“Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!”
It’s impossible to borrow Hunger Games from the library near my house. The waiting list for it is 10 people long. Thankfully, I’ve had my Kindle to supply my dose of literary addiction over the last three days as I absorbed The Hunger Games trilogy. Tickets for the midnight showings of the film sold out faster than Twilight tickets did and the hype is rising and rising. Teenagers have their noses stuck firmly in this book, and that means that it’s about time we consider what exactly is drawing them to it… and what exactly this book is teaching them.
The Hunger Games are a brutal “festivity” enforced upon the twelve districts of Panem (a future dystopian version of America) to remind them that the Capitol is in charge and that the citizens of the districts are at their mercy. Each district must send two tributes each year to participate in the Games – where the goal is to be the last one alive in the arena. There are two big themes that stick out to me, and they’re oddly contrasting. The first is that of luck – that the names chosen to go into the arena are drawn randomly, and winning the Games can often be a mere moment of luck. There is a sense that no one in the districts has any control over their fate, or that of anyone elses.
That is, until Katniss volunteers herself as a tribute to stop her sister from being forced into the arena. Control becomes a player. The Capitol seems to have all the control, but over the course of the books the control shifts hands over and over again until you’re not really certain what’s going on. Odds become something that only innocents believe in. Control becomes paramount to survival.
The Capitol seems to have control, and the characters within the story are fighting to gain it. The reader is inspired to fight for a better tomorrow – “Tomorrow will be more hopeful than this awful piece of time we call today,” is written in one dark moment of the book. This reader is sure that today is as hopeful as tomorrow, because hope does not rest on my ability to fight for control against a corrupt world. The world is indeed corrupt, but God has the victory and He will bring His plans to completion.
We hope and we wait, but the odds are ever in our favour – because if God is for us, who can be against us? (Well, a lot of people can – but ultimately, God’s got this and that’s what matters).
Katniss Everdeen is not Bella Swan. She is tough and resilient. She hunts and she fights and she rebels. She is not a victim to her circumstances – at least, she isn’t until the Games. There is something about her that makes the reader admire that she has survived this long, and hope that she continues to survive. She isn’t remarkably beautiful or charming, but it seems that her strength is what draws others to her. She also fiercely loves – even if it is only a few people she loves dearly. The way that love shows itself is all wrong at times – selfish rather than sacrificial. In Katniss, though, we do not see someone waiting to be rescued as we did in Bella Swan. We see someone who wants to come out fighting.
Katniss gets it wrong over and over. She breaks relationships, she mends them, she mistrusts, and she betrays. She stumbles her way through it all. Katniss is a Messiah figure in the story, but the draw of her is that she is a flawed hero. Not as useless as the anti-hero we see in Homer Simpson, but still fatally flawed as she fails. And we love her for it. She isn’t a bad role model, I would hazard to say. Her persistence and endurance are amazing – that she gets back up again over and over and keeps fighting even when she’s fallen down for a little while. We stumble our way through our lives – fumbling and sinning and rejecting grace because we don’t know how to admit we’ve failed.
We have a Saviour who never failed, and the fight that Katniss shows is important, but we must not ever believe that we are the hero of our own story. We are the rescued, the redeemed, the unworthy who get to be a part of the mission of the One and Only God. She is the hero of this story. But Jesus is the hero of ours.
The Hunger Games is easy to read, easy to be drawn into, and lets us hope for a better tomorrow, even if the day is dark. We live in times when there is darkness – some of it so huge that it engulfs our mind and we cannot shake it, some of it a light cloud that passes as quickly as a mockingjay in the arena – and we look to a hopeful tomorrow just as those in the districts in Panem do.
Our hope does not rest in a flawed saviour who only ended up in such a role because the odds were definitely not in her favour. Our hope rests in Jesus – who has already won the battle. And we wait. We are sure.
But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.