The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 23 – 25)

The end of the 74th annual Hunger Games is near. Can you imagine the excitement brewing in the Capitol? This season of doom, death, and destruction have been revolutionary. Never before seen love affairs and drama! The parties they must have been throwing… I can’t even imagine.

And what a strange world they live in to revel in these games to the degree in which they do. They love the Hunger Games. They adore their victors. They want more blood, more drama, more death. It seems like pleasing them is impossible.

What I’ve always wondered is why pleasing them is the only priority in Panem. Taking care of the districts is meaningless. Providing worthwhile advancements is boring. Instead, the government focuses on keeping people entertained. Wild parties and dramatic television shows. It’s obscene.

However, is it similar to how we live today? I’m a US citizen and our politics are starting to feel more like reality tv shows every day. A lot of people are satiated by the drama and ridiculousness of our current system. They live for dramatic clashes and bold statements more than they do real policy reform. Most people know more about celebrities than they do their own laws. It’s the same type of problem as the ones people face in the Hunger Games, just on a different scale. I’m not sure which system is worse.

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Still, if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Chapter Twenty-Three

I wish Suzanne Collins would talk more about the class distinctions in the districts, particularly in District 12. I don’t one hundred percent understand the difference between the people of the Seam and people who live in the town square. It seems almost silly that the citizens of District 12 perceive each other as different when both groups of people are suffering under Panem’s rule.

Both struggle to take care of themselves. Both have limited access to food. Both are subjugated by the wants and desires of the Capitol. Both groups are at risk of being selected as tributes.

Why would Peeta’s parents really care if he fell for Katniss? She’s in a very similar boat to him.

Part of that makes me wonder if the mayor’s job is to reinforce divides in District 12. It is readily apparent that the Gamemakers are supposed to reinforce divides between districts. It would make sense to continue that trend on a more local scale. Does the mayor try to plant seeds of distrust between people of the same district? I bet he does. If you’re more worried about the extra food your neighbor has, you’ll be less worried about what your government officials are doing.

I also bet that Panem purposefully provides too little food to feed everyone. There may be enough to go around. They just might not want everyone to have access to it. This would help build small scale resentments between people who have enough to eat and those who are starving.

That sense of disconnect is probably furthered by the construction of the Victor’s Village. Only victors of the Hunger Games get to live in those homes. No one else can purchase one to live in. Victors live lives that are rich and luxurious compared to the lives of nearly everyone else in the districts.

In District 12, only one of the dozen homes in the Victor’s Village is occupied and it’s Haymitch’s. Do others treat him poorly because he is provided for for the rest of his life? Or are they proud of him for being the only person from District 12 to ever win the Hunger Games? I don’t know if people in the districts embrace their victors in the same way people of the Capitol do.

I also don’t know what districts do if they have more than a dozen victors. In District 12, there is only twelve homes. Do other districts construct more if they have more victors? Or do they usually have less than twelve? It seems like some of the career districts would have many victors.

However, it does seem like people do have some sense of endearment towards Haymitch. That could only be the people of the Capitol though. They seem to find his odd traits almost cute. Even his alcoholism is a source of amusement for them. They don’t ever bother to think of the implications it has. They don’t comprehend his suffering.

Part of that could be due to the fact that Panem never airs the game he won. He outsmarted the Gamemakers. Maybe if Panem knew how intelligent Haymitch is they would read more into his dependence on alcohol. It wouldn’t seem as endearing if they knew that the mind the alcohol is damaging is so valuable. Or maybe it would be anyways. The people of Panem seem to love destruction. They love it even more when it doesn’t really impact themselves.

And some of them may remember a time when Haymitch was different. He’s been a mentor for a long time. Katniss even wondered if he tried in the beginning. Did he ever attempt to help his tributes? Years of watching child after child die as he tried to help them could have been what drove him to drink. The actual memories of his games could have just been a side note.

I can’t really imagine that level of personal responsibility. How he must have blamed himself every time one of his tributes died. I wonder if victors from other districts take turns mentoring. Maybe only the most recent victors have to act like a mentor. The strain of being a mentor year after year sounds unbearable. The games are real to mentors in a way that they are not to stylists. They have lived through it before and the tributes that the Capitol disregards are actual people to them. 

I don’t know how other mentors bear the pain. When Thresh dies, what does his mentor do? Are they interviewed? Is their sorrow broadcast for the nation to witness? I wonder if the Capitol makes light of his death or if they manage to summon at least a drop of respect for the fallen child. I wonder if they even show Katniss’s reaction to his death. Would they want Panem to understand that there is sadness in Thresh’s death?

Probably not. 

They probably also wouldn’t broadcast Peeta’s description of his life. They love to widen the divide between the various citizens of Panem. Letting poorer people know that even the shopkeepers struggle with food at times won’t help them with that. But how quickly can they prevent these conversations from being shared? Do they have the games on a delayed release?

Personally, I don’t think that they do. I think part of the appeal of the games is watching everything as it happens. For example, everyone would want to see Foxface die as it occurs. Speaking of that, the way she dies is so counterintuitive to her character traits that it’s almost ironic. She dies stealing berries from Peeta. Neither of them knew that the berries were poisonous. How do you think her sponsors reacted?

The clever girl dies because she wasn’t clever enough. 

Chapter Twenty-Four

It kind of blows me away, however, that Peeta thought it was alright to pick any old berry out in the woods. I grew up in a rural community kind of similar to the environment of District 12. We were always taught never to pick any type of fruit that we didn’t recognize. Berries could be poisonous. Some types of nuts can burn your skin. Certain fruits are sticky and covered in sap during different times of the year. Our parents never wanted us to touch anything we didn’t recognize for fear of the clean up process.

I get that Peeta grew up in the marketplace, but still. You’d think his parents would have taught him what berries to steer clear of. I don’t doubt that there’s some nightlock growing somewhere within the district that children should be wary of. 

Sometimes it’s crazy to think that even small decisions like what berries to eat can be life or death decisions.

It’s also crazy that these are children being forced to make life or death decisions. Later in the chapter, when they have to decide how to interact with Cato now that they’re the last remaining tributes, I’m blown away by their decision making process. How can you be so calm in the face of death? I would be panicking. 

But perhaps they’ve adjusted to the insanity of the games. I read somewhere once that humankind can adjust to anything if you give them enough time. The minds of children and teenagers are particularly malleable. Maybe they are at an age where they are better equipped to handle the Hunger Games than their elders would be. 

Chapter Twenty-Five

Human wolf hybrid muttations. In any other universe, the monsters of The Hunger Games would be ridiculous. In this series, they’re terrifying. The idea of looking into the eyes of fallen tributes in the form of murderous wolves is scary. It’s the stuff of horror movies.

It’s also an excellent form of mental torture. These are the eyes of the victims of the Hunger Games. Some of them are inspired by individuals that the surviving tributes have killed themselves. Can you imagine having a pack of them hunt you down? It would feel like the dead were having their revenge. No wonder Katniss and Peeta would have nightmares for the rest of their lives.

Plus, how do the Gamemakers even think of this material? Does it never occur to them that their actions will have lasting repercussions in the tributes lives? These mutts are a sick and twisted invention. They are designed purposefully to mentally scar the surviving tributes. How can they justify doing this to children?

I suppose that the only answer is that the Gamemakers refuse to view tributes as children. They’re not people to them. They would never compare Katniss or Peeta to their own children. Tributes are just entertainment, meant to be killed off for kicks. 

Yet, it’s more than a bit unfair that the Capitol gave Cato body armor. Katniss notices it when all three tributes are escaping the mutts. What a ridiculous advantage. It seems like they were rooting for a career tribute to win, possibly to blot out the impossible situation of love between Katniss and Peeta. It probably harkens back to the Capitol wanting to crush any sense of hope in the districts.

Thankfully, they don’t get what they want. Cato is killed by the Capitol’s own creation, the mutts. Not-so-thankfully, the process is horribly slow. They allow the mutts to torture Cato endlessly. Hours pass by without him dying. His torture is the ultimate form of entertainment for viewers. It’s disgusting. 

But perhaps there was another purpose to it as well. Maybe Seneca Crane was hoping that if he made Cato die slow enough, Peeta would die in the meantime. He wouldn’t be forced into a position where he would have to deal with the two victor issue he created. Who could have expected that Katniss would be capable of keeping Peeta alive throughout the entire game? 

No one. Not Seneca Crane for sure.

And yet I still think it’s the wrong move to revoke the rule change. It makes the Gamemakers look like fools more than anything else. How can they go back on their word so blatantly? It isn’t the ultimate form of entertainment to reverse their original decision; it’s just stupidity. 

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