Post 3, 2/09/14

Prompt: Compare and contrast the first book with the film. You can either focus on a few similarities and differences between the book and the film or on one aspect of both, either storyline, characters, staging, portrayal of capitol and District 12, etc.

The Hunger Games movie, for the most part, is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the book. Although slight differences abound, most of them are insignificant to the plot and can be attributed to an attempt to limit the length of the movie. Some, however, are clear inconsistencies that appear to have more meaning behind them. The filmmakers emphasize and embellish upon some details in the book while downplaying others, telling a story that is more centered upon the societal implications and far-reaching consequences of Katniss’ actions than an exact translation of the novel might have been. By omitting other details, however, the filmmakers have de-emphasized the physical brutality and emotional trauma endured by the tributes, perhaps in an attempt to make the movies more palatable for younger viewers.

In the book, readers must rely on Katniss’ narration as the only source of information. This restriction is lifted in the film, allowing the filmmakers to expand on impressions and implications in the book. For instance, Seneca Crane, who is essentially a faceless name in the books, becomes a character with whom the viewer can sympathize. His motivations reveal further detail about the true nature of the Capitol’s control over the districts and the Games. Haymitch is shown encouraging citizens of the Capitol to sponsor Katniss and even negotiating with Crane himself for the good of his tributes. In another scene, a riot in District 11 occurs after Rue’s death. The events of the book implies that these things may well be taking place, but it is these crucial added scenes that create an image of the Games that is intricately controlled and vitally important to Panem’s government. These brief scenes sidestep from Katniss’ main narrative, providing a broader view of the tension within Panem. With these inclusions, the filmmakers begin building toward an impending climax–of turmoil and, ultimately, revolution–in the following films.

Certain details of the films are altered or omitted entirely in order to minimize the horror endured by Katniss, Peeta, and the other tributes. One of the more notable is the manifestation of the dog-like muttations that kill Cato. Not only would human-like eyes on a dog and Katniss’ quiet realization that the mutts reflect the dead tributes be difficult to portray on film, but it may be entirely too much for younger viewers, and it is a reasonable alteration to the storyline. Cato’s death itself is also very much downplayed. Rather than being eaten away by dogs for hours upon hours until he can barely plead for death, he dies mercifully and quickly with little graphic violence depicted. Physical injuries to our main characters are also diminished. Katniss’ hearing loss, while ultimately impermanent in the books, is never mentioned in the film. The loss of Peeta’s leg is also left out, even though it comes to affect his performance in the second Games in book two of the series. It may be beneficial for younger viewers to keep these gory details to a minimum, although it does take away an important aspect of the story: these games are brutal. They ravage the bodies of twenty-four children in gruesome style and then destroy the minds of the few who survive. Perhaps a young child doesn’t need to see the ultimate horrific insult added to injury as Rue in mutt form attacks Katniss, who is still wracked with guilt from the girl’s loss. Perhaps they are better off not learning that Cato, the villain, was ultimately nothing more than another scared little boy in the end. But readers of Collin’s books can still bear witness to these details in all their bloody glory, and for many reasons, it may be a horror worth knowing.

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Post 2, Due Sunday, Feb. 2nd.

Prompt: Write an analysis of the parallels between the tributes in the arena and the gladiators in old Rome. How can we apply the notion of “panem et circenses” to The Hunger Games.

The similarities between Panem’s tributes and the gladiators of ancient Rome are many and varied. The vast majority of the tributes begin their journey unwillingly, plucked from their homes and forced on a journey to the Capitol. Most gladiators were slaves or criminals, forced to leave behind their families and homelands to begin their training in Roman cities. Some, however, volunteered their lives willingly to the pursuit of gladiatorial combat and the opportunity to achieve glory and a raised social status; this same circumstance is illustrated in Collins’ books by the Career tributes, who are said to often volunteer for reaping, as winning the Hunger Games is, to them, a high honor to be pursued.

Both the tributes of the Hunger Games and Roman gladiators were forced first to train in deadly weaponry and then to fight to the death in an arena built specifically for public displays of bloodshed. Even the technological innovations that allowed beastmasters to raise wild animals into the Colosseum on platforms and flood the arena for mock naval battles are echoed by the many futuristic manipulations of the Hunger Games arena, which allow the Gamemakers to produce fires or muttations or the like to make the games more interesting. 

The audiences of ancient Rome watched the bloodshed of the gladiator battles with glee, treating the spectacle as a social event to be gossiped about. Just the same, the citizens of Panem, particularly the Capitol, watch enraptured as tributes are killed off one by one in the Hunger Games. The fanfare and fame surrounding the most well-known gladiators bears a resemblance to the concept of sponsorship in Collins’ books. 

Perhaps one of the most important similarities between the two games is the least visible. One of the original purposes behind gladiatorial combat was a form of control by Rome over its conquered lands. By claiming slaves of the defeated people of faraway countries, Rome proclaimed its indisputable power over its territories. Similarly, Katniss notes repeatedly in the Hunger Games series that the Capitol’s insistence on the Games, as well as the macabre celebratory attitude that must accompany them, is meant as a cruel reminder to the districts that rebellion is not only foolish, but unfeasible. 

The Capitol’s control of the districts can be summarized by this, the principle of fear, as well as the Roman phrase “panem et circenses.” Meaning, “bread and circus,” it refers to the idea, echoed in dystopian literature such as Huxley’s Brave New World, that if a population is provided necessities such as food and distracted with entertainment, contentment will quell the urge to dissent. Just as the Romans did, Panem’s Capitol provides the “circus” in the form of bloody battle that is eagerly watched by hordes of citizens. The “bread” in Panem is ubiquitously available in the Capitol, but is only provided for the districts in the event of a winning tribute. The citizens dare not fight against the Games for fear that they would miss out on the chance for food, should their tributes win. In fact, to raise their voices agains the Games may mean that they go hungry for the next year. In the Capitol, just as in ancient Rome, bread is power because hunger is frightening, and whoever wields the supply of food and pays for the circus holds the nation in the palm of his hand.

Post 1, due Wednesday, January 9th

Prompt: Why did you choose this class? What are you hoping to accomplish in the course? What is your favorite character of The Hunger Games and why?

I found this class, among others, by searching on Archway for Honors Program credits. What drew me to enroll in this class in particular was what was, at the time, an entirely newfound respect for and interest in the Hunger Games series. Unlike many of you, I have not read all of the Hunger Games books. I enjoyed the first movie, but thought very little about the series until seeing Catching Fire in theaters. The second film, as you all saw, went much deeper into the societal issues plaguing Panem and the heavy weight carried by the main characters. I was struck by the complex interactions between the districts and the Capitol and the implications of such a regimented social structure. I finally saw that what I had taken for a fantastical, if dark, flight of imagination was in fact a thoroughly well thought out story of a corrupt and crumbling world reflecting the most sinister parts of our own history and nature. I decided then that Collins’ story was worth deeper study.

From this course, I hope to gain an understanding of the Hunger Games series that will allow me to appreciate in all its intricacy what I see as a genius work of fiction. I have always enjoyed parsing my way through literature as long as the story being told is engaging. Because I know from seeing the first two films that I enjoy being immersed in Collins’ universe, I truly think this class will be a pleasure, and I’m hoping for an interesting and, above all, thought-provoking semester.

While I’ve yet to finish reading the series, by the end of book one, I think that Haymitch is my favorite character. I tend to be a fan of anti-heroes, and he seems to be one. While Haymitch is gruff and a bit unpleasant, especially at first, he agrees to help Peeta and Katniss once he realizes they are serious competitors. I think Haymitch’s character flaws can be mostly overlooked because of his circumstances: he is a victim of unspeakable trauma and is suffering all the nightmares, guilt, and depression that goes with it. Every year, he is forced to become responsible for two more children who will invariably die, laying still more guilt on his head. His drinking and poor attitude are defense mechanisms against what is doubtless a very painful task he must repeatedly carry out. Despite all this, he manages to see the good in Peeta, connect with Katniss, and keep faith in both of them. He is a very sharp man who understands the system that controls them all and is eager to use his knowledge to prevent two more young people falling into the hands of the Capitol. Haymitch may be guarded, but he is also intuitive, honest, and extremely brave.