The Hunger Games
Reason for reading – first person narrative
The story begins with the reaping and Katniss volunteering to take her sister’s place. Written in the first person singular we know her thoughts, feelings and motivations. “How could I leave Priim, who is the only person in the world I’m certain I love?”
Like many dystopian novels this world is ruled by an oppressive regime which seeks to remind their citizens of the price of rebellion. Every year they take a boy and a girl from each district to fight in the gladiatorial arena. The leader is this regime is President Snow, an ironic name given that he is anything but pure in his motives. His symbol appears to be genetically modified white rose, heavy in its perfume it disguises the smell of blood, caused by the poison he made his enemies drink over the years. Almost like a sinister and benevolent Stalin, who rids himself of the competition, not quite the night of the long knives, but just as deadly.
The subsequent books in the series give more detail about the rebellion. There is the presumed destruction and abandonment of district 13, now the rebel base. The Quarter Quell where victors of the games compete in a special anniversary tournament. At first I felt this was merely a repetition of the themes of the first book, but it soon becomes clear these games are less of a competition and more about working together in support of the rebellion.
When the force field surrounding the arena is destroyed Katniss and her allies are rescued, but Peter is captured and tortured by the Capitol. Used in their propaganda war, his mind is manipulated so much that he no longer knows what is real. When he is rescued he becomes a liability, even trying to kill Katniss. Eventually the balance of his mind does return, but you do feel he’ll be forever scarred.
I find the ending a little awkward. I understand Katniss’s reasoning that the rebel leader may have been complicit in her sister’s death, but I would have liked some more certainty. ,The idea of her being with Peeta and not Gale also seems wrong. In the beginning of the first book she declares, “There’s never been anything romantic between Gale and me.” She admits to being jealous when other girls find him attractive, “but not for the reason people would think. Good hunting partners are hard to find.” You almost feel she is in denial and that she does like him more than she can admit to herself. When Gale is flogged she is distraught and they have to cover this up by saying he is her cousin. When Peeta is hit by the force field and Finnick saves his life she is equally distraught and grateful.
The limitation of first person narrative is that we have to see other characters through the eyes of the one person telling the story. This means that we have to interpret them through their eyes. Haymitch is shown as nothing but a drunk initially, but as the story progresses we learn far more about him and how much he cares. All his gifts in the arena, in the first book are for Katniss, even when he sends medicine for Peeta, it is Katniss he sends it to. The citizens of the Capitol come across as dizzy and shallow, but not cruel. Theirs is a fanciful, blind indoctrination based on ignorance. Plutarch being a notable exception, he carries the mockingjay symbol on his watch, as a sign of his support for the rebellion.