One name. One protective response. A tribute to bravery. The Hunger Games has taken on a completely new meaning for me recently. After reading this story initially in January of 2011, I immediately started writing my very first novel the next night. When we find something in our lives that inspires us in such a profound way, it’s clear that that story will always hold a place near and dear to our hearts.
Though, recently, a different feeling started to take hold. The four films that were adapted from the original trilogy of books were made available to watch for free on the Tubi app, and then on the IMDb app. Something I’ve done often in my life is to rewatch shows and movies I thoroughly enjoy. This doesn’t mean that I believe the movies were identical to the books, but the premise and symbolism within the story were something I instantly craved when I saw they were available to watch. Then, I craved the books.
So, for the past two months, I’ve been rewatching and rereading The Hunger Games series. I’ve been falling asleep with the TV on. I’ve been staying up as late as my eyes will muster to read more and more. The overall message is something I’m clinging onto. There’s something in this story, defined by the characters – both good and evil – that led me to needing something so simple, yet difficult, to find in the real world.
Despite this dystopian nightmare of a world, I find myself reaching for this story, hoping to find hope within myself. Hoping to find hope in the real world. In a world where divisiveness is pulling at the basic fibers of democracy and decency, I’m seeking out a fictional violent world to find hope in our own world that’s boiling over with its own hatred, intolerance, and violence. Seeking escape from a world where a leader tells its citizens, and I’ll paraphrase, “There’s a place for [them], if they vote a certain way.” Hearing someone speak those words makes me believe that we live in a fictional world – and maybe that’s why I’m seeking comfort in the Districts.
In a world where two citizens from each of the twelve districts of Panem are sent to the Hunger Games each year, it must be challenging for those characters to find or hold onto hope. Hoping to not have their names called in the Reaping. Hoping to have enough food to avoid death by starvation. Amongst it all, hoping to live long enough to see better days. The idea that people must sacrifice their children each and every year as penance for a war where the Districts tried to fight for freedom. In their failure, oppression took a deeply rooted hold on its citizens. How do they continue to live when they’re constantly reminded of their dangerous surroundings?
I believe in Katniss Everdeen. I believe in Peeta Mellark. And, yes, I believe in Haymitch Abernathy. Characters who are fighting to survive or finding ways to keep each other alive. I believe in Cinna. A person who doesn’t cheer in celebration of the Hunger Games, but finds ways to leave an impression on those who might support Katniss within the very deadly games. How do you have hope when only one from a group of 24 will survive?
How do you find hope when surviving the games doesn’t mean living? Nightmares. Drugs. Alcohol. Loneliness. Despair. All of these attributes are representative in the characters seen in The Hunger Games. The idea of hope isn’t easily attained within this story, but when “the girl on fire” is first set ablaze, the Mockingjay is formed. A literal symbol of hope to be shared and spoken in hushed voices. A stirring that bubbles underneath the surface of tyranny. I crave the hope that this book strives to achieve. There are many deaths. Lives are shattered by the circumstances of war and annual games where martial law dictates a person’s existence.
Although I’m forever grateful for this story inspiring me to create my own fictional world as an author, right now I need this story in my life to find hope. Finding hope in others’ hope. Regardless of The Hunger Games being a dystopia, I find comfort in seeing what was done to see a greater good. The ability to fight for something that should be second nature: freedom and equality. A chance to be something more than what’s designated for you by someone else. When actions as simple as a three-fingered salute are deemed rebellious, the only right thing to do is find any way to ensure that living life should never have to be so restricted.
The moment we realize we’re yearning for hope, maybe it’s a moment to understand the state of what’s happening in our own worlds. The Hunger Games gives me that sense, where it can semi-wash away despair I feel when I turn on the news. Hope I find in such dystopia helps to soothe my mind when it’s cluttered with the daily muck and mire we all find ourselves in. Detached from reality within these pages, hoping for a better day like Katniss. Like Peeta. Haymitch.
Three poor souls who fought to survive. These are my role models. This is the world I’m continually getting lost in, flipping through the pages of each book of The Hunger Games and watching the snarky conversations play out onscreen. Characters in a fictional world trying to survive. All in the hope of finding one thing.
What would I do to protect those I love dearest? Would it come down to saying something as simple as “anything?” I want nothing but the best for my family, and as our own world seems to reflect something as frightening as our own dystopian nightmare, I cannot help but wonder what the future will look like for my children. So, as I continue to rewatch the films and as I read the series again (and again), I’m not sure if that same sense of hope I find from characters I adore so much will be able to sustain my own despair. The Hunger Games is a powerful, emotionally charged story about survival, and ultimately recognizing that things need to change.
Such change does not always happen. Some don’t wish it or don’t believe it’s needed. When others cry out or make simple gestures, like the three-fingered salute, does it hurt us to listen or see them act in such a way? Why does the oppressive Capitol of Panem ban such simple actions? What’s to fear? I find hope in believing we will all find our own hope. More selfishly, I’m searching for hope to fight the ever-growing hopelessness I feel when I see and hear the actions of others who cannot bear the simplest of things: compassion.
As I think about what I’m thankful for the past few months, it’s the hope I find within the pages of fiction. Life does not always imitate art, but in the best ways, I’m hoping to see the same strength of character when faced with an oppressive capitol which only wishes to subdue its citizens rather than serve them all in what we were all meant to be: equal.
For, otherwise, we will hear the passionate echoes in our minds for the rest of our lives: “I volunteer as tribute!”