The Hunger Games analysis
One of the most influential, albeit controversial, book series of 2008 is written by Suzanne Collins, an author who previously had been a children’s television writer. Collins, in her new series The Hunger Games, delves into the dark, questionable subject of child versus child combat. The heroine of the book, Katniss Everdeen, is someone to be admired and looked up to. Time and time again she makes the tough choices required of her. The Hunger Games also has an exciting storyline that will stick with you and keep you reading late into the night.
But The Hunger Games is a book series, that although exciting, contains excessive violence and has what is possibly the worst ending to a critically acclaimed book series ever written. The Hunger Games has too much violence. In our society, the impact horrific violence has on children has been severely downplayed. Parents are letting teenagers, or even pre-teens play realistically violent video games and watch disturbingly real movies that show scenes of adults being tortured and killed. Society has made this normal, to the point to where it is hard to fit in at middle school or high school without playing and watching this sort of content.
Reports and studies done over the last fifty years on this subject have shown that violence on television as well as video games makes a significant impact on a child’s behavior. One study, conducted by an expert panel that the Surgeon General convened, The Influence of Media Violence on Youth, concluded that “Research on violent television and films, video games, and music reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts” (Anderson).
Another experimental study showed that even a single exposure can increase aggression in children. Kaj Bjorkqvist, a professor of developmental psychology, randomly assigned one group of five- to six-year-old Finnish children to watch violent movies, another to watch nonviolent ones. Raters who did not know which type of movie the children had seen then observed them playing together in a room. Children who had just watched the violent movie were rated much higher on physical assault and other types of aggression (Bjorkqvist).
The Hunger Games trilogy possesses multiple brutal, vivid descriptions of torture and violence throughout, making them inappropriate for children to read. In fact, the whole premise of the trilogy is based on a dystopian reality. A reality where children fighting other children to the death is not only acceptable but seen as entertainment. These ideas can permeate a child’s mind and change their perception about reality. As well as excessive violence, The Hunger Games trilogy contains the worst ending of any book series I have ever read. All stories need a good ending.
You can see proof of this everywhere, from The Lord of the Rings, to Star Wars, to every comic book ever made. They all have one thing in common, a happy ending. But even unhappy endings can be satisfying if done logically. For example, Romeo and Juliet has an extremely sad ending, one where the main characters all die. Yet because of the logic employed by Shakespeare, you finish the book with a feeling it was supposed to happen that way. But in the last three pages of The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins changes Katniss’s morals more than the rest of the series combined.
That would be ok, though, if Ms. Collins had somehow given hints that Katniss was changing. Instead, the only logic used to explain this sudden change in morals is Katniss’s insanity during the third book. The dystopian ending gets under your skin because deep down, people want things to turn out like they are supposed to. I would be willing to accept even this dystopian ending, although it is mind wreckingly frustrating, if it weren’t for the afterword of the final book. In this afterword, Suzanne Collins wants us to believe, however illogical it may be, that Katniss does get a happy ending.
In this afterword Katniss is living a simple, carefree life away from the politics, is with Peeta, and has two children. This lack of logic is where I draw the line and decisively say that the ending to The Hunger Games is the worst ending ever. To understand why I say Katniss’s morals changed illogically, we must first look at who Katniss was at the beginning of the series. In the beginning of the first book Katniss is a sweet, albeit hardened, teenage girl who wants nothing more than to protect her family and live the best life possible.
When disaster strikes her home and her sister Prim is chosen as tribute for the hunger games, she is so protective that she is willing to sacrifice her life to give Prim a future. She later joins the rebellion for one reason: to make sure no child will ever have to endure the frightfulness of being chosen as tribute. So Katniss starts out, and stays throughout the first two books, as someone who feels the compulsion to protect others. She wants to give others a better life even if it means sacrificing her own. She strongly believes, rightly so, that the Hunger Games are wrong, immoral, and just plain evil.
This belief is what drives her to make some difficult decisions throughout the series. Her sense of morality also tells her that The Capitol is a corrupt government that must be overthrown before progress can be made in the nation. In the beginning she understands that using children fighting children to instill a sense of fear in the population of Panem is immoral and that any system of government that runs off of fear is one that should not exist. That is a rough definition of Katniss’s morals; they define her and give her the strength to do what no one before her could.
But in the last few pages of Mockingjay, all of this goes down the drain. Everything she stood for, everything she worked for, everything she is shown to be up to that point is obliterated. After the rebels have taken over The Capitol, and the happy ending is within sight, she, with a simple “yes,” reinstates a new form of the hunger games for the children of the fallen Capitol. This isn’t logical though. After all that she had been through to stop others’ suffering, she votes to make more innocent children suffer.
That is not the character portrayed by Collins up to that point, and it ruins the logical flow of the book. It only goes downhill from there. After she votes to reinstate the hunger games, she receives the chance to execute President Snow for his crimes against the country. In a surprising turn of events motivated solely by a question asked by the criminal, the villain, the one person Katniss has been fighting against the entire time, President Snow, Katniss turns her bow from President Snow and kills the rebellion leader instead.
Her character transformed during that short span of time from an admirable heroine to a bleak, lifeless character whose actions cannot be understood. But some might say the ending does not matter because the idea is so original and interesting. Some might argue that because of the originality of the topic, that all the negatives can be canceled out. But the idea of gladiatorial fighting for entertainment can be traced back to the Romans over a thousand years before The Hunger Games was even conceived. Even children fighting children to the death is not original to Collins. In
Koushun Takami’s book Battle Royale, a group of fifty junior high children are taken to an abandoned island where they learn they are part of The Program. And they must fight each other to the death until only one person remains. They have to do this for research purposes. So those who say the originality of the book negates the excessive violence and shoddy ending have no ground to stand upon. Others might say that the third book, bad as it is, is better than no ending at all. The first two books are so enthralling that even knowing that the ending is horrible wouldn’t stop them from finishing the third book.
I agree with this. When I was reading through the series myself, one of my friends told me that the ending was horrible, so bad I should just rip out the last three pages and just imagine an ending for myself. I laughed, but I was going to finish the books. Looking back, even if I had been told the exact ending, I would still have finished the books because the first two were so exciting that I would have expected at least some excitement out of Mockingjay. The Hunger Games, what can be said about them?
The first two books are extremely well-written, dramatic novels that grab your attention and don’t let go. The characters are described with such vividity that you see a real person, with real emotions and feelings. Not only the characters, but the whole Hunger Games universe is described with such a realism you can picture yourself in the storyline. The plot, until the third book, has beautiful twists and turns, smaller stories within the story itself, and a great deal of excitement. The Hunger Games trilogy will make you feel the emotions the characters feel.
While reading you hurt with Katniss when Rue dies, you feel elated when Peeta and Katniss both survive their first Hunger Games, and you are angry at the injustice of The Capitol. All these wonderful things make up what is called The Hunger Games, and if you overlook the unrestrained, graphic violence and the ending of the last book, then I have nothing but praise for Suzanne Collins’s trilogy. But I cannot. I cannot simply dismiss the excessive violence, the depressing mood of Mockingjay, and I cannot just forget about the worst ending ever written.