Who is Evil in the Hunger Games (The Nature of Evil in the Hunger Games)

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If Snow or Katniss were true evil, would the world burn? 

Is President Snow evil? What about President Coin? Is our well-respected heroine, Katniss, evil? Almost every character in the Hunger Games trilogy has to make tough decisions at some point during the books, and many of those decisions cause death and despair. In order to answer those questions, we have to look first at the nature of evil and whether or not a person is evil or if it is simply individual decisions that they make that are evil. If the only requirement to be evil is to act evil, then all three of these characters fit the requirement at some point in the books, but I think there is a lot more to it.

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Who or What Defines Evil? 

Evil is a hard concept to define, and in our class lecture on the nature of evil, we talked about what made a good person in order to determine what an evil person is. We talked about the Greater Happiness Principle, which is the idea that the right action is the one that creates the most happiness. Utility is one possible form of a good person, which states that the action that has the most utility is the good action. This defines the best option as the one that creates the most utility after the fact. In the idea of duty, Kant said in deontology that the morally right action is independent of consequences and focuses on duty and obligations. We also talked about Aristotle’s Golden Mean, which has the idea that a good person is the one who reacts without excess or deficiency based on their emotional responses.

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Where do Katniss, Coin, and Snow reside on the spectrum? 

We also had a lecture by a Holocaust survivor, who talked about his experiences throughout this terrible era of history. He talked about the fact that they were deprived of food, forced to work for long days with little or no hydration, and much more. His suffering was a result of the decisions of Hitler and other people in Germany to persecute the Jewish people throughout Europe and many other minorities as well. While the discussion wasn’t directly about the Hunger Games, it gave a harsh, real world perspective on the pain that evil actions and evil people can cause.

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How does the suffering of the victims in the Holocaust mirror the Hunger Games?

That brings me back to our questions? Who is evil in the Hunger Games. Snow is a very obvious first answer, but I am not so sure. Many of Snow’s individual actions were evil, he created mass suffering in Panem in order to retain his own power, he killed any competition to his power, and he used torture, threats, and more to control and coerce the victors and other prominent figures into compliance with his regime. He also ordered the destruction of District 12 to punish Katniss and to try and quell the rebellion. However, many of his actions had the goal of retaining the stability of Panem too, which would have prevented mass loss of life. In the end, I do not think Snow is truly evil. Is he a good person? No, probably not, but he did try to protect Panem in his own way. Unlike the villians in many other books, like Lord Voldemort of the Harry Potter series, Snow did seek good in his own way. Would everyone agree that the ends justified the means, of course not, but he did not seek to destroy. Snow only destroyed people when he could not get what was necessary through other means.

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Do they belong in the same picture? 

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What about Katniss Everdeen? Is Katniss evil? She killed people in the arena in anger, after the death of Rue – granted, that was also self-defense. She killed Cato out of pity, but only after allowing the dogs to work on eating him for hours. She was even quicker to want to fight and to let her arrows fly during Catching Fire. Further, her rebellious nature triggered a war that led to many deaths. However, even if a few of her actions were ill advised and could be perceived as evil; her intent was not. She wanted to have the opportunity to live her life and to protect her family. She wanted to keep the people that she cared about safe. If anything, she caused a lot of harm solely because she cared more about what happened to the people around her than herself. She fits Aristotle’s Golden Mean in a way, because she finds a good balance between excess and deficiency – she is courageous instead of rash or cowardly. While she does sometime lean toward the excess side of the spectrum, she has good intentions and her confusion and her anger often help her to push through and survive.

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What if this was her response? 

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What about President Coin? Was her decision to manipulate and then try to kill Katniss a sign that she is an evil person. Much like President Snow, she willingly caused immense suffering in order to rise to a position of power. She forced everyone in District 13 into a tight, military regime in order to cement her authority. She controlled Katniss by manipulating her desire to help the people she cared about. She tried to have Katniss killed as soon as she no longer needed The Mockingjay so that Katniss could not threaten her power. Coin is the one character that I would argue might actually be evil. Her thirst for power and her decision not to care about the people who help her get there show that she is firmly on the excess side of the spectrum for the Golden Mean, and she also violates several of the other ideas of a “good person.”

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Was Coin or Snow the lesser of two evils? 

Millennialism and Apocalypse in The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games occurs in a post-apocalyptic world, where the reader is unsure exactly what led to the current state of affairs. Either Panem is the only country remaining or there is no communication with the outside world. In addition, the environment has been severely degraded and the Capitol subjugated the Districts for many years. The reader does know about the Dark Days, where a rebellion led to the death of many and the creation of the Hunger Games, but outside of that, the author gave the reader very little concrete information about how the world ended. In Appendix A of Gresh’s book, The Hunger Games Companion: An Unauthorized Guide to the Series, the author discusses some of the possibilities that could have created Panem as it currently stands. The author ruled out genetic warfare because the people themselves are not mutated, she also ruled out alien invasion, and much more. She looked at the possibility of nuclear war, chemical warfare, and biological warfare in depth, but still did not think those were the most likely cases. Gresh’s conclusion was that the post-apocalyptic society of the Hunger Games was most likely caused by global warming that led to environmental issues and eventually war. Based on Katniss’s thoughts about the state of the environment in District 12 and the remembrance of the Dark Days, the text supports Gresh’s theory of events, although it does not outright confirm it.

Panem vs. The United States  – Blue Dots Represent the New Coastlines as a Result of Global Warming

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However, regardless of how the world was created, it is clear that Katniss resides in a post-apocalyptic world. On Tuesday, we had a guest lecture with Dr. Krebs, who talked about the differences between millennialism and apocalypse and how they applied to the Hunger Games. She described both as end of the world theories, but apocalypse theories tend to have religious or divine reasoning, although there is overlap between the two theories.

The Rapture Imagery

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We also talked about the different kinds of Millennialism: avertive (we can stop it), progressive/post-millennialism (doesn’t require the world to end, they just want to make it better), catastrophic/pre-millennialism (catastrophic event leads to a new world order), Christian Dispensationalism (God will smite the world but Christians will be okay), Hierarchical v. Demotic (demotic – revolution from the bottom about justice and equality), nativist (colonial powers influence on indigenous groups), and environmental.

Environmental Disaster Effect – Global Warming

PS: Does it make those new coast lines from the image above stand out more?

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Several of these different groups of Millennialism can be seen in the Hunger Games. The Avertive Theory is constantly practiced by President Snow. He coerces people into serving him and following his rules and regulations because of the fear of catastrophe if they do not. Snow sells the idea that by following his rules, people are averting the end of the world as they know it.

President Snow Talking to Seneca about the Dangers of Hope

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Catastrophic millennialism is implied throughout the book when Katniss, and other characters, talk about how Panem became the way it is. That includes the vague comments about environmental damage and how previous generations did not take care of the future, the talk of the Dark Days, the alleged destruction of District 13, and much more. Most of the people in Panem have accepted that the Hunger Games and disparity is simply a fact of life in the new world order of Panem.

The Dark Days

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The idea of Demotic Millennialism is also clearly shown in Mockingjay, when the rebellion is working to try and create a better system in Panem. Coin’s motives may not have been pure, but many of the members of the rebellion simply wanted a system that would allow the people to survive and thrive instead of suffering. People hoped for a better government that would allow the Districts to grow, to expand on their industries, and to have an open relationship with the Capitol and the other Districts. Whether or not this is achieved by the end of Mockingjay, the reader does not know for sure. However, with the death of Coin and Snow, the reader is left with the hope that President Paylor will allow a better system to form. In class, we also talked about a couple of different real world movements – the Taiping Rebellion, the Raelian movement, the Turner Diaries (in that they influenced some of the movements) and more. I see a lot of similarities between the Taiping Rebellion and the Mockingjay Rebellion.

Taiping Rebellion

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The Taiping Rebellion was led by a man who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus, and he and his followers led a massive civil war in China. He was trying to create the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in Southern China, and at the height of the rebellion, this movement led 30 million people. However, where I see most of the similarities between this and Mockingjay was in what it sought to accomplish. The rebellion sought common property, equality for women, and also freedom to practice Christianity instead of the accepted Chinese religions of the time. In Mockingjay, the people are seeking less disparity between the Districts and the Capitol and more freedom to work and live in different parts of Panem. In both cases, the rebellion also sought to overthrow a system that they saw as corrupt and to instill a different type of governmental system.

Mockingjay Rebellion

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After that, we talked about cults and how charismatic people cannot choose to be charismatic, people have to choose them and believe that they have something to offer. The survival of their movement is dependent on their ability to deal with challenges, such as explaining why prophecies fail if they do, being able to create and maintain an alternate lifestyle, and dealing with conflict from the rest of society. This aspect is also quite relevant in the Hunger Games series. Snow is clearly a charismatic leader, he uses his charisma to keep the people from questioning the system, but when it starts to fail, he grasps at his power and charisma to try and retain control. However, because so many people no longer followed him, he was unable to maintain his charisma, and therefore, he was unable to kill the rebellion or stop it before it started.

President Snow

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Coin, on the other hand, lacked charisma in many ways. Her power was centralized in a District that was desperate for a leader and tightly managed to keep control. However, she did not possess the ability to inspire people to fight or to lead without tight control and military power. Because of this, Coin perceived Katniss as a threat to her authority and power and did not want her to have any real power in the rebellion. She designated her the role of figurehead because she needed her to consolidate power for Coin, but the book indicated that she hoped that Katniss would be killed once the rebellion was strong enough to survive without her.

Alma Coin – Fan Art Interpretation

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Katniss had a lot of charisma, although she never really saw it or acknowledged it. The people of Panem were inspired by her rebellious acts, even though she was simply trying to survive. She claims in the Hunger Games that she doesn’t know how to make people like her, and that was quite true, but by refusing to try and instead just fighting for what she believed was right, much of the nation of Panem learned to love and respect her. If she had been able to hold any real power in the rebellion, she would have made Coin obsolete. Even after she realizes that Coin is just as bad as Snow and kills her, Katniss is still well respected, which is why instead of punishing her, she is found to be mentally ill because of all that she went through and simply sent back to District 12 to live a quiet life, which is all she wanted in the first place.

Katniss Everdeen!

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After seeing all three and reading the books, which would you initially think would be the best leader? I am guessing most people would pick Katniss or Snow.

The Three Leaders

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PS: Check out the photo challenge posted earlier this week  and see if you can figure out what drink goes with what Hunger Games Character!

Photo Challenge! Hunger Games

Drinking challenge (Large)

Here is the challenge – figure out which Hunger Games Character each drink was designed for….
Some will be easy, some will be more difficult! Best of luck!

Here are the characters we drew from – Annie, Beetee/Wiress, Buttercup, Caesar, The Careers, Cinna, Coin, Effie, Finnick, Gale, Haymitch, Johanna, Katniss, Mags, Paylor, Peeta, Plutarch, Prim, Rue, Seneca, Snow, Thresh

Note: I have not made all of these drinks, so these recipes may be tweaked by the final version, but the names are set!

Hero’s Journey and the Hunger Games

The Hero’s Journey in the Hunger Games

 

In our lecture with Dr. Mazeroff, we got to look at The Hunger Games from a more psychological approach and from the idea of the Hero’s Journey. He briefly talked about Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, who developed the Hero’s Journey. Jung started its development by studying fairy tales, myths, national epics, and more. Then, we went over the main steps of the Hero’s Journey – the departure, initiation, and the return. At each stage, there are various decisions that people can make to propel their story forward. They can decide to work with the other people in the tale, make allies, refuse to move forward, get stuck, or even fail on their journey. We went over some of the other possible elements, and then we applied the Hero’s Journey to The Hunger Games.

 

“…the hero is symbolical of that divine creative and redemptive image which is hidden

in us all, only waiting to be known and rendered into life” – Joseph Campbell

 

One of the first points that got brought up was whether or not Katniss was actually a hero. In my opinion, she definitely is, although she has trouble throughout the story. However, there are other heroes who face their own journey through the books; including: Peeta, Prim, and more.  Nevertheless, we did focus primarily on Katniss as the main character of the story. She goes through most of the stages of the Hero’s Journey, and in some cases, she has to face the stage several times.

The Departure

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The first stage of the Hero’s Journey is the Departure. Katniss entered her journey the moment she volunteered to take Prim’s place as the tribute from District 12. The Departure stage of a Hero’s Journey includes the following steps: the call to adventure, self-awakening, crossing the threshold, and more. She answers the call by volunteering, although she does not know the consequences of her actions right away. She also answers the call later in the story when she agrees to be the Mockingjay, even though she initially refused. The first image of crossing the threshold occurred when she is going into the Capitol, and again as she is rising into the arena. Her participation in the 74th and 75th Hunger Games represents her time in the Belly of the Whale.

Entering the Games

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The second stage of the Hero’s Journey is the initiation, which includes the road of trials, apotheosis, the ultimate boon, and more. Katniss faces a series of different trials while she is in the Games. She is forced to defend herself to the point of having to kill other people in order to survive. She forms friendships and alliances in this phase, in the first Games with Peeta and then Rue; in the second Games with Peeta, Finnick, Mags, Beetee, Wiress, and Johanna. While she is reluctant to have the allies in the second Games, they repeatedly help her survive. Katniss is driven through the road of trials by her desire to get home for her family, because she takes care of them. Atonement for the Father is another major step, she has to take care of her family because of the death of her father. In the Apotheosis stage, the hero moves beyond their self to success. Her moment of clarity occurs when she pulls out the berries as a potential way to survive. At this point in the heroes journey is the ultimate boon; the winning of the game and the ability to go home should have offered her that. However, instead she is thrust back into the Games because of her decisions along the way.

The Return after the 74th Hunger Games

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The third stage is the Return. For Katniss, her initial return to District 12 is happy; but she is confused about her life with Peeta and she is forced back into a bad situation when she is informed that if she and Peeta don’t convince the world that they are in love, her family is in danger. The 75th Hunger Games and the rebellion started another cycle through the Heroes Journey for Katniss and many other people she knows. A lot of people fail their journey, or never return home. Prim and Finnick are both killed and Gale and her mother never return to District 12.  Her mother refuses to return in Mockingjay because of the painful memories that returning would evoke. Katniss needs help to return after the war, she is forced to return because of her exile from the Capitol. In my opinion, she does eventually master the two worlds (another stage), when she and Peeta are able to create a decent life in District 12, even though they both still have emotional and physical scars from the rebellion.

Children of Men vs. The Hunger Games

Children of Men vs. The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel series, with film adaptations, and many people enjoyed reading and watching this troubling story. In Panem, society is surviving but it is far from thriving. People are at risk of starvation, beatings, and death if they do not fit into the regime. When the rebellion sparks, it is only breaking a system that was already set to self destruct. Haymitch informs Katniss, at one point, that the rebellion was brewing for a long time; they were simply waiting for the right face to lead it and the right conditions for success. However, it was by no means the first popular dystopian film in created in the modern day.

Children of Men was released in 2006, and it has a very different plot, but it is still a dystopian society that faces serious problems. In Children of Men, the world is facing a huge problem; humans have lost the ability to reproduce and humanity is a single generation away from extinction. At the start of the movie, the youngest person in the world dies at 18 years old, creating a hug sense of impossibility for recovery. Britain declares that all immigrants are illegal and will be deported, in order to preserve their own country and Theo, the main character, is nearly killed in a bombing. Theo is abducted by a group called the Fishes, including his ex-wife Julian, because they need him to help them get the papers required to travel. They are trying to transport Kee, a woman who managed to conceive in this world.

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They are attacked on the road and Julian is killed. After Kee decides to stay with the Fishes until the birth, Theo is up late unable to sleep and petting the cat when he hears a commotion outside. Theo finds out that the Fishes orchestrated her death because the people who arrived were members of the group that killed Julian and his eavesdrops on their conversation. As a result, he leaves the Fishes with Kee and her nurse. Theo connects with an old friend, who agrees to help Kee get to the Human Project, a group that is trying to restore people’s ability to have children. However, the Fishes follow them and kill Theo’s friend.

They escape, but as they approach the detention center, Kee goes into labor and her nurse has to pretend to be crazy in order to prevent her from being caught. The nurse is hooded and dragged away, but Theo and Kee make it to Bexhill safely, and her daughter is born. They meet Syd and Marichka in Bexhill, but Syd wants to turn Theo in for a reward and the city is in chaos as the Fishes and the national guard are fighting. The Fishes find them, and Luke is killed and Theo shot, but Marichka helps them get to the water to go into the harbor to meet the people from the Human Project.  At the end of the movie, Theo is either dead or at least unconscious and the boat from the Human Project has arrived. It kind of reminded me of the scene from the Titanic, where Rose is finally saved but her love is already dead in the water.

A State of Unrest

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Overall, the basic plot of this story is very different from The Hunger Games. However, there are many similarities between the two stories as well. For one, many of the people are rebelling against the government in Britain, because it is discriminating against immigrants; much like how Snow discriminated against the people in the Districts. Further, the people need a figurehead or a reason to have hope. Katniss provides that in the Hunger Games, but when the people in Bexhill see Kee and her baby, many of them stop fighting to start praying and it helps Theo and Kee escape. Kee shows them that there may still be hope after all, although the fighting eventually continues in Bexhill.

Katniss as a Symbol

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Kee as a Symbol

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Also, much like the ending of the Hunger Games, Children of Men leaves the viewer with a lot of questions. In the Hunger Games, the reader really doesn’t know what kind of government is formed after the rebellion or if the Hunger Games is re-instated in the end. The reader knows life is at least somewhat better, based on the epilogue with Katniss’s children, but how much better the society actually is and if it is only a temporary fix is unclear. Children of Men is even more unclear in its ending. Does Kee manage to create a breakthrough that can restore the ability to reproduce? Does Theo even survive to see the outcome? If Kee and the Human Project do manage to have a significant breakthrough, how will the world survive? Will the population be able to recover or is it to late? What regulations will be put into place to restore the population, if only certain women can reproduce, how will they be treated? Will the people in the world revere them or the government turn them into slaves, like the women in The Handmaiden’s Tale.

Victory Tour: Travel Scene

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A third similarity is how people are treated. In both cases, citizens who are out of favor with the government are starved, beaten, and generally mistreated. In Children of Men, Miriam is dragged off, hooded, and her fate is unknown. In the Hunger Games, Katniss remembers when a girl was captured for trying to run and later she finds out that the girl had her tongue cut out and was turned into a slave for the Capitol. Travelling between areas is restricted in both populations, although in Children of Men at least some people are able to get a permit to travel. In the Hunger Games, it is only during the Games Selection, Games, and Victory tour that anyone is given the opportunity to see other Districts; and then it is only the tributes, mentors, and then victors. Even in those cases, they are limited on where they can go in the other Districts. Who knows what other similarities we would find, if we had been able to get a more complete image of society?

 

PS: Not sure what I thought about the fake blood spatter on the scene in the fight scene in Bexhill or the bombing at the end….