27 October 2009

Of the "star-crossed lovers" from District 12

I must confess--I'm quite behind on these blog posts (as far as class is concerned). Several weeks ago, we read a highly lauded dystopian novel called The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games
is about two young adults from District 12 of Panem, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, who are chosen to compete in one of the most popular competitions of their time--the hunger games. All twelve districts of Panem send a male and a female tribute (age twelve to eighteen) to the Capitol for the games; all twelve districts watch with bated breath. The game, you see, is survival, and the sole winner receives the prize--life. Without intention, Katniss and Peeta change the role of this game and perhaps even the Capitol itself.

Suzanne Collins (author, The Hunger Games) is not the first to tell this story, nor will she be the last. The first tale of sacrificial youth dates back to the ancient Greeks with the story of Theseus. The story has been simplified for children, intensified for adults and, in The Hunger Games, reimagined for teenagers.

Though the writing style is simple, the overarching theme of the book is far more complicated. Hidden among the unique post-apocalyptic world of fights to the death and teenage romance you'll find stimulating discussion points concerning the human animal, the abuse of political power and socioeconomic stratification. Because of the simplicity mentioned earlier, this novel can be taught as a modernization of any of its many precursors (preferably relating to Greek mythology) without providing undue stress on students.