The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 16 – 18)

The Hunger Games makes me think about how desentized we are to violence due to the sheer amount of it in popular media. Seeing violence on television is nothing. It is almost never surprising. Half the time it doesn’t even come across as gruesome. How similar are we to the people of The Capitol? Would we still watch shows with violence in them, fully knowing that the violence is real? 

Of course, right now, sporting events display violence. But what would our limits be? If it was legal, would we be alright with watching deaths occur? Could we ever return to enjoy gladiator style fights? Would we only be okay with it if it were willing adults or would that still be too far? It’s difficult to think about, but what is the future of a world where violent behaviors are normalized? Does it look like this one? 

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.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Sixteen Thoughts

It is strange to think that the career tributes biggest weakness is their ability to feed themselves. You’d think that during their years of training they would have spent more time learning survival skills, not just fighting skills, especially if in years past it is one of the few things that have caused a career tribute not to win. Why not focus on any hunting or trapping skills? Why not learn which berries to pick? If your entire life is meant to be spent as a tribute or a victor, you’d think you’d want to hone as many skills as possible.

When Katniss goes to rid the career tributes of their food, it is pure luck that Foxface is there, raiding their supplies. I don’t know if she would have fully figured out how they protect their food if she had not seen the other tribute weaving between the mines. However, given how clever Foxface is, I wonder why she didn’t poison the career tributes’ food supplies. It would have been the easiest way to take them out of the games. Maybe she didn’t want to risk her own access to food or maybe, considering future events, she doesn’t know anything about poison.

Katniss’s idea to destroy the career tributes supplies works just as well, but kills no one. However, it also presents the least amount of risk for herself. She doesn’t know what pattern to follow when evading the mines. And of course starvation could very well kill all players in the game. 

Chapter Seventeen Thoughts

Watching the death of the boy from District 3 is horrible. Cato kills him in seconds, not minutes. His is the first real death we’ve seen start to finish and it’s just awful to think about. How does Katniss feel, watching the death of another child? How will this play a role in her nightmares to come? The things The Capitol justifies being done to kids is retched. 

But it also brings Katniss one step closer to victory. Every death besides her own brings her closer to life outside of the games. Do the people watching the games on her behalf feel the same way? Is there some sick positivity they feel at seeing these children be killed, knowing that they’re not Katniss?

The Capitol plays the worst types of mind games with its people in this regard. Having them watch for and root for the deaths of children from other districts every year is disgusting. They are one nation, but encouraged to be separate people. There is no sense of nationalism. There is no pride to be a part of Panem. There is only oppression and death and violence. 

To follow it up with the death of Rue is particularly harsh. Her death feels like the end of innocence for Katniss. There is nothing childlike left in her, no sense of purity. It has all been lost to the games. 

Chapter Eighteen Thoughts

Katniss’s first kill in the Hunger Games pales in comparison to the importance of Rue’s death. Watching Rue die comes across as slow and incredibly painful, even though it is not a very long process. Katniss singing her to death adds a melancholy element to the scene where it seems as if all hope has been lost. Panem is without a heart if it enjoys this horrible death. Rue deserved better.

However, reading this scene now that I’ve reread the Hunger Games series multiple times is what made me realize that Katniss is not the only Mockingjay of Panem. She may not even be the most important one. Her situations may be unique and inspiring, but without a spark they would have just been kindling for the rebellion. Even Peeta’s love for Katniss might not have taken root without the death of Katniss’s most valuable ally, Rue. I don’t think The Capitol would ever have “changed the rules” if Rue hadn’t died, leaving Katniss alone.

The revolution didn’t start with Katniss. It started with Rue, right down to the very first moment when Katniss decided to ally with the small girl. They formed the first real relationship of all the Hunger Games where it would have been next to impossible for one to kill the other. They would never betray each other or leave each other. Their bond was sisterly and protective. Even the audience in The Capitol would hate to see them turn on each other. 

Rue was the first Mockingjay. She was a symbol of the death of purity and of hope for the nation. A small child, killed by another child as entertainment for adults, buried in flowers by a girl who loved her. The death of Rue is the real spark for the rebellion that follows. It is the spark that gives Katniss a true understanding of what she is fighting for and against. Panem is cruel. Rue deserved better.

It’s a powerful moment and it’s the reason why Katniss went on to help change the world. It also had lasting implications for the rest of the book. First off, Katniss clearly calls out The Capitol for finding pleasure in the death of children by burying Rue. Tributes don’t bury other tributes in the Hunger Games. They leave their bodies behind. They don’t show the dead respect, or love, or kindness. Katniss made it prevalent that that was wrong. It is immoral. 

And then, Rue’s district sends Katniss bread out of respect for her having a funeral for Rue. No district has ever sent a tribute from another district supplies. They don’t sponsor other districts. It is the first sign of mutual respect between districts. Katniss cared about a young girl from another district and they returned the favor by caring for her. 

It culminates when Thresh spares Katniss’s life later on in the series. He wants to return the favor of her helping Rue survive. That has either never happened in the games or it is extremely rare. Why would a tribute want to spare the life of another? Sparing her life is directly against everything the games stand for. 

I wonder how the people of The Capitol reacted to all of this. Did they see an issue with their behavior? Did it call attention to the unnecessary violence? Or did they react positively, thinking that this season of the Hunger Games was the height of all drama? Nothing could compare to the theater of these intense bonds. They probably viewed the burial as a general kindness, the bread as unimportant, and Thresh’s actions in sparring Katniss as a moment of weakness. 

Maybe the people of The Capitol did realize how shallow their reasons were for this death because of the next event that occurs in The Hunger Games. A rule change meant, surely, to distract them from the death of Rue and Katniss’s kindness. Two victors can win this round of the games as long as they come from the same district. Perhaps this was also meant to be a reminder to all twelve districts that you should remain loyal only to your district. The reasons why the government of Panem do anything are almost always complex.