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War and (hunger) games Part 2

Obviously I’ve had more thoughts since yesterday’s post. With the fourth book just being released I’m giving the hunger games series a reread so I can refresh my memory before diving into the new addition. Sure it’s a prequel, but reading in published order never hurt anyone. Others have had the same thought obviously and yesterday’s post was inspired, in part, by someone’s take on the books. Now that I have had some time to think about it, let’s talk about the Hunger Games.

I tried to hunt down the article, but I can’t find it. It was one of those google news recommendations that come and go. Most of the time I ignore them, but this one caught my eye. It was about how a young woman who now had children reread the hunger games and realized how much she had changed since she first dove into them. To her, they lost something as she got older.

Now as a mother she put herself in the position being a parent and seeing their child being pulled into war. She said something along the lines of growing up she didn’t understand why her mother had found the books disturbing, but now as an adult she could see what her mother was talking about. At least that was my takeaway and without being able to find the article, I have to go from memory on this.

The thing that struck me about this wasn’t the fact that she grew and realized it. It was how she put herself in the place of the parents in the book instead of the people fighting. It was certainly not a conscious choice or even a malicious choice, but it was one of privilege. I say that with all the kindness I can, and truthfully it’s a privilege I wish everyone could have. While she will never see this, I have no ill will to the author of that article.

The truth is, we can all read the same book and pull something different from it. Most of the time the deepest truths we find weren’t even intentional. They are a consequence of incomplete knowledge. We are forced to build the world of Panem in our heads using the description we’re given and we read (probably far too much) into the things the author chooses to include or exclude from the narrative. Filling in the gaps using our own experiences or biases.

For me the book was always about “the after.” The return home isn’t one where you live happily ever after. You are forced to process all the things that happened before. I talk about the after a lot because sometimes in life there really is a time before an event and a time after an event that will forever change the way you act, think, and behave.

Nightmares are a common theme in the book and get mentioned on a regular basis even in the end. Our main characters get torn apart and put back together in different ways. While the author may or may not have intended for there to be a love triangle for example, I never really saw it that way. Gale didn’t try to be anything other than friends until “the after” and by then I knew… from personal experience… that she was never going to be the same person she was during the before. It was never going to happen, so to me there was never a real triangle.

Of course there was no real love either. Again I’m painting MY version of Panem using the experiences of war and “the after” I have. Thus I prescribe certain behaviors using my own prior knowledge of PTSD. In short, I believe Katniss settles for Peeta because she doesn’t want to be alone. She copes with the trauma by giving him what he wants so he won’t leave. Their shared experience means she’s not alone, but it’s also an unseen prison custom built for the two of them.

A twitter friend reminded me that **** huge spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the book, skip ahead if you don’t want to know **** she ends up having a kid with Peeta. I tend to forget this part because to me it’s the saddest way the book could’ve ended, not the happiest. She literally did the one thing she says she didn’t want the entire book to make sure Peeta was happy. Maybe she thought she owed him something after all they went through and after all he went through because of (in Katniss’s opinion) her actions. She gave up herself so she could survive, a sort of life-long purgatory that one settles for because there are no good alternatives.

It’s these reasons that the series to me was always about “the after” and the accumulation of trauma that comes with war. You don’t get the chance to process it while you are in it. When you are suddenly removed from it, you have nothing but time. In the book Katniss tries to keep busy. She tries, and fails, to fall into old routines or even new similar ones. We see how they all try to cope with the games and their new old lives.

I can see how becoming a parent and revisiting the book may make you place yourself into the position of a parent in the book. I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying the opinion of the person who wrote that article is wrong or even bad. It just struck me as surprising that we could take away something so different from the series. That now because she is a parent the books have lost something for her. While for me, they still hold the same obvious truth they did when I first read them.

No matter how long ago, the war was always just yesterday.


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