is pardoned for temporary insanity, and goes home to District 12. Eventually she and Peeta get together and the book ends with them having children despite Katniss’ fear that some great evil will come upon them.

4. Links

“Catching Fire”– A Christian reflection on the film. I review a number of themes found in the movie “Catching Fire” and tie them back to the message of Christianity and social justice.

Please check out my other writings on movies and books. For starters, if you liked The Hunger Games you may want to check out John Carter.

Christian Children’s Book Review- Check out this review of the series to get more specific information parents may want to consider as they think about getting these books for their children.

The Hunger Games, Ethics, and Christianity– A very interesting look at moral relativism and realism in The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games: Focus on the Family– Essentially a book review of the first book, The Hunger Games, with an emphasis on issues Christian parents might have with it. I don’t agree withe everything here, but I think the talking points they’ve provided for parents are pretty interesting.

Hungering for Satisfaction– a poignant look into the Hunger games. “Real or unreal?”

Deeper Hungers and Darker Games– The Hunger Games reflects a world without God. What does it mean?

The Hunger Games: The Atheist’s Utopia– No God: Utopia?

SDG.

——

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

38 thoughts on “Christian Reflection on The Hunger Games Trilogy

  1. Interesting reflection. My take on Katniss’ decision to have another Hunger Games is this: it shows that we are all capable of becoming the enemy. It’s a profound indication of our fallen nature: Katniss, of all people, should immediately say NO to more Games, but in the end her anger, woundedness, and rage drive her on. It puts a frighteningly human face on the institution of the Games in the first place: now we can see how someone with a good heart could come to the place where she votes for evil.

    Posted by Holly Ordway | February 21, 2012, 11:15 AM
    • Thanks for the comment, Holly! That’s kind of what I was trying to get from it, but it seemed so out of character. What do you think of the suggestion I wrote in there that perhaps she voted yes as a ploy to ensure she could take out Coin? I think it is plausible because of the lines around it–how she looks at Haymitch and trusts him to know what she’s doing (which leads him to vote yes–also out of character I think). Also, the fact that she says “for Prim” after voting yes is very confusing unless understood in this light, because she already knew Coin was the one who’d brought about Prim’s death.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 21, 2012, 5:31 PM
  2. I think it’s possible that it was part of a machination to get Coin, but honestly at that point I think Collins’ plot has broken down a little bit: I got the sense that she was a little out of control of the pieces of the plot and needed to bring them together in ways she hadn’t fully set up properly. I found the assassination finale to be strange and not very plausible, frankly.

    In support of my interpretation, there’s quite a bit that shows how disturbed Katniss is, and how she’s not able to recover from the trauma or relate to people properly. I do think Collins does a nice job of showing the human toll of the violence and voyeurism, with the Peeta situation and Katniss’s breakdown.

    Posted by Holly Ordway | February 23, 2012, 6:21 PM
    • Holly, I think your argument is also pretty strong. I wish the books were longer and had a bit more detail in them to flesh out this ending.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 27, 2012, 5:36 PM
      • I do believe you all dove further into that part of the book than Collins had originally intended, coming from a teen who feel in love with the books mainly because they were so close to the Roman empire’s Coliseum, but I believe it was because she felt that the Capitol needed to pay (as I believe we all would, as it was the 74th annual games, with 23 children dying every year plus an addition 24 in the 50th, Haymitch’s year, is over 1,700 children that have been killed in the games) I believe she was also suffering from PTSD, not hard to believe after seeing what she’d gone through, so I don’t believe it would have been right but, I do believe we all would have made that choice even though it would impact the lives of innocent Capitol children, not now but after what she had gone through. I do agree however that I wish the books hadn’t been so rushed in the end as it made it difficult to fully understand everything she was trying to get across. If you have something further to mention, I’d love to see what you have to say and hopefully I will have time to read through the books again and have a fresh mind to everything

        Posted by Tyler Wardle | March 30, 2012, 6:32 PM
      • Wow i don’t see how anyone who read the books and understood the characters at all could feel this way. Was Katniss broken… almost. There is way more Christian allegory in this book than you took notice of and it actually all points to this event being a ploy to kill Snow. If you don’t trust Katniss at this point than you should trust Haymitch. Haymitch who was a rebel and with the revolution before anyone new about it. Haymitch who lost everything because of the hunger games. Haymitch who was thrown deeper and deeper into his drunken depresion every year because of the hunger games. Haymitch who would never vote for another games and doesn’t. He says he is with the Mockingjay not yes for a Hunger Games. He realises just how a like him and Katniss are at that point. Also look to Peeta who by the way in the book is a symbol for christ. All ways compasionate all ways willing to sacrifice himself for not only Katniss but to bring down the Capitol. He is beaten and broken and punished for humanities crimes by the true enemy. Peeta is blameless and yet takes the punishment and in a way he is killed. His true self lost for a time. Now if Katniss would have truly made the vote for the Hunger Games out of revenge than Peeta would have finally completely abandoned Katniss, but he doesn’t. He stops her suicide and when she begs him to let her go his response is “I can’t.” This is when peeta’s revival truly takes place. It is said earlier in the book Coin wants Katniss dead so that she can’t question her rule. When it becomes obvious Katniss will live she kills Prim in front of her to break her so that her hate for the capitol will be so great she will agree they need to be punished. Farther proof of this is that she tries to keep Snow off limits so that he can’t tell her the truth. So by Katniss’s vote for the games Coin thinks she has won. She thinks she has broken Katniss and turned her into someone who only seeks vengeance. Peeta realises Katniss’s plan when she shoots the arrow and Haymitch realised it before than thus Peeta saves her and the heart of the rebellion, probably strongly at the urge of Haymitch, convince the courts to spare the Mockingjay. The District 2 comander takes over Panem and the Hunger Games are dead. Peeta represents hope/christ which is why Katniss can only go on after all the horror she’s faced with him as her strength. There is no way that Peeta Katniss or Haymitch would have ever condoned more games and to think otherwise is completely wrong to there character.
        Also yes the last part of Mockingjay was written much different than the rest of the series for a purpose. The characters have become fragile, and they are in war. War is fast and merciless. It is mass confusion and chaos. No time to stop and morn. No time to sit and think. Just instincts, reaction, and hope for the best. I thought the writing style showed this perfectly.
        And on a side note Collins is catholic and for a christian symbol look no farther than “The Hanging Tree.” The tree is the cross. The man who murdered 3 = trinity. Try to think of it as somewhat of a hymn. Meet me at the cross and you will be free. Katniss mader her and her sister rope necklaces to wear as they sang the song. Necklaces=Rosearies.
        There is a lot of Christian symbolism there you just have to work for it. When the Mockingjay burns she becomes a pheonix and is reborn… burn=purgatory. Things are there. They just aren’t thrown in your face because that wasn’t the central theme. The main theme is how terrible our society is; war, reality tv, hate, cruelty worldwide to children, starvation, political bureaucracy. This book is a call to arms asking the youth of this world to stand up and hopefully fix this world before we walk right into destruction.

        Posted by Bradley | September 24, 2012, 10:24 PM
  3. Thanks much for linking to my article (“The Hunger Games, Ethics, and Christianity”). It seems from the everything else going on in Mockingjay that Katniss supporting the decision about the new Games is done for two reasons. 1) She is at this point “deceiving the Serpent,” playing a ruse so that Coin will continue to trust her. The other reader who pointed this out is surely correct. It’s the only reading that makes much sense given Katniss’ character. But it also important to note that it is not done out of revenge, but justice. Coin is perfectly willing to sacrifice not simply Prim but hundreds, even thousands of children’s lives. It is for all the Prims’ and all the Rues’ of the future that she kills Coin.

    The second reason she does this is to be with Peeta. We already know at this point that he is going to be an exile – when he accidentally kills the others in the mission at the Capitol he says as much. In this way Peeta has become the “Hanged Man” from the song Katniss’ father sang when she was a child, who bids his lover come be in exile with him as well. So she takes on the persona of “betrayer” (at least in the eyes of the new government) so that she can finally be left in peace with Peeta, ensuring not only their love, but that no one will come asking her to be the symbol of anything else. She is “damaged goods” for this new government, the cover story being that she “lost her mind.” She can now truly leave behind the Games and rest in peace, not in death, but in exile. Over and over again in Mockingjay we’re told that she might be out of the Arena, but she’s still playing the Games, and the political wrangling throughout the story is the proof. Finally now she is out of the Games, still “in” the world, but finally no longer “of” the world and its culture and influence.

    Posted by Adam | February 25, 2012, 3:49 PM
    • Yeah, I am definitely leaning towards that view of Katniss’ choice of voting for the Hunger Games. It makes much more sense. Another thing I’d really like to know is whether the new government really becomes a diplomacy, or whether they try to enforce the kind of schedule they did underground in District 13, etc.

      Anyway, thanks for your comment! Your article was fantastic.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 27, 2012, 5:35 PM
  4. I was very suprised by your immediate reflection that “The biggest issue I have with the trilogy is that there doesn’t seem to be a major point to it beyond entertainment.” As a Christian, this did not one cross my mind, not once. I thoroughly enjoyed the books and see them as an amazing tool that Christian leaders can use with young persons who have already read the books. (Because of the nature of the books, I do think that parents should give permission to their children to read the books as some kids simply would not be mature enough to understand what is presented in The Hunger Games.”) I am not promoting that the trilogy be read in the church but rather that the church helps those who have read it to process it.

    For me, The Hunger Games is fictionally depiction of our world today. In our world there are children forced into prostitution, at appaulingly young ages no less, boys who are forced either to be killed or to kill (boy soldiers), and governments withholding food from their people in order to control them. This is the every day life of our world and I see very little difference between it and the districts represented in The Hunger Games. We in America and other leading countries of the world fair little better than the citizens of the Capitol. We see and hear the horrors of the world potrayed on our news casts, our hearts break, then we go back to living our comfy lives of abundance and peace.

    For me, The Hunger Games is a call to action. It’s a slap in the face to wake up to the reality of life in the world around us. It can be a means for the Spirit to move amongst our youth, to rise up a generation that says “no more”, who turn to the adults around them and say “How do we change this?” Youth can be resiliant and I believe they can be the catalyst for change in our world. They can help us in the “capital” to stop viewing the news as something distant from our lives, but as something that we are called to respond to.

    As youth watch the upcoming movie, and as they read the books, I pray that there will be adults around them that help them to process what they have seen. For me, The Hunger games is not entertainment, it is a reflection of the reality of the world around us. Will rise up in defense of the defenseless, or will we continue to see the news as little more than another half hour of entertainment in our day?

    Posted by Audra Franz | March 4, 2012, 1:50 PM
    • Audra,

      Thanks for the very interesting interpretation of the series! I greatly enjoyed your take on the series. As always, the comments on the blog have helped shape my perception. Many astute readers have given me great insight, and I appreciate it. I do think that your view of the books gives excellent talking points. Thanks!

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 4, 2012, 4:19 PM
  5. I would like to reinforce the belief that Katniss’ vote had everything to do with Coin. You may recall that Katniss repeatedly refered to killing Snow (even if it also resulted in her own death) as the event that would finally end “the Games”. When Snow revealed what truly happened to Prim, she was understandably reluctant to believe him. Even as the evidence mounted, she still kept trying to find reasons to deny the uncomfortable truth. When I first read the book, my interpretation of what happened during that vote was that Coin’s repulsive suggestion finally confirmed Katniss’ growing suspicion that Coin was every bit as evil as Snow (& was directly responsible for Prim’s death). From everything that we experienced through her eyes, we would have to believe that she would be every bit as opposed to the idea of another Hunger Games as Peeta was. Prior to giving her answer, she says “I weigh my options carefully, think everything through”. It seemed to me that it was not the final Hunger Games proposition that she was considering, but rather how best to answer that question to avoid letting Coin know that she was onto her. After voting yes, & then adding “for Prim”, it is left up to Haymitch. She had mentioned a few times throughout the books how she & Haymitch had a unique understanding of one another. She mentions that he watches her closely before answering in agreement. I think he may have understood that the new “end of the Games” for Katniss was killing Coin… & judging by the quick manner in which Peeta blocked her from taking her nightlock pill, he must have figured out what was coming as well.

    That was how I read it, at least!

    Posted by Jon | March 13, 2012, 1:42 PM
  6. I’m going too use your Blog as an assignment for my class … let’s see how it goes! I am currently in the middle of the series and in the middle of several conversations concerning the merits of this adolescent genre among Christian family audiences. Much along the lines of Rowling – Meyer and possibly Dekker, I am interested in the seemingly “newest” name among young adult authors and their cultural niche.

    Posted by Jeff | March 15, 2012, 9:59 AM
    • I think that since these books are possibly going to become a mainstay of this generation much like Harry Potter to the last few, i think that it would be beneficial for parents and anybody else who deals with teens to read these books. They have the potential to change culture and the way teens think.

      Posted by Chaz Havens | March 15, 2012, 9:26 PM
    • Though I am not much of a “reader for fun” I also like to know that young adult books that are getting very popular. I have seen the trends of the “Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” “The Circle Trilogy (Dekker),” and now “the Hunger Games. Most of the popular books are made into movie, which is where is become interested, and spread to an even broader audience of people. One thing I noticed Wartick say was that there is violence and a brief sexual clip and that children should not read this series. That got me thinking about how desensitized this culture is becoming (not that i am bashing this series, because it does sound very interesting) with violence and immorality. Anymore, everything on TV seems to have to include violence, immorality, or somebody getting made fun of to be considered popular. When i think about it everything I like includes violence or inappropriate comedy. This culture is becoming more and more desensitized and who knows where it will be in a few years.

      Posted by Jacob | March 15, 2012, 10:09 PM
      • I myself have never read the books, but after reading this blog and reading Jacob’s comment it really started to make me think about some things. I think the concepts and plot of The Hunger Game’s is really interesting and I think it would be really entertaining. However, after reading this comment it really made me think about what it is that entertains me. Murder and sexual exploitation, although the plot seems to go much further then this, does not seem to me as things I should think of as entertaining, but unfortunately these things are appealing to our generation and culture today. The reality is, however, that those things are a part of our culture and those are things that people like. Like I said, I haven’t read the books myself, so I am not sure exactly the extent of the parallels to Christianity, but if they are there then this could be a great tool to discuss with students different aspects of Christianity. This is a huge book right now that many teens and young adults are reading, so if those parallels are evident then it could be very useful if used in the right way with appropriate discretion.

        Posted by Bryan | March 16, 2012, 11:13 AM
      • There is one difficulty with drawing conclusions without reading the texts though; just having sexual exploitation does not mean a book is bad, for these books aren’t glorifying it but rather showing that it is wrong and the same thing with murder.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 16, 2012, 11:16 AM
    • I have not read these books, however I do plan on it. I have recently learned to love reading. I never did as a child, but as I have grown older I have learned to enjoy it in my free time. I love the fact that books are becoming popular again. The simple act of reading develops an adolescent’s brain immensely. However, the content of the books may not be very beneficial for anyone to read. I am worried about the content of the books that are popular. Between Rowling and Meyers you have witchcraft and a horrible love triangle between a dead guy, a wolf, and a horribly confused girl. Yet, I feel as Christians we try and add Christian themes to books, movies, and other entertainment to justify it in our own eyes. If you look hard enough, and construe things far enough you can find Christian themes in anything. What really needs to be done, instead of us trying to justify it in our own eyes, is look toward the word of God as to whether these things are beneficial. In 1 Corinthians 10:23 it says “’All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” While these books and movies may be entertaining, they may not be beneficial for us to watch them.

      With that said, I do plan on reading these books, and I do not condemn anyone who has read these books, but I’m just saying that we need to be careful as to what we put in our minds. We have a very smart and crafty enemy lurking in the background who will do anything to see us fall.

      Posted by Adam | March 16, 2012, 8:45 AM
    • I have read all three books in the series and quite enjoyed all three of them. Collins does a great job of getting the reader immersed in the story. When discussing the series, with a student in a youth group that I help in, the student asked, “Why can’t the Bible be written like this?” The student said that they were losing interest in the Bible, because it was not written in an emotion evoking way. Their question caused me to reflect on my own reading of the Bible. I noticed that in the week that I read the three books, I didn’t once touch my Bible. These three books became my life for that one week. That realization led me to caution the student toward moderation in reading these stories and those like it.

      After our conversation about Collins’ books, we talked about the Bible again. I went through some scriptures with the student and encouraged them to read the Bible as a whole book, not little sections that tend to not click together in our brains. Without the discussion about Collins’ books, we may have not had that discussion, and that student may have continued to lose interest in the Bible, but now they tell me weekly about their readings.

      As far as these books being damaging, I would say they are fine for high school and up. Middle school is a closer call, because they have not had to face many of the emotional or situational issues presented in the books. I would encourage moderation to any student who is wanting to read these books. They are well written and full of circumstances that the reader can relate to on some level. I would venture to say that none of us have had to compete in a Gladiatorial arena, but the relational issues raised, the pain of losing those close to us, and frustration with parents are issues we all have to face at some time in our life.

      Thank you for your blog. I really enjoyed reading it. Your thoughts and the thoughts of those who commented have given me many new insights into this book and I will have more to discuss with my students 🙂

      Posted by Cole Sagstetetr | March 16, 2012, 10:09 AM
    • I have to admit that I never knew anything about the books other than they are very popular as of recently. After reading this blog and looking at the supplemental links I think that these might be interesting books to check out. I’m not so sure how much I could recommend them to others, nor do I necessarily agree with the age recommendation of the books. It seems like these books would be OK for high school students or upper high school students but no earlier. Some of the content does seem disturbing and I do not know how they would handle it. While there may be some things that we can pull out of these books, we should use them as a learning tool sparingly. Just as I can pull many good things out of the movie “The Book of Eli” I cannot with a clear conscious use it and fully endorse it as having clear and good Christian parts in places. I think that this can be said about these books, while we can pull things out of it, there are just enough things in them that can be damaging to kids. Even while not endorsing the ideas of murder or sexual exploitation I still do not think that it can be appropriate for younger readers. With all this being said, as long as the readers is mature enough and can handle it, more power to who ever wants to read the books. They do sound interesting and I may check them out myself.

      Posted by Mason | March 16, 2012, 6:26 PM
    • These books do seem to be the next big things in this genre of fiction books. I have noticed that just like the “Harry Potter” series, “Twilight” and “Lord of the Rings” that “The Hunger Games” has the beginnings of a legacy like the others. Due to this I suggest that as youth workers and parents we read these and know what the next generation is reading. It will help us to understand what our youth is thinking and what the changes in the culture are to come. With all of the series’ mentioned, they some how changed the culture of the youth at the time and I suspect that these books and movies will do the same.

      Posted by Tj Marler | March 16, 2012, 6:35 PM
  7. I think that in the same ways that we might examine typical pop culture, these books must be examined in the same way. I don’t know that I would ever begin a campaign against these books, as has been done with Harry Potter or Twilight, but I know that if I found them to be something that needs to be cautioned to a younger audience I would make that distinction while discussing the books. Though, not having read the books, I can’t say much about the series itself.

    However, I will say that the discussion that does get raised with books like this can at times be a little too analytical. Concerning the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the books were written for the purpose of entertainment and as rumored to best C.S. Lewis in writing a great epic; however, we have analogized them, and brought them in to our own world, interpreting them based on our experiences. We will in no doubt do the same with these books and movies. As the fad becomes more popular we will use them, create events around them, and maybe even write a sermon series loosely based upon them. However, the trick is to be responsible; one would not creating a lesson series for a 2nd grade sunday school based on the Hunger Games.

    Posted by Aaron Hernandez | March 16, 2012, 5:39 AM
  8. I really enjoyed reading your take on the Hunger Games trilogy. Most of our middle school students in our youth group have read or are reading the Hunger Games. I myself am currently working on reading the books. I also have noticed quite a bit of parallels between the Hunger Games and Christianity. These parallels can create some great discussions. These books seem like the books of choice for this generation of teens, so i believe that anyone who works with youth probably should read or learn more about these books. Knowing these books would be a great and simple way to relate to this generation of teens.

    Posted by Brandon Gober | March 16, 2012, 1:13 PM
  9. I have read the first book and I really enjoyed it. As Jacob said, I do not often read for fun, but every once in a while a book will grab my attention and keep me on the edge of my seat the whole time…and that is exactly what ‘The Hunger Games’ has done. I find it a very enjoyable and catchy read, well written and gripping to almost any reader.

    Along the lines of cautioning parents or youth workers, I believe there should be some element of awareness. I find the Harry Potter series to be a waste of time, but also to be full of witchcraft and spiritual warfare, but The Hunger Games hits a different side of things. As Bryan mentioned, the violence of this book (and upcoming movie event) and sexual exploitation of the tributes is rather unsettling and has the potential to influence teens in a bad way.

    I think it is a good idea, almost necessary, to stay in tune with culture when working with students and I would urge anyone working with youth to check these books out for themselves. Along with the negative ideas mentioned previously, there are also lessons that can be taken and applied to a Christian lifestyle from The Hunger Games (like Katniss’ taking the place of Prim and sacrificing herself to save others). I think these books can be used as both tools to show Christianity, but also to show teens the dangers of getting to into books and movies like these.

    All in all, I really like The Hunger Games and have already had some great discussions with friends and family about application of ideas in the movie.

    Posted by Greg Moore | March 16, 2012, 2:17 PM
  10. After seeing the second movie, I became more interested in the story of Panem and decided to read the books. I just finished the trilogy. My response is mixed. It is a gripping, page-turning story. I could hardly stop reading until I had finished the whole thing. However, it is very unsatisfying. The only resolution comes in the all-too-brief Epilogue. The only hints of redemption are there and seem glossed over. But overall the message of the book seems to be that there is no real, unquestionable good in the world, and hope is elusive. However, I read that one of the themes Collins’ writes about is the effects of war on children, and if the book is seen from that perspective then maybe it’s a little more understandable. Nevertheless, the outlook of the book is very bleak.

    I found the telling of the story entirely from Katniss’ perspective to be frustrating as well. You don’t get a more objective sense of what’s happening. Everything’s filtered through her perspective, which is incredibly subjective and uncertain. So we never know for sure whether Coin really ordered the destruction of the children (including Prim) or if Snow was just playing with her head one more time. I found Katniss’ untethered impulsiveness to be maddening after a while. She is completely at the mercy of her current whim and never able to step back and see a larger perspective. Maybe that’s just the life of a teenage girl, especially one who has been emotionally scarred beyond reason. But it makes for a very chaotic story in the end. I’m sure Collins had her reasons for sticking to this approach. But the ending was so random that it almost made me wonder if Collins grew tired of writing the story and just wrapped up the ending quickly in order to be done with it.

    I find it disturbing that this story was targeted for teenagers. The violence and evil in it are so unrelenting and there is so little of any redemptive nature in it that I find myself wondering what Collins hoped to gain by telling this story in this way for a teen audience. The first book is largely the story of all the mayhem, horror, and death in the arena, ending with the Capital’s anger toward Katniss for defying them. The second book is mostly more of the same, with only the growing rebellion to offer any sense of satisfaction for the reader–at least the good guys are getting so sick of being oppressed that they begin to fight back. But in the third book even this is thwarted by–you guessed it–more mayhem, horror, and death and by Katniss’ refusal or inability to see any convincing good in what the Rebels are trying to do. Everyone is evil, everyone’s motives are questionable, no one can be trusted, so it’s every man for himself, you are always at the mercy of evil. Honestly I didn’t feel Coin and the Rebels were portrayed as being so terribly evil in comparison to Snow, unless it’s true that Coin ordered the destruction of Prim and the children to bring a speedy end to the war. However, it’s never clear that this is what happened, since we only have Snow’s word on it. Yet in spite of this vagueness Katniss (again impulsively) kills Coin and allows Snow to live, who somehow still inexplicably dies. I guess Coin’s supposed bombing of the children and the proposal of one last Hunger Games are supposed to convey the idea that even the good guys get tainted by the very evil they are trying to fight.

    Throughout the story Katniss has trouble really holding onto the idea that Snow is truly evil. In spite of all he’s done against her and everyone else, she continues to be tempted to mollify him. I guess this could be seen as a depiction of how someone would think when all they’ve known is a totalitarian government.

    I’m rambling now. Anyway, I ultimately found the books disturbing and unsatisfying. I am intrigued by the notion of Panem being the last remains of Western society in North America hundreds, if not a couple thousand, of years in the future (although you get the idea this is all that’s left of humanity, period), and how some things are more primitive than today due to technologies having been lost or destroyed, and yet other things are more advanced. It would be interesting to see more stories set in this place. But if they’re going to be as unsatisfying as the Hunger Games, then I guess I would pass.

    Posted by musicman707 | January 4, 2014, 8:56 PM
  11. I’m a bit late to the party. I just read the trilogy and I was shocked, and confused at Katniss’ vote for a Capitol Hunger Games. I knew given her character that it had to be strategic. It also made me think about Peeta’s warnings when he was imprisoned in the Capitol. I did a little digging around and I found this to be the best answer, and I’ll paste it from Yahoo Answers.

    Best Answer: “Punishing and enslaving the innocent is what started and embedded the Capitol-inflicted atrocities in the first place.The suggestion by Coin was immediately appalling to even the victors (at least most of them) who had been personally and profoundly victimized by the Games.

    The suggestion of a Capitol-kids Hunger Games as a means of punishment-by-proxy was the nail that sealed Coin’s coffin. When Katniss has concrete evidence that Coin was simply another Snow, she put an end to it. Which is precisely what needed to be done.

    Katniss’ “yes” vote was a ruse to enable her to assassinate Coin. This is why we see the paragraph in which she says she weighed her choice carefully, and would find out just how well Haymitch knew her when she announced her vote. Haymitch, too, knew that she could not vote “NO” and retain her own life (she was already too much of a threat to Coin’s political power). Her *only* option to end the Hunger Games forever was to vote “yes” so that she could still be out on that platform and in a position to ostensibly assassinate Snow, but in reality assassinate Snow’s replacement.

    When she added “For Prim”, we knew for sure. Prim lost her life trying to RESCUE Capitol children – she would not have approved of killing them. The “For Prim” was a message to Haymitch that the vote she cast had two meanings. Haymitch signaled that he understood her message when he himself did not vote “yes” – instead – he said “I’m with the Mockingjay” – meaning – he’s with the true rebel leader who would never allow Coin to rise to power.

    Had Katniss voted “no”, she immediately becomes a threat to Coin. The rebels would follow the Mockingjay, in terms of electing new leadership, and Katniss would *not* support Coin. Coin knew she was (politically) dead in the water if that happened. Once Katniss has no value to her – or worse, is an actual threat to her power – Coin would have her killed.

    In other words, Katniss wasn’t voting “yes” to another Hunger Games. She was voting “yes” so she could have the opportunity to end them once and for all. It was, in my opinion, Katniss’ finest hour.”

    ~Dr. B.~

    Posted by Denise | September 13, 2015, 9:57 AM

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