Sunday, April 12, 2015

Blog 9

On April 9, philosophy professor Joshua Baron came to our Hunger Games class to discuss the nature of evil. Before beginning his discussion, he wanted to make a distinction between three disciplines: psychology, sociology, and philosophy. All three areas of study have many similarities; however, their differences can affect certain attitudes towards The Hunger Games.

Psychology is the study of the brain. Sociology is the study of society and how people relate to one another. Both of these subjects utilize qualitative and quantitative data to present observations. Philosophy is looking at yourself without bias while relating your own experiences as data. This data is presented by thoughts instead of numbers.

Philosophy involves ethics and the study of morality. Every human has his or her own beliefs on what is right or wrong. There are three different theories of being “good.” The first is Utilitarianism, where morality is affected by feelings. For example, in The Hunger Games Peeta goes disobeys his mother’s orders and sneaks Katniss and her family bread because he has a crush on Katniss. The second theory is Consequentialism; the morality of the right action depends on the consequences and focuses on the possible outcomes. The third is deontology; the morally right action is independent of consequences and focuses on duties and obligations. Deontology tests the Formula of the End Itself, which basically states you should treat others how they want to be treated. A reality singing show, “American Superstar” is an example because judges tell terrible tone-deaf singers that they are talented. Similarly, the Formula of Universal Law says to “act only on the maxim through which you can at the same time will that it be a universal law.” This means to do what you think others think is right too. Do what is universally right.

Philosophy says you must pick a theory and follow it. Throughout The Hunger Games, all of these theories can be applied. When it comes to evil, evil must requires intent. President Snow and the Capitol create the most evil and the largest underlying conflict of the trilogy. They purposely hold the Hunger Games each year to punish the districts and remain in power. While each theory can be applied philosophically to The Hunger Games, the nature of evil defies the any moral compass.


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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Blog 8

            Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games to entertain an audience who enjoys love, passion, controversy, and conquest. While doing so, she created a gendered trilogy that sociologists could explore. On April 2nd, our class had the opportunity to sit in on a lecture by Dr. Raley. She explained the idea of gender and how it is incorporated throughout The Hunger Games.
            The first point Dr. Raley made is that everything is gendered. Whether we realize it or not, certain objects and ideas are directed more towards men or women. For example, alcoholic drinks such as beer are more related to men whereas wine and sweeter drinks are related to women.
            Next, Dr. Raley explained how gender is a socially constructed concept. This means that we as a society make the decisions on what gender truly means. We perform gender every single day and we look for a variety of clues in others.
            Gender is not the same across all cultures. In fact, in some cultures women are seen as the hunters and gatherers while men are at home with the family. In the United States, gender has varied greatly across time. Our founding fathers wore extravagant clothing and created different “pillars of masculinity” than what are recognized today. Pink used to be a masculine color but that has changed now as well. Women are known to dress more extravagantly with expensive clothing and accessories. Men tend to dress more polished, plain, and simple. These are typical stereotypes but they do not apply to everyone. In addition, men usually are known for being strong, unemotional, and fighters. Women are soft, emotional, and portrayed as “damsels in distress.” Far too often in movies and the media, women are hypersexualized and seem to “need a man” to complete them. Dr. Raley discussed the Bechdal Test which makes us ask ourselves three questions when watching a movie: Are there more than 2 women? Do they have names? Do they talk to each other about anything than the men in the story? These questions prove whether or not women are being portrayed as strong, independent leading roles.
            In The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta have seemed to almost switch gender roles. Katniss is known as a modern day heroine, fighting for herself and what she believes in. While she does get caught between two men, she also focuses on saving herself and her family while rebelling against the Capitol. Peeta is portrayed as a sensitive and emotional young man who has no issues telling people how he feels. Katniss’s characterization shows more signs of masculinity and femininity. She is the biggest fighter and source of support for her family. Peeta is more like the typical “movie girlfriend.” He is selfless in order to achieve the main goal of saving Katniss. He acts more charming and feminine in his interviews with Katniss as well.

            The trilogy is a modern day example of how gender roles can and continue to vary across a period of time. Katniss still portrays feminine qualities while Peeta still portrays masculine qualities. However, this is the first love story in a while that focuses on more than just a strong man fighting for a damsel in distress.


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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Blog 7

When writing The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins incorporated historical information to lay the foundation for the characteristics of Panem. 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.” District 12 is said to be located in Appalachia because of the presence of coal. Both Appalachia and The Hunger Games portray significant musical themes that are important to the trilogy.

 As a child, Katniss and her father would sing ballads together just like people in Appalachia would sing ballads to each other to tell stories. “The Hanging Tree” is one song in Mockingjay that suggests rebellion and teamwork amongst the people of Panem. This song was banned by the capitol because of its underlying themes. Katniss stated that she didn’t understand the true meaning of the song until after her father died and she grew older. The Hanging Tree itself seems like a trap that calls people to come for safety. There is a lot of confusion between running to the tree for actual safety versus running to the tree to reach your death.

The first stanza of the song asks “are you, are you coming to the tree?” This in concrete terms could literally be asking if you’re coming to the safe haven. In more abstract terms, this could ask if you’re ready to rebel and join a side. The song also mentions, “strange things did happen here” which could mean multiple things. The Hunger Games itself is a perfect example of the “strange things” the Capitol punishes the districts with every single year. The most important line of the song is “no stranger would it be, if we met at midnight in the hanging tree.” This could mean two different things. It could mean that if strangers rebelled together, they would not be strangers anymore. It could also mean that it is not uncommon for people to sacrifice themselves while fighting for what they believe in.

Just like in Appalachia, ballads are used mainly to tell a story. This simple tune is catchy for The Hunger Games but it serves a greater purpose by expressing a reoccurring theme in Mockingjay.


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Monday, March 9, 2015

Blog 6

A totalitarian government is known for executing central power over every aspect of life within its borders. It is not afraid to use violence or manipulation in order to suppress opposition. Immediately I can already relate these characteristics to The Hunger Games and other countries around the world.

In my last blog entry, I discussed several elements that made Panem a dystopian society. Gresh describes a dystopia as “a bleak world in which everything is pretty much hopeless. A dystopia is not a fun place to live: people are oppressed, dehumanized, and frightened,” (17). A totalitarian government interrelates to a dystopian society greatly. Totalitarian rule is ruthless, harmful, and detrimental to the well-being of the citizens it rules over. Unfortunately, this type of rule still exists in the world today. Countries such as North Korea and Iraq both exemplify real-world effects caused by a totalitarian regime. Under Kim Jong-il and his brutal successors, North Korea suffered under merciless acts such as public torture, slave labor, and executions. They do not comply with international treaties and often threaten the use of nuclear weapons. In Iraq, Suddam Hussein left detrimental effects to the civilians through the war with Iran and the United States. Human rights are abused and prisoners are constantly tortured. Women receive little to no respect. The fact that these totalitarian regimes can continue dictatorship today in 2015 makes me question our international relations for the future.

Suzanne Collins does an extraordinary job incorporating totalitarianism with the themes of The Hunger Games, creating a trilogy that keeps readers wanting more. Obviously the Capitol has full control (or so they think) over Panem and President Snow is the ringleader. We all know that the 13 districts tried to overthrow the government and instead, 12 were taken over and one was destroyed. As Pavlik states, “the Hunger Games were instituted as an annual reminder that rebellion against the Capitol should never again be considered,” (31). This is the initial event that the Capitol executed, making sure the citizens of Panem knew they would be suppressed. Furthermore, the games embody a totalitarian situation of their own. Each year, a male and female are chosen from each district to participate in a fight-to-the-death challenge with only one survivor. Multiple districts already have advantages, which makes the games unfair. Not only that, the gamemakers purposefully sabotage participants and alliances. Meanwhile, President Snow, “a man who has achieved and kept power by poisoning his enemies and rivals,” (31), continues to sit back and watch the madness of the games unfold. Throughout the trilogy, the Capitol continues to regulate the districts and maintain rule through the games and supervising. This totalitarian rule becomes the backbone of never-ending conflict.


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Other Sources:

Of Bread, Blood, and The Hunger Games, Chapter 2, "Absolute Power Games," by Anthony Pavlik
The Hunger Games Companion, Chapter 2 by Lois H. Gresh

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Blog 5

Tom Henthorne’s article, “Dystopia with a Difference,” describes a dystopian society as “essentially political, exploring particular social issues by setting up a horrific alternative world in which those issues figure largely,” (108). By this definition, The Hunger Games supports this idea through themes of power, warfare, sacrifice, media, and propaganda. All three books in the trilogy offer a dystopian fiction for readers to absorb and learn from.

During Dr. Carpenter’s lecture, she described dystopias in a very similar way. In a simpler sense, she said, “dystopias are attempted utopias gone horribly wrong.” Throughout The Hunger Games trilogy, a main conflict involves the Capitol and its ridiculous conspiracies about ruling Panem. The Dark Days were frequently mentioned and how Panem was established to keep peace. After the fall of District 13, political unrest amongst the 12 other Districts was more apparent than ever. Because of the revolt by District 13, the Capitol created The Hunger Games to keep the Districts in line, which resulted in more opposition than they expected.   

Dr. Carpenter’s second point stated “dystopian societies value stability above all else.” This hinders everyone’s right to freedom and individuality. This was apparent through the characterization of Katniss and how she struggled throughout the entire first half of the trilogy. She was conflicted with finding herself while remaining cooperative with the boundaries of the Capitol. In addition, the Capitol values The Hunger Games over the welfare of its people. The games cause destruction, stress, and 12 districts on edge.

One of the biggest similarities between The Hunger Games and dystopian societies that Dr. Carpenter discussed is that “dystopian societies serve the interest of a particular group.” Immediately I think of the people of the Capitol and their entitlement. They are all materialistic, inconsiderate, and totalitarian. They are not open-minded and cannot see that the games are not worth being harmful to prove a point. The Capitol only sees the games as an establishment of authority and revenge for the attempted revolt from District 13. It seems that Panem only has two social classes: the Capitol and the civilians from the Districts. This allows the Capitol to enhance their superiority above all else.

All of the aspects of Dr. Carpenter’s lecture directly relate to The Hunger Games.

Each aspect of war, sacrifice, love, power, and propaganda fulfill the qualities a dystopia contains. Suzanne Collins created a trilogy of pure entertainment but with a dystopian society all the same.


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Article Source: "Dystopia With a Difference" by Tom Henthorne