Fascinating New Yorker Article

Also posted on my other blog.

I came across this article in the New Yorker today, about dystopian fiction in general, and focusing on The Hunger Games in particular.

Here's one of the points that really fascinates me:

Take the Hunger Games themselves. In the first book of Collins’s trilogy, Katniss explains that the games are a “punishment” for a failed uprising against the Capitol many years earlier, and they’re meant to be “humiliating as well as torturous.” The twenty-four child contestants, called tributes, are compelled to participate, and the people of their districts must watch the televised bloodbath. Yet residents of the richer districts (District 12, Katniss’s home, is a hardscrabble mining province) regard competing as “a huge honor,” and some young people, called Career Tributes, train all their lives for the games. When Katniss herself becomes a tribute (she volunteers, in order to save her younger sister), she’s taken to the Capitol and given a glamorous makeover and a wardrobe custom-designed for her by her own personal fashion maestro. She’s cheered by crowds, fĂȘted at galas, interviewed on national television, fed sumptuous meals, and housed in a suite filled with wondrous devices. She’s forced to live every teen-age girl’s dream. (Her professed claim to hate it all is undermined by the loving detail with which she describes every last goody.)
As a tool of practical propaganda, the games don’t make much sense. They lack that essential quality of the totalitarian spectacle: ideological coherence. You don’t demoralize and dehumanize a subject people by turning them into celebrities and coaching them on how to craft an appealing persona for a mass audience. (“Think of yourself among friends,” Katniss’s media handler urges.) Are the games a disciplinary measure or an extreme sporting event? A beauty pageant or an exercise in despotic terror? Given that the winning tribute’s district is “showered with prizes, largely consisting of food,” why isn’t it the poorer, hungrier districts that pool their resources to train Career Tributes, instead of the wealthier ones? And the practice of carrying off a population’s innocent children and commanding their parents to watch them be slaughtered for entertainment—wouldn’t that do more to provoke a rebellion than to head one off?
If, on the other hand, you consider the games as a fever-dream allegory of the adolescent social experience, they become perfectly intelligible. Adults dump teen-agers into the viper pit of high school, spouting a lot of sentimental drivel about what a wonderful stage of life it’s supposed to be. The rules are arbitrary, unfathomable, and subject to sudden change. A brutal social hierarchy prevails, with the rich, the good-looking, and the athletic lording their advantages over everyone else. To survive you have to be totally fake. Adults don’t seem to understand how high the stakes are; your whole life could be over, and they act like it’s just some “phase”! Everyone’s always watching you, scrutinizing your clothes or your friends and obsessing over whether you’re having sex or taking drugs or getting good enough grades, but no one cares who you really are or how you really feel about anything.

Read the rest of the article here. It also looks at conventions found in books such as Scott Westerfield's Uglies series, Lois Lowry's The Giver, James Dashner's The Maze Runner, and Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth.


  1. This is on my To Read List. I bought the books and they're still on my shelf to be read!

    Thanks for posting the article.

    PK Reeves
    Aisle B

  2. What are you waiting for?? Seriously, they won't take long to read -- they're that good.

  3. Thanks for posting the article - I have this series on my TBR for the summer!


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