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Alexander Vassiliadis

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'The Hunger Games': A Commentary on Society

Posted: 03/29/2012 9:14 am

Many book critiques today would agree with the assumption that The Hunger Games is more than just a story about two young heroes that face various challenges and eventually fall in love. It can be obviously recognized that The Hunger Games as a novel is Suzanne Collins's successful commentary on modern-day society.

Florida State University's English Department seems to have caught on quickly, as they're already analyzing the dystopian world that is Panem, the makeup of all the districts in the universe of The Hunger Games. Although it is not immediately apparent, the plot that Collins has magnificently crafted within this trilogy provides a critique of various aspects of culture through its depiction of "The Capitol" and the reality show within the novel that is "The Hunger Games." Some of these aspects include the obsession with outer beauty, obsession with reality television, and of course, wealth versus poverty. The people of the Capitol, the richest of the districts within the book, are depicted as shallow people who care only about themselves, how they look and what they wear. Collins uses literary imagery that appeals to the creativity of the reader and is able to create a distinct image of the people within the Capitol. The result is revolting. Collins may be trying to take these same feelings and maybe hint at the possibility of associating them with the high-class politicians of today's age.

The Hunger Games take the concept of "reality TV" and successfully blows it up in society's face. The book depicts a culture whose most epic form of entertainment is watching teenagers brutally kill each other. What is Collins trying to tell us? Are we blind to the very fact that our entertainment today is elevating due to popular demand, and soon we won't have control? Shows like Fear Factor and Ninja Warrior are only primitive examples of violent, revolting, and action-based reality TV. People need to take a step back and realize that if these types of exaggerated media were to evolve into something bigger and a bit more ludicrous -- based on historical data showing the magnitude of violence in films and video games today -- who says that a reality TV show in which kids come together and fight to the death is really out of modern-day society's reach?

"In a way, the Hunger Games are a portrayal of reality TV," says British School of Chicago freshman Drew Pearson. "I think it's meant to symbolize random people being chosen for the audience's amusement, and they can be exploited or praised for their qualities, be it physical, mental, or emotional."

Some teens find obvious links between the event of the Hunger Games and events in the present or in history, not just reality TV.

"I guess I would compare it to the war of the flowers in Tenochtitlan at the time of the Aztecs," says Frani O'Toole, freshman. "They would choose tributes from the different tribes to compete and it was all intended to make the rest of the tribes follow the Aztecs."

Although some teenagers agree with the views presented in the book, others may not fully understand the points being made.

"I think that kids don't realize it because they're caught up in the fantasy and plot, but after the first read, they begin to question it," says Isabel Gilles, junior at Fremd High School.

Still others disagree and instead believe that readers who are interested enough can spot the book's underlying messages.

"I think that the message is not missed on the audience of a certain age," says Francis W. Parker freshman Molly McGaan. "Obviously, my eight-year-old brother didn't get that message when he read them, but a teen or adult can pick up on it pretty easily."

The Hunger Games trilogy is an exciting collection of books and a story that will have the reader hooked. But next time you open up one of the books, do me a favor and try to pick out the messages displayed between the lines. Suzanne Collins' trilogy may be compared to 1984 by George Orwell or even Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. People should wake up to the inevitable messages being screamed out from within. People of this generation hopefully will not accept and embrace the monster that society is slowly turning into. That is one thing we don't want.