There seems to be a furor developing over Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. Take a controversial topic, write a book…or three…and suddenly, everybody is a critic. In spite of the trilogy’s extreme popularity with young people, the reviews I have seen, without actually going looking for reviews, are condemning. I wonder why. The topic is controversial, but it’s not as though these characters chose to be in the situation their government throws them into.
Collins’s intent was to illustrate the ill effects of war on children. I don’t think that’s a bad concept. In spite of some major differences, I can compare the first book in the trilogy to a well-known short story that was first published in Collier’s Weekly, in 1924. The Most Dangerous Game, required reading for an English course in at least one major Christian college, pits one hunter against another, who is jaded, and bored with hunting animals. Rainsford, a famous hunter himself, is invited to join General Zaroff in a hunt, using sailors who have shipwrecked on Zaroff’s island, as prey. He refuses, choosing, instead, to become the prey, himself. Parallel this to Katniss Everdeen volunteering as “tribute” in place of her little sister (who would have died immediately in the games). Knowing it will almost certainly result in her own death, Katniss volunteers in Prim’s place, when Prim’s name is drawn at the “reaping”. She did it to save her sister’s life. No one can argue the virtue in that.
As a Christian, any law that a government makes, that goes against the law of God, I am to disobey. So, if I were Katniss, I would have run away, or not shown up for the reaping. I would have rebelled, refused to cooperate.
Katniss, on the other hand, uses her forced-volunteer participation as a platform to fight the capitol, and Snow, the president of Panem, the antagonist in the books. But you won’t understand this from seeing the movie. And only if you read all three books will you really see where her own little poison-berry rebellion was leading.
If you allow your teenagers to read these books (they definitely aren’t for young children), you should read them as well. Then ask them, “What would you do if you were in this situation? How would you have written this book? How would you change the story line?”
But if you keep every book with any form of violence or anything “bad” from your older kids, how will they know that there really are bad people in this world? That there really are governments that become overbearing and destructive to their own populations? (I might point a few fingers here, but I’ll refrain.) And that there really are people who will hunt down and kill other human beings just for sport? If children are raised with nothing to read but books that are all sweetness and light, how will they know what to do when they are thrown out into the real world? When Mom and Dad are no longer around to defend them, and tell them how to react, how will they react?
My guess is they will become victims…or imagine themselves to be. And isn’t that a bit too close to the mentality that is prevalent today?