Sunday, May 11, 2014

Rereading all of blogs, I was surprised to see how much this class really made me think. I have always loved The Hunger Games very much, but never saw them as more than a fun, young adult series. After going through this course, I can now appreciate more acutely the thought provoking nature of this fantastic trilogy. This course was not about The Hunger Games though, despite its title. This course was about everything, from the nature of evil, to gender relations, to music, to religion and everything in between. When a speaker came into our class, they very rarely bothered to relate their topic to the series which sparked this unique SIS, instead allowing the importance of their lesson to justify itself, and leaving the textual analysis to us. This, I think, is my favorite part of The Hunger Games, the fact that these books can be connected to almost anything. The challenging aspects of the course were learning to look deeper into the text and see the broad range of related lessons. My blogs were a great way to make the connections between each speaker and The Hunger Games and looking back on them I'm really happy with the way that I have progressed in my critical analysis of the text. I do not think I spent as much time on the readings as I could have, however I do not feel that this negatively impacted my experience because the most interesting and helpful aspects of the course for me were the speakers and the discussions. Discussing the books with my classmates really helped me develop my thoughts on the subject matter and I enjoyed it a lot.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Nature of Evil

Evil is something which is extremely hard to define, due to the duality of human nature. Little to nothing in life is black and white, and all people are a mixture of good and bad, making it very hard to classify someone as "evil". Instead, it is easier to look at acts as evil, and then judge people by a collection of their actions. Several theories exist within philosophy to define the nature of evil, each of which, in my opinion, hold a part of the truth. One of the theories said to treat others as they wanted to be treated, in order to best respect their own humanity. I agree with this in theory, however when it comes to practice it is impossible, since every person can not be treated exactly as they want to be. Another theory was the idea of doing the least harm, meaning that the right choice was the one which helped the most people, even if that meant hurting some. Again, this theory has good qualities, but in practice it dehumanizes people and ignores the fact that everyone has a right to be treated equally. To me, being good means combining these in a way that tries to make choices which will help the most people out, but also respects everyone and treats each individual fairly. Going by this, that means that evil is when a person is dehumanized, treated poorly, or a decision is made that purposely harms a group of people. When comes face to face with evil, they have to make a choice. The easy one is usually to do nothing, and let it continue, but the right choice is to say something and stop evil from spreading. The nature of evil is that, when left unchecked, it will always grow, and it will always continue to harm people. By speaking up, each person can help in the fight against evil. Hearing from a real holocaust survivor helped put into perspective how important it is to speak up, even about the smallest things. Hitler did not start out by killing millions of people, he started with small, dehumanizing acts of discrimination, which snowballed into an unfathomable atrocity. This happened because people allowed it to by sitting quietly and watching. As Mr. Sztajer said, evil is a cancer which must be taken out piece by piece. Evil to me is not only just doing the acts yourself, but also allowing them to continue unchallenged. Good people have to think about and respect others, try to do the most good, and actively stand up against others who are doing evil.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

End of the World and Apocolypticism

Do I believe in the end of the world? That is a difficult question for me to answer, since I feel very unsure about the answer. My fearful side wants to say no, the world can never end, and we are all safe. However, rationally, I understand that many things could bring about at the very least an end to the world as we know it. In my opinion, the most likely cause of the world's end would be use of nuclear bombs, because I believe that if a single one was set off it would cause a chain reaction leading to full on nuclear warfare, and the death of huge amounts, if not all, of the world's population.

With all this being said, I do not believe almost any of the common end of the world "prophecies", which are constantly circulating through society. Part of this is probably because many, although not all, apocalyptic theories are centered around religion, and I am not a religious individual. This brings me to the difference between apocalypticism and millennialism. Apocalypticism means that it is a theory which centers around some sort of divine intervention, while millennialism is a more broad term which can cover secular ideas as well. Millennialsim has seven branches that were discussed by Dr. Krebs, and of these five I find two to be somewhat believable. The first of these is the progressive view, which says that a new world order may come about with out the catastrophe. Essentially, this is a political theory which focuses on the way that new, better political regimes can be put in place with out some kind of horrible destruction. This theory appeals to me because it eliminates the more fantastical elements of catastrophe, leaving behind real people making the world better. An example of this would be true communism, which has never been practiced in the world.

The second theory is the environmental one, which says that the breakdown of the environment will lead to the destruction of the Earth. As a believer in global warming, this theory definitely speaks to me. We are constantly polluting the environment, and I definitely believe that people need to be more cautious about what kind of world we leave for the next generations. However, I do not believe that this will ever come true during my lifetime, but instead will be something that might occur hundreds of years from now.

Overall, while I do find apocalyptic theories to be very interesting, I do not think that they are particularly realistic or have any real benefit to society.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Extra Post: Children of Men

The Hunger Games and Children of Men share a lot of common themes, as well as a similar overarching message. Both these stories are dystopian, telling about a world where something has gone crucially wrong and society has fallen into a bleak, anti-utopian, state. They also share the commonality of having a conflict centered around children, albeit in very different ways. Children of Men's dystopian conditions are caused by the loss of fertility in all humans, leading to war, chaos and panic all around. This idea of lost fertility is very similar to the plot of The Handmaiden's Tale, another famous dystopian novel. In the movie, the only government left is in Britain, but it has become a cruel dictatorship to cope with the chaotic society. Another group has also risen up, a rebel group called the fishes, who kidnap the main character to supposedly smuggle the only pregnant woman on Earth into Britain. One parallel between this movie and The Hunger Games is the presence of both an oppressive government, and a rebel group, with the similarity getting stronger when it is revealed that the rebel groups in both stories are corrupt and using others to serve their own purposes. Theo in some ways parallels Katniss, for the fact that he is taken from the government, deceived by the rebel group, and eventually realizes both are corrupt and works for what is right. In the same way that Katniss kills Coin in Mockingjay, Theo refuses to allow the new baby to be used for the revolution and instead delivers Kee to the "Tomorrow" group.

"The Hero's Journey" in The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games follows a lot of the traditional "Hero's journey" characterisics, while also deviating in several interesting ways. Typical hero's journey tend to have these steps in them; the call to adventure, the refusal of the call, the meeting with the mentor, the crossing of the threshold, challenges and temptations, the belly of the whale, transformation, and the return.

File:Heroesjourney.svgKatniss is obviously the hero in The Hunger Games and therefore the similarities can be seen through her own journey. Very clearly, Katniss's call to adventure is Prim's name being called in the reaping. This moment begins her journey through death, revolution, and knowledge of the greater world. Refusal of the call is less easy to pinpoint, but it could be said that she refuses the call somewhat by not allowing Prim to take any tesserae, instead hunting extra so Prim will be safer. However, Katniss is very ready to take the place of her sister, and rises up to the call for heroics. Once in the Capitol, Katniss crosses the threshold into the new world, officially beginning the transformation step of the journey. Haymitch plays the role of an older mentor, by training Katniss, as well as sending gifts to her in the arena. Challenges and temptations occur constantly while in the arena, as the hero struggles to defend herself, maintain her morals, decide who is a friend and who is enemy, and make all the decisions which a life or death situation demand.

Being in this terrible situation really transforms Katniss into a new, more aware person. Before going into the games, Katniss was a sort of quiet rebel, who only did what was necessary to keep herself going. Through the brutality, Katniss transforms into the beginnings of the mockingjay, the rebels leader. The other books of the series show her return home, as well as her teaching her new knowledge to others, completing the cycle of the hero's journey. One of the big deviations was the lack of supernatural aid, as The Hunger Games does not have any kind of supernatural component, only futuristic ones. Another change is the lack of the goddess figure along Katniss's journey.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Extra Credit Blog: Leadership Qualities and Different Leadership Roles

Different backgrounds can produce very different types of leaders. These leaders will in turn use greatly differing techniques to control the population, with varying degrees of success. In the Hunger Games we see several different types of leaders, from a totalitarian dictator, to a president who, while using democracy as a front, uses duplicitous means to stay in power, to a revolutionary war hero who is thrust into power against her will. So what makes each of these leaders the way they are? By looking at how they rose to power you can forsee what type of leader they will be.
President Snow started out by using deception and force to gain his position as president. In order to crush political enemies, president Snow would poison himself and others, and then take an antidote to save himself. While this plan was successful it left him with permanent scars, both mental and physical.The sores in his mouth were nothing compared to the paranoia which plagued Snow after rising to power in such a brutal way. Between his history of violence, and his fear of being overthrown, it is no surprise that Snow turned into a harsh, strict leader. In order to squash any uprisings before they even began Snow ruled with an iron fist, restricting freedoms of speech, assembly, press and the works. Snow also used propaganda and fear, the biggest of these being the hunger games.
In a completely different society, President Coin rose to power democratically, through her own merit. This following of the rules can help in predicting her leadership style, which is generally pretty fair. However Coin also came to power in a desperate time, when people were looking for someone to create order in a chaotic society. As a direct result of this, Coin is a very direct ruler who does not tolerate any kind of dissent or flaunting over authority. Her type of power is a sort of mix between actual democratic rule, and the authoritarian style of Snow. When unchallenged, Coin is able to stay fair, but as soon as someone causes her to feel threatened, Coin begins to use deception to maintain her position. Coin's leadership style is influenced by the unstable society she lives in, causing her to be harsher and more paranoid.
Differing greatly from the other two leaders, Katniss is someone who never sought out power. Instead, she is a fiercely independent war hero, who had power thrust upon her by desperate people looking for help. Katniss lives in a world where she is constantly lied to, which makes her value the truth more than anything. This quality is shown in her leadership, as she is very careful to always spread the truth. She also gains a great respect for life from all the violence she sees in the hunger games, which makes her wary to commit the terrible acts which the other leaders are willing to do.
With such different upbringings it is no surprise that these leaders have such vastly different leadership styles. The history and life lessons learned throughout their lives teach them the "correct" way to lead. It is really only through the wisdom of different life lessons that great leaders can be made.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gender Relations and Romance

Anyone who has read more than a few chapters of Hunger Games will pick on one fact quickly, Katniss is not your average "damsel in distress" female character. In fact, she seems to take on some almost masculine qualities through her actions in the books. So why is this? Katniss is beautiful, she has relationships with men, and she has many physically feminine qualities. So why then does Katniss get labeled as masculine by readers, and so quickly? The answer is that Katniss challenges gender relations by taking on the role of fighter or protector, while allowing Peeta to take on the role of nurturer.
Within our society we have learned certain social expectations for each gender, and therefore have associated different roles with femininity or masculinity. In Western cultures, women are seen as softer, more gentle people, therefore being given the roles of nurturer. Men are in turn seen as the strong, more emotionally stable ones, and in turn as generally expected to be the protector, the bread winner, and the fighter. As much as many people may reject these roles and choose to pursue paths outside of gender stereotypes, there remains an almost universal knowledge of their resistance. This is what makes Katniss stand out so much, especially with Peeta present as a foil to her.
Even before the games start, Katniss presents a masculine air by acting as the provider for her family through hunting. At this point though Gale is still there to prevent a very stereotypically "manly" image, which makes Katniss's actions less noticable. Once entering the games, Katniss immediately goes into survival mode, hunting, killing, fighting, and ruthlessly surviving. When Peeta is injured, Katniss is hopeless at the feminine aspects of caring for him, such as medicine, but excells in the physical protection. She shows a violence, and a willingness to fight which is seen as very masculine.
Peeta acts as an excellent contrast to Katniss, as he has almost the exact opposite characteristics. His feminine actions begin with his sacrificing himself for Katniss, as the act of self sacrifice in a non-combative situation is generally considered a female quality. Once in the cave, Peeta begins to rely on Katniss for everything from food, to shelter, to actual protection from enemies. His passivity, and reliance upon another cast him in a very feminine light. Essentially, Peeta and Katniss have switched traditional gender roles. The Hunger Games still contains the usual boy saves girl and then they fall in love motif, it simply changes it to girl saves boy. The series does not break any new ground as far as the development of romance, it simply switches up the genders, and in doing so questions the whole system of gender relations.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Music in The Hunger Games

Music and dance play an important role in The Hunger Games from the very beginning by giving the people something to be happy about, a medium to express their feelings through, and an opportunity to get closer to each other. Some of the first touching moments of the books are Katniss reminiscing about her fathers singing, and how he passed those songs onto her. Not only does this reflect the important role that singing played in Katniss's childhood, it also mirrors the traditions of Appalachia, where folk songs are passed by word of mouth through generations. Later in the first book Katniss sings a lullaby to Rue as she dies, comforting Rue in her final moments.
Video of Katniss Singing to Rue
Katniss(left) and Rue(right)

 This scene shows some of the song culture of Appalachia in the use of a lullaby, as this would probably be a song shared by the community, and learned at a young age by the children who it comforted. It also shows the way music can be both sweet, moving, and provocative by using it to comfort Rue, mourn her death, and protest the brutality of the capitol by highlighting the Rue's innocence, humanity, and the wrongness of ending her life. Katniss sings this song, and with it reminds thousands that Rue was a little girl, who did not deserve to be murdered. With such a simple gesture, Katniss speaks volumes, and begins her role as the Mockingjay.
Music has an amazing way of sparking feelings in people, which is why it is such an effective tool for the revolution in The Hunger Games. The song, the Hanging Tree, is banned by the capitol for raising too many difficult questions, but the revolution manages to get it back out in the open in a propos video. This is an effective tool because songs are a break from listening to song random guy tell you why he's right. Music is different, its not partial in the same way that statements are, and it stays on the mind, pulling up emotions for days to come.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Favorite Book!

What is my favorite book in the Hunger Games series...that is an extremely difficult question to answer! The answer is changes with my mood, and honestly can be different week to week. However, because I am at the advantage of having just re-read the series, I feel ready to take a stab at answering it. The easiest way for me to start is by eliminating Catching Fire, my least favorite of the series. There are several reasons why this book didn't capture me as much as the others, the strongest probably being the way the hunger games were written. During the arena scenes everything seems a little rushed, even forced at times, with out a great amount of detail given to the different characters deaths. I also did not enjoy the rapid change of pace between the easy going first half and the intensely violent second half.
Now my choice gets even more difficult. With great difficulty, I must eliminate Mockingjay from the running next. My reason for this is very much the same as my reason for eliminating Catching Fire, it was just too rushed. I loved the realism of this book, with Katniss's deteriorating mental state, as well as the raw violence of the war, yet I was left wanting more. When everything is resolved at the end it seems sort of pulled out of a hat, with no appropriate build up or after explanation. Once the "star squad" get to the capitol, things begin accelerating quickly, but no always in a way that seems logical. The deaths of characters add to the realism, as well as the dystopian feel which I enjoy, but we are not given enough time to process or mourn. All of this leads me to say that The Hunger Games is my favorite book of the trilogy.
My favorite part of the first book was the balance of the writing. Collins really thought this book out well, and every part got, in my opinion, the appropriate amount of time and detail. Starting in the districts, a good, yet now drawn out, picture of the suffering there is painted for readers. By telling about Katniss's father, the hunger games, Gale's family, the poverty, and other hardships you are able to gain a look into the world of suffering. Then, before this can become too tedious, Collins slaps you with the shock of the Hunger Games, and whisks the readers into a land of decadence and intrigue. But not for too long, for readers are soon dropped once more into a new world, this time the violent, suspenseful land of the arena. These interesting twists and turns kept me waiting, with out feeling as though the book was disjointed or jarring. The characters are also in my favorite mind sets at this point in the series, and go down hill quickly after. Katniss is the best example of this, as she is still her fiesty, lively self during this point. The games really take a lot out of Katniss, sparking severe PTSD symptoms. This in turn effects her relationship with Peeta later on, an upsetting turn of events for me as I am support their relationship. But in this book, Katniss is just herself. She's fighting the man and she's full of strength and life. Peeta loves her freely and openly in a way that he can scarcely ever get back to and despite her denials Katniss really begins to fall for him. They are both teenagers who have been touched by tragedy but not yet lost that touch of innocence which makes them so lovable.

Peeta and Katniss together for training

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Catching Fire: Movie v. Book

Although the Catching Fire movie was a wonderful, exciting film, it was also in many ways a gross oversimplification of the book. The most exciting parts of the book were largely depicted in the movie representation, but the small details which build the characters and give meaning to the revolution are left out. My first complaint about the Catching Fire movie was the fact that it went too fast! A reader will go through the entire first third of the book with out more than a brief mentioning of the upcoming hunger games, yet in the movie they jump right into the violent action. This means leaving out crucial details such as Katniss's meeting with Bonnie and Twill in the woods. Bonnie and Twill are runaways from District Eight who are attempting to make their way to District Thirteen. These girls believe that there are people living underground in District Thirteen, left alone because they had nuclear weapons during the dark days. They tell Katniss about the footage of the mockingjay in District Thirteen which is constantly recycled, sparking the suspicion that perhaps the footage is being reused and there really are rebels living there. This leads me to the fact that District Thirteen is scarcely discussed until the end of the movie, even though Katniss spends a large part of the book obsessing over news footage, trying to figure out if there really is hope of a safe haven.
On a different note, the film overlooks the development of Peeta and Katniss's love, choosing instead to show Gale more frequently. In the actual text, many sweet moments are shown, such as Katniss and Peeta adding to the plant book together for weeks. All these small details justify the later development of Katniss and Peeta, but because the movie wanted to play up the love triangle, they chose to play up the infrequent encounters with Gale. When Katniss broke her heel in the book, Peeta carried her down the stairs every day for weeks, in addition to keeping her company during the day, yet this is never mentioned. In fact, the whole incident where Katniss breaks her heel is left out, which is a crucial part of showing how bad the situations in the districts have become. In district twelve, the new head peacekeeper Thread cracks down on all district activities, including illegal hunting. Katniss breaks her foot because Thread finds out she is in the woods and sends electricity to the fence to strand her. Katniss is then forced to climb a tree a jump over it, breaking her heel. Worse than the electricity in the fence are the public whippings, which are shown only once, inaccurately, in the movie. Gale's whipping is shown in the movie, but in the version he is whipped because he attacks the head peacekeeper, which seems almost justifiable. In the book though, the whipping of over forty lashes is caused simply because he was in possession of a wild turkey which he claimed he had found inside the fence. All attacks from the peacekeepers are barely provoked, which could definitely have been shown better. Over all, the movie was a fun film which I really enjoyed, but not a particularly accurate representation of the book.
Gale being whipped in District 12
Katniss and Peeta spark rebellion in District 11

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Post 3: Movie vs. Film

The Hunger Games movie was, in many ways, a very accurate portrayal of the book. However, there were certain key plot points left out, which I will be enumerating in this post. I am the first to admit that I can be a nit-picker when it comes to movies about my favorite books, but this is only because I believe that the small details of books often carry the most meaningful messages. One of the most important differences, in my opinion, is the state of Peeta at the end of the book. In the film, Peeta is completely uninjured when the game makers rescind the rule allowing two tributes to win. Both he, and Katniss, are in perfect health, and therefore it would take deliberate action on the part of one of them to end the others life and win the game. This is not, however, how Suzanne Collins wrote this scene. In the book, Peeta has been badly cut on the leg by one of the mutts, to the point where Katniss has had to apply a tourniquet. When the rule change is declared, Peeta rips of his bandages and begins to bleed to death. Although this may seem like a small difference, it means so much, because it means all Katniss would have had to do was wait passively for a few moments to be declared victor. This passive action would have been so much easier to do than actually fighting and killing Peeta, making her choice to pull the berries out significantly more striking in the books. Katniss essentially said, in the books, that she would rather risk dying than allow Peeta to die alone, even if all she had to do was sit and wait. Another difference that stuck out to me in the movie, was the fact that Katniss did not have to knock Peeta out with sleeping serum to go to the feast and retrieve his medicine. In the books, it is clear that Peeta will do literally anything to stop Katniss from leaving their safe little bubble, even if this means completely sacrificing himself. The only possible way that Katniss can leave with out being followed is to use the sleeping serum Haymitch sends to knock Peeta unconscious. By omitting this part in the movie, the depth of Peeta's love and sacrifice is underplayed. By choosing not to put an emphasis on his willingness to die, the producers take away from the purity of Peeta's love for Katniss. Although these differenes may seem small to some, to me they make a world of difference. Only by really paying attention to the smallest details in books can the reader get the full depth of the characters feelings.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Post 2: Parallels Between Hunger Games and Gladiators

Many parallels exist between the Hunger Games and Roman gladitorial combat. The first, and in my opinion most obvious, one is the fact that both of these events were done with the purpose of entertainment. However much we may deny it, human nature is drawn towards gore and violence in some way. This fascination is why horror movies are so popular, as well as why books such as the Hunger Games become best sellers. Actual live combat to the death is, of course, goes far beyond what the majority of people want to see, yet there was a time in history when this was considered a form of entertainment, and the Hunger Games mirrors that idea of exploiting a natural fascination with gore in order to control the masses. This idea of both the gladiator games, and the Hunger Games "taking it too far" brings me to the next parallel, which is the use of dehumanization. For the Gladiators of Rome, they used prisoners, slaves, and people who had been raised from an early age to fight in the arenas. By doing this, the rulers created a disconnection between the people and the gladiators, stopping the average citizen from feeling despair at the death of a gladiator. Gladiators were also treated as though what they were doing was an honor, or even a privellage, and are lavished with rewards if they succeed. In the case of the Hunger Games, the people picked are also treated as though they've been given an honor by being chosen, as it is a chance to greatly improve their life if they can overcome the other tributes. Tributes are never chosen from Capitial citzens, who are the audience of the Hunger Games, so they seems foreign and different. It is harder for the onlookers to empathize with those who are both forced to act like they're happy about their terrible fate, and who are from a completely different world than the onlookers. In order to keep any time of combat games entertaining instead of gruesome, it is crucial that the rulers create this level of separation, so the violence is viewed as acceptable. Tied in with the dehumanization aspect is the parallel of giving prizes to the winner, which keeps up the feeling of this being a contest which some one might want to participate in. For the gladiators, they could win great sums of money which would allow them many luxuries, and even their freedom from being a gladiator. In the Hunger Games, tributes win money, better housing, and gifts for their entire community.
Looking at all these similarities, a definite connection can be seen between the Roman gladiators and the Hunger Games. By basing the books off of a real historical event, Suzanne Collins really emphasized the violence of human nature, and provided what seemed to be almost a warning about allowing ourselves to lose empathy for other people.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Post 1: Favorite Hunger Games Character

I chose to take this course, The Wonderful World of the Hunger Games, for a number of reasons. The primary reason is that I am a huge nerd for dystopian literature! This includes classics such as 1984 and Lord of the Flies, as well as newer books such as the Chemical Garden Trilogy, the Divergent series, and of course, the Hunger Games (If you haven't read any of these, I strongly recommend all of them)! Another reasons why I took this course is because I really enjoy getting to discuss books. Reading is something I'm passionate about, so its always nice to get to hear another person's perspective on a book, sometimes the most amazing insights come from totally random conversations! My final reason is of course that I needed an honors credit, which was, admittedly a factor, although it acted as more of the cherry on top of an excellent course. In this course I am hoping to achieve a better understanding of dystopian literature in general, as well as a new perspective on some of the themes and literary elements used in the Hunger Games. Overall, what I want most is to get a chance to have good discussions, and deepen my own knowledge of what these types of books are all about and how they can reflect on society. My favorite character from the Hunger Games is Effie Trinket, because of her character growth. This is a woman who starts out as a detestable puppet of the capital, who views each of the tributes as little more than a tool for her own success. However, before you judge her, it is important to remember the circumstances under which she was raised. The principles of nonviolence tell us that we should learn to blame the circumstances of evil, not the person committing it, as well as to use agape, or universal love for everyone. Effie is easy to hate, but then she learns to overcome her weaknesses, and by the end she exemplifies the idea that everyone is a mixed bag. The system of the capital is evil, the hunger games are evil, but Effie is just a woman who is capable of both good and evil, and who has been taught terrible things. By overcoming it, Effie proves that no one is black and white, and through her the reader is able to see that even those capital citizens who do not have such a dramatic change are not going to be totally evil, so much as a product of a brainwashing environment. These are people who should be reasoned with, not attacked, and to me, Effie shows the humanity in every person.