Category Archives: The Hunger Games
So I finished Catching Fire in less than a week. I was pretty much hooked the whole time. I was loving the new twists and everything that was happening. I got to the end and I immediately sought out Mockingjay. I had to know what happened.
Within the first couple of pages, I was seething with disappointment. Characters that had been developed and where growing and changing and had dimensions were suddenly flat or worse, acting out of character. I know that I dislike Katniss but this was different.
This is the tension between author and narration. The question I keep asking myself is, does a particular section in the story bother me because Katniss is a flawed narrator or is the blame on bad writing? And I am not sure I had an answer for the first two books. Perhaps that is why those books intrigued me. But as I read Mockingjay, all I could see was bad writing and regression in character development.
I know Katniss is a flawed narrator. It has been argued that this is sort of the point. We get the world from her limited perspective and we feel how she views events. She is an emotional, traumatized young woman, whose emotions and affections are being manipulated by nearly everyone around her. Being stuck in her mind is a reflection on how she feels about it all – stuck, with no escape. I get this, however, I think I just want a little be more. At first it was I wanted more of the world that Collins had created. She gave it to me in Catching Fire. But as I started reading Mockingjay, everything that I was looking forward to – the continued development of Katniss, Haymitch and Finnick, the details of District 13 – were lacking in something…
Collins has a fantastic world, the political intrigue, the spying, the spectacular that veils the truth about the Capitol and its relationship with the Districts, all of it is a network of complicated plots that we only get glimpses of from Katniss’s flawed point of view. But I find Katniss’s lack of introspection disturbing. (A problem I have with first person present tense…see my rant on the Hunger Games) This is also a flaw within Katniss’s character. She is not one to think things through…she is a reactionary. She does what she needs to do to survive. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. But every time Katniss has the time to think about things the story skips ahead. Katniss never lets the characters around her explain events nor does she ask any questions to get the answers she demands.
Two of the most intreguing characters are Haymitch and Finnick. Their roles in making the diversion to rescue Katniss in Catching Fire was the highlight of that second book. But what I saw in Mockingjay were two characters who didn’t know how to cope or survive. Haymitch was always a little cryptic and selfish, became even more so, which makes his rescue and everything that we hear about him doing to save Katniss and even Peeta seem unreal and contrary to his nature. He was apparently friends with the other champions but he is not friendly nor supporting in anyway. Granted this is partially because we are getting the story from Katniss’s perspective but I cannot help be feel like there is something lacking in Haymitch as a whole character that is lacking and this has nothing to do with Katniss’s perspective. Haymitch’s development is not consistent with his behavior or his expereinces.
Finnick – smart, suave, and immutable Finnick – becomes an emotional wreck. He has been for years living lies, preying on emotions and letting nothing phase him. Nothing happened in the arena that he hadn’t thought could happen. He is one of the conspirators. He was in on it from the beginning. He knew the cost. He knew what he was risking and yet, his response to salvation is not what I’d expected from him. He turned into a mess – worse than Katniss. And believe me that is saying something. Finnick spends more time in a drugged stupor or moping about the lose of his love than it took for Peeta recover from his drugged torture and emotional manipulation. Finnick should have been a strong character. I say this not because that is the sort of character I wanted, but because that is the character that Collins created in Catching Fire. The character we see in Mockingjay is weak and damaged. Ok, anyone who goes through the arena and survives is damaged, but this is different. He has lived, survived in the world and made something of himself, District 13 should have been a place where he’d continue his noble goal of saving those he loved. Instead he quivers in a corner, drugged and emotional. Once again this has nothing to do with Katniss telling the story, it has everything to do with the author and how she is portraying her characters.
Another interesting complaint that I personally did not have but many of the fans did, was the death of Prim. They all thought that it was out of place and they were disappointed by the lack of time spent on that scene. Collins doesn’t spend a lot of time on the many deaths that take place in her books. There is only one that stands out to me and that is Rue. Little Rue was/is the only character that Katniss actually is seen mourning in a real way. That scene is heart-wrenching. Prim is another character that Katniss should mourn and do so in a real, tangible way. Instead we see her drugged, in a stupor, and angry. But there is no memorial, no show from Katniss of her grief. Once again the readers are left disappointed not by Katniss’s limited perspective but by Collins who did not articulate the events. She left us wanting more, more out of Katniss, more out of the world.
I will say this, I was surprised by the ending. I did not expect Katniss to shoot a particular character in the end. I found that poetic.
I really could go on…but I don’t have the time. Needless to say I was disappointed. Everything I was looking forward to were less than stellar and I was left wanting more. Collins left me wanting more, more out of Katniss, more out of the world.
Do I still recommend the books? Yes…but be warned…you’ll be disappointed with Mockingjay.
Review: HUNGER GAMES (Spoiler Alert)
I have not read the books, so this is only about the movie. When I saw the trailers, I thought, “Why would anyone want to expose himself to two straight hours of ‘reality TV?’ I can’t even stand thirty minutes of it.” But then I noticed that people I respect were crazy about the books, so I decided to give it a shot.
It was a good decision.
Every single element in Hunger Games is derivative, but the combination manages to be original. It is Survivor meets The Fifth Element meets “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” meets a medieval morality play meets 1984. Surprisingly, it works.
Some Christian reviewers have complained about the violence or about the inherently compromising morality of the premise: our heroine is in a game where the only way to survive is to murder other people. But the violence is not glorified and the immoral premise is not praised; rather a society that accepts the murder of children as (A) entertainment and (B) the price of peace is held up to critique. You get a nice opportunity to ponder the shallow manipulations of media while you’re at it.
Ironically, the moral ambiguity of the ending is the very thing that makes the story disturbing (in a potentially productive way) and profound. Katniss and her friend from District 12 are the last two combatants left. They have managed to do their necessary killing in self defense, and they have wanted somehow to make it through the games with their integrity intact—not to be turned into someone else by the experience. Now one of them must kill the other, but this they refuse to do. So they make a mutual suicide pact: they will eat poisoned berries and both die rather than give the media circus they have been part of the winner (on its own terms) that it desperately wants. It would have been a striking act of protest against the immorality of the whole affair. But at the last minute, the judges decide to accept two winners: they both get to live! Stunned, they accept this offer before they realize what it means. And that is what makes the story more than just another violent action flick.
Here’s the problem: they have been given life, but by accepting it, they have put themselves in the position of having to live it on the game’s terms. Words are put in their mouths by the slick announcer who interviews them afterwards. Instead of making the suicide pact because they refused to murder a friend, they are portrayed as having made it because they were in love and could not face life without each other. They are confused and dazzled by what has happened to them. They hardly realize that they are probably going to live to wish they had eaten those berries. They are just kids who were offered life in a moment of sudden choice. Who could blame them for taking it? Yet by doing so they have suffered the very fate they had wanted to avoid: loss of identity. Their lives will now be scripted according to the roles created for them by the media. When they smile at the crowd and raised their hands together, I suffered a chill I have not felt since Winston realizes at last that he loves Big Brother.
This is a story, not a sermon. It raises questions to which it may not have answers. But they are questions that desperately need to be asked, and especially by contemporary Americans. What do you do when you dwell in a society that lives by the murder of innocents? How do you maintain your integrity in a society whose major mode of operation is the manipulation of images? If Hunger Games just makes you less comfortable with living without the answers, it will have performed a very useful service.
Donald T. Williams, PhD
Order Dr. Williams’ books Stars through the Clouds ($15.00) or Reflections from Plato’s Cave ($15.00) at https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.