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.