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.
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.
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.
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.
Do they belong in the same picture?
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.
What if this was her response?
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.”
Was Coin or Snow the lesser of two evils?