Katniss Everdeen

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“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1”- A Christian Perspective

mockingjay-p1“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” is yet another blockbuster hit in the Hunger Games Trilogy. Here, I will reflect on a number of themes found in the movie, drawing out places the film resonates with the Christian worldview. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Social Contract?

The concept of a “social contract” theory of government is put forward by President Snow. At one point, he is speaking out for peace (ironically, while executing several prisoners), and his argument is that the Districts are in a contract with the Capitol, which is to provide “order” and justice.

The scene is deeply ironic–and meant to be. It shows what is inherently wrong in a system which relies upon a contract (in this case, one that a side is forced into) as the basis for morality. Simply having such a contract does not, in and of itself bring about a moral system. Ultimately, people are able to distort meanings of terms and ask things like “what does ‘order’ mean?” and change it to suit their needs. The only sound basis for morality is something which cannot be changed on a semantic issue or on the whims of the masses.

If We Burn, You Burn With Us!

There is such a strong sense of injustice that pervades the film that I think little time has been spent thinking on this phrase that has become somewhat a tagline for the movie: “If we burn, you burn with us!” It’s a kind of “eye for an eye” statement which seems at first to have some sense of retributive justice but perhaps ultimately falls into a kind of self-administered vengeance. However, when one probes more deeply one wonders whether it is a species of a “just war” argument.

Such an argument opens up all kinds of avenues for debate, but I think it ultimately does come down to the question of which is greater injustice: allowing a clearly evil system to continue interminably, or stopping it with the only means that can bring about change. It’s a thorny issue, but one I think Christians should consider thoughtfully.

Slaves Among Us

Finnick Odair, one of the Victors, was sold by President Snow into sex slavery. It’s an extremely uncomfortable issue, but one I am glad the film raised. Snow used the threat of violence against loved ones to force Finnick into this system–a disgusting evil. Unfortunately, the reality of sex slavery, including for children, is an extremely real and pervasive vileness that continues in our present age. The United States has many hot spots for sex slavery, and it continues abroad as well. We must work to end this horrific injustice and bring down the systems of evil that help prop it up.

Conclusion

“Mockingjay Part 1,” like the Hunger Games titles before it, brings up many issues for Christians to consider. I encourage you to see it and discuss it with others. Let me know what you think in the comments! Check out the links below for a number of my previous discussions of other films and books in the series.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Christian Reflection on The Hunger Games Trilogy– I discuss the entire Hunger Games Trilogy, with a number of comments upon the themes and events found therein.

The Hunger Games Movie: A Christian Perspective– I wrote about the movie, “The Hunger Games” and provided some insight into what Christians may take away as talking points from the film.

“Catching Fire”- A Christian Reflection on the Film

The image is from an official movie poster and I claim no rights to it. I use it under fair use.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Catching Fire”- A Christian Reflection on the Film

the-hunger-games-catching-fire-fan-movie-poster-01“Catching Fire” is likely to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year. There are an extraordinary number of things to discuss in this movie. It is filled to the brim with points of interest. Christians would do well to see it and reflect on some of these themes. I have drawn out a number of them below. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

The Aftermath

Early in the film, Katniss is hunting alongside Gale. They see some wild turkeys, Katniss draws her bow to fire, lets loose and hits… Marvel? Marvel was the young man she killed in the Hunger Games about a year before. How could he be here? How did he get shot? The screen pans in, and Katniss is hyperventilating, struggling to comprehend the horror she has just witnessed. But… it wasn’t real. She comes back to the present. The nightmare, however, is not over.

The film explores this issue in moving, distressing ways. Katniss seems to be dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The memory of the violence she has wrought has come back to haunt her. Later, she is confronted by the families of those who died in the Hunger Games that she and Peeta “won.” Her heart is broken. She wakes with nightmares. Violence… is horrific.

But you, in the audience, are forced to deal with another level of the drama: is Katniss to blame for this? Yes, she did kill; but she was forced to kill or be killed. The system dealt her the cards she is playing with: did she merely play the part? Who is to blame? Surely, the system is to blame every bit as much as Katniss. Indeed, is Katniss to blame? An unjust system yields nightmares.

Friendship

Katniss and Peeta are forced to put on a show to meet the expectations of the Capitol. In one (somewhat comical) scene, Peeta is trying to learn more about Katniss, who reveals that she doesn’t feel she has friends. But what is it that makes friendship? As I noted in my look at the book, Katniss betrays her own pragmatism in many points. Her compassion wins out, and demonstrates that she really does have friends and even–shock!–understands what friendship is, though she may not realize it.

Her willingness to sacrifice for her friends proves just how much she understands about the nature of friendship. It is self-giving, self-sacrificing; and not based upon the mere exchange of information, as the scene with Peeta shows.

The Rich

The stark contrast between the lives lived by the people of the Capitol and those of the district comes through very strongly throughout the movie. One cannot help but shake one’s head when considering the way that Caesar Flickerman–the Hunger Games’ gameshow host–first somberly reflects that the people going into the games have been favorites of the Capitol for years but now will all die but one… and then his face turns into a grin and he says “it’s so exciting!”

To the people of the Capitol, it really is all a game. It is a show. But to those who are suffering, it is a remarkable sign of the great line of division between the haves and the have-nots. I think perhaps the most poignant image of this was when Effie Trinket, the escort for the tributes for District 12, is trying to grasp the reality of the horror with which she is confronted. The year before, she was just excited to have potential to win; it really was all just a game. But now, she is faced with the thought of losing her beloved winners. Now, it has become real. But the only way she can try to cope with it is to make them “a team” by purchasing gold things for everyone. Her hair is gold, Katniss’ pin is gold; everyone else should have a gold item as well!

But Effie should not be castigated; indeed, she has become enlightened to the brutality. As one who has awakened, it is right that she should try to fight against the unjust system in whatever way she knows how. Whether her struggle is successful or not, one should commend her for breaking out beyond her closed reality.

cf-1Sacrifice

The theme of sacrifice runs strong throughout the movie. We have already seen that it comes out in friendship [and love] when Katniss is willing to lay down her life for Peeta; but there is another agenda going on of which she is unaware: she has become a symbol of hope for the people of the Districts.

As such, many of the other tributes in the Hunger Games are willing to sacrifice themselves to protect her. Time and again others give up their lives to defend both Peeta and Katniss from the dangers in the arena. But the plot to rescue Katniss is not revealed until the very end. Instead, the theme of sacrifice centers around Katniss and Peeta. Peeta is willing and fully committed to giving his life to save Katniss, but Katniss instead wants to give herself to defend Peeta.

Not only am I reminded of one extremely powerful quote: “Greater love love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” – John 15:13, but I also reflect upon the figure who spoke them himself: Jesus. Jesus did exactly that: he laid down his life for his friends; indeed, for all people (John 3:16). Could there be echoes of this same self-sacrifice to be found in the story of Katniss? I would suggest that yes, there indeed are; though they are by no means explicit or even intentional.

Yet the theme of hope draws out this theme even more strongly, such that one must wonder: who or what is Katniss?

Revolution

Hope, President Snow realized, was the most dangerous thing of all. It was fine to have fear; one could use fear. But the moment hope was injected into the equation, fear no longer worked. With hope, people were willing to die for an ideal; for a person. Katniss, Snow found, was that embodiment of ideal into a person. Her action of being willing to give up her life in the Hunger Games a year before had become a symbol; the fact that she continued to live had become a rallying cry.

Yet Katniss herself did not realize the extent to which she had become just such an ideal. To Katniss, all she had done was try to survive. And it is in this that her story most clearly displays the disconnect between her and the one true Savior. But thematically, the message remains. A revolution needs hope; one spark can light a fire.

Consider the history of Christianity. It was the hope of the resurrection which brought about enormous social upheaval. Suppression did not work, for the Christians had hope in the risen savior. When I saw the people of District 11 reach out their hands in a symbol of defiance to the Capitol, I considered the defiance of the early Christians in refusing to bow the knee to false idols.

Bringing It Together

Of course these are extrapolations. Anyone could point out holes in the way I drew these themes together to point to a Christian message. But the film itself is so thought-provoking that it demands such extrapolation. It calls for interpretation. How might we apply it to understanding our own times?

First, we must consider the nature of the “system.” There is a call to action found within the Hunger Games, but it is not a call to violent rebellion; rather, the violent rebellion is symbolic of the call the film makes to us to end oppression.

Second, the imagery of Effie’s realization of the injustice is perhaps a wake-up call to those of us who are sleeping with the societal ills of human trafficking, hunger, and racism (to name but a few). Not only must we, like her, be awakened, but we should also make use of the tools we have been given to fight against these injustices. And, thankfully, there are many effective ways we can do so.

Third, the movie features a powerful call to realize the power of hope in what seems like a hopeless world. That power is found in the message of Christianity to a world which is in great need of hope.

Go see “Catching Fire.” I hope it lights a spark within you to fight against the iniquities of injustice in our world. More importantly, I hope it brings you to the realization that the Christian message provides the most powerful hope to the world. The self-sacrifice of one Lord has provided endless hope for all nations, districts, and yes, even the Capitol.

Links

Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason.”

Check out my look at the themes in the book, “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins.

Christian Reflection on The Hunger Games Trilogy– I discuss the entire Hunger Games Trilogy, with a number of comments upon the themes and events found therein.

The Hunger Games Movie: A Christian Perspective– I wrote about the movie, “The Hunger Games” and provided some insight into what Christians may take away as talking points from the film.

Do you like The Hunger Games? Check out my evaluation of Ender’s Game both in movie and book form.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins- A Christian look at the book

catching-fire-collinsThe film version of Catching Fire is on the horizon (see my reflection on the movie), and as we approach the release, I thought it would be interesting to take a deeper look into the book. Here, I will consider some major themes in the work and their relation to Christian belief and practice. Check out some links at the end of the post for my other writings on the Hunger Games series. Be aware: there will be MAJOR SPOILERS in what follows.

Pragmatism 

Katniss Everdeen often seems to be trying to operate under the moral system known a ‘pragmatism’–the notion that we should do what works. Sometimes, she may even border on egoism–the notion that self-interest drives what is morally right and wrong. Very often, in her first person narrative, she comments on doing things because she has “no choice” or simply because it seems to be what other people want in order for her to survive. One example is when President Snow comes to visit her in order to coerce her into attempting to help quell the rebellions which seem on the verge of breaking out across Panem, the world of The Hunger Games series. Snow himself senses this drive for self-preservation that Katniss has, and he masterfully uses it to manipulate her to his ends.

However, Catching Fire does not leave Katniss alone. She is unable to consistently hold to the moral position that her inner dialogue seems to filter her choices through. In fact, her moral decisions, in practice, often reflect virtue types of ethical theories more than egoism. But she doesn’t always or even often seem to be aware of her own moral virtues. Suzanne Collins writes Katniss in such a way as to be a believable character: her moral choices are often messy.

Katniss is confronted by the inconsistency in her own moral system–that of seeming self-preservation over all–when she is confronted by two women refugees who are fleeing from the violence in their colony (see pages 134-150). Katniss reacts initially in a way which begs for self-preservation, prepared to defend herself by killing. But then, when she discovers the reality of the situation, she actually feeds the women, listens to their story, and believes that there may be hope. The pragmatist would have turned the women in as traitors; Katniss feeds them and sends them on their way, but not before fashioning a new crutch for the one who is injured and teaching them briefly about how to survive in the wild. Her moral reality is much more complex than she herself realized.

Human Moral Worth

Although the topic is only hinted at, Catching Fire poignantly portrays the horror of objectification of the human being. Finnick’s backstory–as one of the other people who is forced to go into the Hunger Games–gives disturbing insight into the objectification of humans and the grim realities of the negative effect it has on the people involved. Finnick Odair’s story is interesting, because he was one of the youngest people to “win” the hunger games. His good looks made him popular, despite his young age of fourteen. Thus, people kept sending him things to help him. Collins writes:

The Citizens of the Capitol have been drooling over him ever since [his victory].

Because of his youth, they couldn’t really touch him for the first year or two. But ever since he turned sixteen, he’s spent his time at the Games being dogged by those desperately in love with him… He can go through four or five in his annual visit. Old or young, lovely or plain, rich or very rich, he’ll keep them company… but he never stays, and once he’s gone he never comes back. (209)

The licentious people of the Capitol are confused. They value human beings as means for their own pleasure. Hence the absurd celebration and pomp and circumstance of the Hunger Games, which trivializes an event that is really the vicious killing of children. Moreover, they eagerly await a young man to get “old enough” for them to use his body for their own ends, paying him with gifts or secrets for the pleasure his body might give them. The book is not explicit in this regard; but the implication is there.

Reality Confronts Falsehood

In fact, it is the people of the Capitol who are the real egoists. They are self-obsessed to the point of egotism as opposed to mere egoism. Their moral code is that whatever satisfies them is right. Collins, in Catching Fire, gives us a long, hard look at ourselves. How easy would it be for us to fall into the same pattern of thinking as the people of the Capitol? The book is disturbing because of how close it is to home. Human trafficking is an increasing problem, even on our “home turf.” Yet people look the other way. Children are increasingly exploited, but again, only a few are crying out. 

Like the people of the Capitol, we are only concerned with ourselves. If something isn’t directly bothering us, we tend to ignore it. That’s an issue for someone else, after all.

But the real twist is President Snow. He and his cronies are in charge of preserving the illusion. He is in charge of maintaining the false reality. And in Catching Fire, Katniss finally starts to truly realize the extent of this evil. It is one thing to confront the evils going on around her; it is entirely another to confront those who are determined to keep the system in place which perpetuates the evil.

Conclusion

I am looking forward to “Catching Fire.” I am hopeful that it will, like “The Hunger Games,” preserve the raw emotion of the book and lead to a number of thought-provoking conversations. Catching Fire is a phenomenal work that ultimately confronts us with ourselves. It forces us to wonder: are we just as oblivious to the wrongs around us as the people in the Capitol?

Links

Christian Reflection on The Hunger Games Trilogy– I discuss the entire Hunger Games Trilogy, with a number of comments upon the themes and events found therein.

The Hunger Games Movie: A Christian Perspective– I wrote about the movie, “The Hunger Games” and provided some insight into what Christians may take away as talking points from the film.

Do you like The Hunger Games? Check out my evaluation of Ender’s Game both in movie and book form.

Source

Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire (New York: Scholastics, 2009).

The image is the cover of the book and the property of Scholastic Press.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

The Hunger Games Movie: A Christian Perspective

I saw The Hunger Games this weekend and wanted to share my thoughts.  There are spoilers here.

I’ve already written about the whole trilogy and my thoughts on talking points a Christian can take away from it, and the movie really brought to light a number of the things that I wrote about there. I’m not going to bother to summarize the movie here. Rather, I’m going to provide what I found to be some talking points that Christians can take away from the movie along with my general observations. At the end I include a brief note for parents who might be concerned with their children seeing the film. See also my look at “Catching Fire.”

Christian Talking Points

The movie portrays a world in which there is a stark contrast between those in power and those without it. District 12, whence Katniss Everdeen hails, is a bleak place. The imagery seen on screen evokes mental images of the Great Depression and the photography from that era. There are sad faces looking out the windows, people marching to the coal mines, and children playing with sticks in the mud because they have nothing else with which to play.

That contrasts starkly with the decadence of the Capitol. At the Capitol, the people spend their time on frivolity. They decorate themselves as much as they decorate the places around them. Their showers cover them with the scent of the day; they can bring up whatever pleasant imagery they would like on their screens; their food is the best; they do whatever they want.

The imagery throughout the movie portrays this stark contrast. The children themselves are called upon to battle to the death, yet everyone is congratulating them as though this is some great honor and opportunity. They are required to dress their best for the “reaping” in which the Capitol personnel select contestants who will fight in the arena. The people of the Capitol pack the stands to watch the introductions and interviews of the contestants; they cheer wildly for their favorites and root for those they choose. Yet the whole time the movie makes it clear there is something deeply wrong happening. How can these people be so excited, so utterly out-of-touch with reality, when children’s lives are at stake? 

The world of the Hunger Games is a commentary on our own. The world in which we live is one in which our greatest goal is comfort, yet their are children dying in our streets from starvation. This is not just far away, it is right in our own country. This is just one talking point for Christians and the Hunger Games: what is it that we should be doing to curb our own “capitol”-like tendencies?

Yet it seems like that alone doesn’t take it far enough. The film also portrays clearly the level to which people deceive themselves about right and wrong. There is a struggle in the movie (and the books) that goes beyond the strangeness of the contrast between the districts and the Capitol. The struggle is a fight over what is right and wrong. The society of the Capitol has relativized morality. They have decided that might makes right and that their comfort is the greatest good. Yet the entire movie gives imagery to that view and one can’t help but notice the feeling that something is just wrong throughout the film. How is it these people who are living lives of such great comfort are so oblivious? The meaning is subtle, but it is throughout the whole movie: there simply is something wrong, and it is the dismissive attitude with which people treat right and wrong when it comes to their own comfort and desires.

It is telling that President Snow comments on the reason the Hunger Games have a winner is in order to give hope, but “too much hope” is a bad thing. As the leader of the Capitol, Snow realizes the power of hope and how it can work even better than fear to control the masses. As long as he provides the districts with hope, he has them in control. But if they get too much hope, they will break, and the cracks start to show near the end of the movie.

The Hunger Games, I think, provide a stunning critique of our society. We live in the Capitol; we exist in a society which relativizes morality for its own convenience. And when we are presented with it in our face, when the imagery of a film like The Hunger Games shows us the very kind of decadence and futility which we so often celebrate, we are repulsed. The wrongness of the situation comes to the forefront and we must act.

Christians, I think, have much to take away from the movie (and books). We know that there is wrong in the world, and we know the dangers of comfort and futility–we are warned of these things in our Scriptures. The Christian path is one which fights against this futility and points to the one true Hope: that of our savior.

A Word to Parents

This is not a film for children. It is rated PG-13 and I think could very easily have been R. Children are killing each other. The film is, however, I think appropriate for teenagers, and parents who keep in mind some of the talking points listed above could utilize the film as a way to discuss some of the very real world issues it hints at.

Links

Check out the Christianity Today review of the movie.

For those concerned with whether Christians can/should use movies like this to interact with the culture, check out my post on “Engaging Culture” with movies.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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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