If you have not read The Hunger Games, what are you waiting for?
The Hunger Games has something for everyone. I see library patrons as young as 9 and as old as “senior citizen” request this book every day. So, why the wide-spread appeal?
For starters, the story features the classic love triangle. The suspense of who Katniss will choose (Gale: the strong, silent type, or Peeta: the sensitive one) is enough to keep some readers going. The Hunger Games series is dystopian fiction, a genre that is very popular right now. Many people enjoy reading a “thought experiment” about what the future could be like if we continue to abuse the environment and engage in war. Also, unlike some popular YA series, The Hunger Games is well-written, which takes away the guilt that some adult readers may feel when reading a book marketed to a teen audience.
These are all good reasons to explain the appeal of the trilogy, but I think there’s a better one: the concept of people as hunter and prey. I first read about this idea in the popular short story, “The Most Dangerous Game.”
In my middle school, out of all the short stories that we were required to read, this was the one that people actually read. In this thrilling tale, a man finds himself stranded on a remote island. He has dinner with General Zaroff and believes that he is there as his guest, until the general tells him that tomorrow morning the hunt begins. The man is somewhat confused until he realizes, to his horror, that the he is the prey, not the hunter. The next morning, with a three hour head start, he charges through the forest, trying desperately to act on his “animal instincts” to protect himself.
I remember reading this story with a mixture of fear and fascination. I felt sympathy for the main character. Even though the man hunting him was insane, that didn’t change the fact that he was being hunted. He had to adapt to his surroundings and try to outsmart his opponent. As I read on, I became fascinated by his situation. I was eager to find out what would happen…could he figure out a way to survive even though all the odds were against him?
The Hunger Games is structured differently, but the hunter-prey relationship is still a strong theme in the series. Katniss is a skilled hunter, but she has never killed another human before and is not sure that she is capable of it. To save her own life and to keep her promise to Prim (to win the games) she must become a murderer. In most cases, readers wouldn’t sympathize with a killer, but Katniss’ situation is unique. She has not chosen this predicament, she must participate in the hunger games to save her sister.
Much like my experience while reading “The Most Dangerous Game”, The Hunger Games evoked fascination in me. I was rooting for Katniss, hoping that she could stay one step ahead of the other tributes. But, as Collins mentions many times throughout the series, Katniss’ enemies are not in the arena, but outside of it: the gamemakers, the government, and especially President Snow. Even knowing this, it was easy to get swept up in the story and start choosing favorites among the tributes. Katniss and Peeta are likable underdogs whereas the tributes from the wealthier districts are spoiled and too over-prepared to compete fairly against the others. While reading, I would get sucked in to this aspect of the story (much like watching a reality show, I must admit) and then come to my senses, remembering everything that is at stake for this characters and the horrors of the world they are forced to inhabit.
If you’ve read The Hunger Games, what do you think is the most appealing aspect of the book? If you haven’t read it, you still have several hours to do so before you see the movie after work 🙂 Stay tuned for a book-to-movie review over the weekend!