Blog 8: The Hunger Games

Politics is an essential part of the Hunger Games, and the lecture by Dr. Leahy and the Guest Lecture by Dr. Telhami both showed a different aspect of how the Hunger Games and politics interact. Dr. Leahy’s lecture focused on the different aspects of totalitarian regimes and the methods that are employed to control the people. At one point in the lecture, she quoted Arendt, a German-American political theorist, with the phrase, “The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.” This quote was very pertinent to the Hunger Games for a variety of different reasons. For one, Snow employed this idea very widely in his treatment of the people in the Districts and in the Capitol. In the Capitol, he surrounded them with excess so that they would never think to question the Games and turned the Games into a form of entertainment to dehumanize the Districts and prevent people from wondering about the humanity of the Games. Among the Victors, Snow destroyed their convictions by threatening the lives and safety of the people that they cared about. In the Districts, people were only given a very basic, propagandized version of what history was and what proper behavior was so that they never considered trying to withhold their children from the reaping; and they were forced to watch as their children died year after year. In addition, Snow controls information and people through spying and technology. He watches everyone who could be a threat through different forms of surveillance to make sure that they never step out of line or ignore his orders.

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Another major theory that Dr. Leahy brought up in her lecture was the idea of control of resources in totalitarian systems. These resources include the military, economy, and actual physical resources. The people in the Districts have been forced to specialize their economies, and they are required to supply different things to the Capitol. In return, they are sent basic food supplies to help everyone get by. However, it is never enough for food to be plentiful, even though people in the Capitol eat in excess, and children in the poor Districts often had to take tesserae to help their families survive. In addition, Snow controls the Peacekeepers, which are essentially the only military force of Panem. Peacekeepers are in charge of maintaining order and the borders of the Districts, to prevent interaction, illegal hunting and gathering outside of the District fences, and more. In addition, people are encouraged, and even rewarded, if they turn others in for potential violations.

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Another interesting point that was brought up in this lecture, and in the lecture about Dystopias, was the control of information. Totalitarian governments limit media, free speech, and what is taught in order to control the perspective of the people. In the Hunger Games, people are given virtually no information about the other Districts or the world outside Panem, if it even still exists. Katniss is shocked when she sees how huge District 11 is, and realizes that the video of the Reaping must show only a portion of the population present. On top of that, the Districts have very little way to communicate with one another, they are fenced in with no real media to tell the other Districts about what is going on. In District 12, Katniss only heard about the rebellion in District 8 on the television in the Mayor’s house. No one else had access to that information.

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Dr. Telhami’s talk focused on modern day politics in the Middle East. When I arrived at the lecture, I wondered how it was pertinent to our class on The Hunger Games, but he actually made a lot of relevant points. For one, he talked about the expansion of knowledge as a catalyst for the Arab Spring. In The Hunger Games, Peeta uses the claim that Katniss is pregnant to try and make the people of the Capitol realize the inhumanity of the Games – to bring knowledge to them that Snow took away with his propaganda and his bread and circuses. Snow disassociated the Capitol people with the people in the Districts, but the knowledge that they could lose the Victors that they loved made a lot of the people in the Capitol angry and upset. In addition, when knowledge of District 13’s survival came to Katniss, it was one of the first times she seriously considered the possibility of the full scale rebellion.

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Another point that Dr. Telhami brought up was the idea of a sense of identity. Snow destroyed the sense of identity and solidarity between the Districts by cutting them off from one another and not allowing the District’s to know much about one another. There was no sense of community, so any District that thought about rebelling expected to be alone in that fight. When the Districts actually had a figure head to stand behind, in this case Katniss as the Mockingjay, it finally made them realize that it was more than 1 district that had rebellious thoughts and it gave them something to stand for. The people could unite under their hatred of Snow, their starvation and poor conditions, and much more. When Cinna turned Katniss into the Mockingjay with her dress, it became apparent that even some of the elites of the Capitol were on the rebellions side.

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A final segment that Dr. Telhami brought up was the idea that public empowerment does not always mean that they will define policy. The different political figures and leaders will reach agreements that will allow for stability. In the Hunger Games, there were only a select few people that were in charge in the rebellion. Coin was meant to be the new President, and she would have advisors from throughout the leadership of the rebellion. Paylor became the President when Katniss killed Coin, but even so the end of Mockingjay made it clear that Panem would have a long way to go before true democracy could be found. Stability, however, was a much more achievable goal. 

 

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Blog 7: The Hunger Games

Blog 7: In Chapter 16 of Mockingjay, Collins writes about District 12 “We may have been the smallest district in Panem, but we know how to dance.” Discuss the importance of music and dance in The Hunger Games compared to Appalachia. Make sure to talk about at least one of the 3 songs mentioned in the trilogy: “Deep in the Meadow,” “The Valley Song,” and “The Hanging Tree.”

In The Hunger Games, music and dance is portrayed as a major part of the culture of District 12, even though they spend the large majority of their time working and trying to make a living. Mining is an integral part of the history of Appalachia because it led to many jobs, but also to the destruction and eventual desertion of their land. The companies set up a system where the miners were not being paid enough to even pay back the company for their living expenses and they eventually became essentially slaves to the companies. When miners unionized, in an attempt to get fair pay and a way out of debt, the mining companies brought in more equipment in order to limit the number of people required to mine in Appalachia. This led to a severe shortage of jobs, more destructive mining practices, and more. Music and dance are a major component of the Appalachian culture, and it is a source of inspiration. Songs about mining, family, religion, and much more fill the air in a style that is fairly unique to the Appalachian region. Appalachian music expresses the idea of nature, healing, peace, and escape; but it also expresses poverty, struggle, and the harshness of the coal mining world contrasted with the beautiful landscape in some parts of Appalachia.

In District 12, working in the mines is one of the only ways people can even have a chance to feed their family. However, much like in Appalachia, music and dance help lighten their lives and give them reasons to hope. One of the primary songs in The Hunger Games series is called Deep in the Meadow, which is the song Katniss sang to Rue as she died.

Deep in the Meadow

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http://ruetris.deviantart.com/art/Rue-Dying-305610633

This song is very reminiscent of the themes in Appalachian music because it talks about the beauty of nature and the peace that it offers. The song is beautiful, and also bittersweet as it is used as a dying lullaby. In the movie, the viewer can actually hear the lamentation as Katniss watches her only initial friend in the arena fade before her eyes, but the lyrics alone portray how sad she is and how much she hopes that Rue is moving to somewhere better.

The Valley Song also talks about the beauty that is present in nature, but there is a lot more to it as well. It also talks about love, loss, and moving on. This song has a special significance in the story, because Peeta tells Katniss that the first time he really noticed her was when the teacher asked if anyone knew “The Valley Song” and her hand shot straight up. The song is generally thought to reference Down in the Valley, a folk song from American and many different recording of this song have been made. 

“So, that day, in music assembly, the teacher asked who knew the valley song. Your hand shot up in the air. She stood you up on a stool and had you sign it for us. And I swear every bird outside the windows fell silent.” (pg. 301, The Hunger Games)

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http://hannna-k.deviantart.com/art/The-Valley-Song-323977402

Down in the Valley

Down in the valley, the valley so low

Hang your head over, hear the wind blow

Hear the wind blow, dear, hear the wind blow;

Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.

 

Roses love sunshine, violets love dew,

Angels in Heaven know I love you,

Know I love you, dear, know I love you,

Angels in Heaven know I love you.

 

If you don’t love me, love whom you please,

Throw your arms ’round me, give my heart ease,

Give my heart ease, dear, give my heart ease,

Throw your arms ’round me, give my heart ease.

 

Build me a castle, forty feet high;

So I can see her as she rides by,

As she rides by, dear, as she rides by,

So I can see her as she rides by.

 

Write me a letter, ‘Send it by mail,

Send it in care of Birmingham Jail,

Birmingham Jail, love, Birmingham Jail,

Send it in care of Birmingham Jail.

The Hanging Tree is more reminiscent of a different kind of song prevalent in Appalachia – the ballad style. In Appalachian music, these songs often tell of folk tales and stories that talk about specific people in history, but they also teach lessons and offer insight into the history of this region.

The Hanging Tree

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http://lizzomarek.deviantart.com/art/Hunger-Games-The-Hanging-Tree-no-8-285889266

Are you, Are you

Coming to the tree

Where they strung up a man they say murdered three

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree

 

Are you, Are you

Coming to the tree

Where the dead man called out for his love to flee

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree

 

Are you, Are you

Coming to the tree

Where I told you to run, so we’d both be free

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

 

Are you, Are you

Coming to the tree

Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.

Strange things did happen here,

No stranger would it be,

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

 

This particular song reminds me a lot of the story of John Hardy, which we heard about in class. He was a railroad worker who was hung because he killed another African American. According to the professor, thousands of people showed up to watch this gentleman hung for his crimes. While the main reason they are similar is the subject matter of hanging, there is also an air of tragedy to both songs because the men both wanted a better life.

Fan Created Version of the Hanging Tree

A Version of the John Hardy Murder Ballad

This song is also really significant to Katniss because her father taught her this song before he died in the mines. Her memory of it is very vivid, because her mother got very angry with them for singing it, as it was a forbidden song. However, when she sings the song in Mockingjay, it is a cathartic moment for her, and she continues to use music as a healing tool later in the book.