Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Bread and Circuses
Bread and Circuses – Rome. Remember the gladiators? Feed the masses and give them entertainment, bloodthirsty entertainment. What more could the public want? Seems to be a theme going here in the United States or at least in the literature. I must give credit where credit is due for this blog. I read Playground Monitor’s blog last week on the “Hunger Games” and decided that I had to read it to find out what all the uproar was about. Well, I read the book. Here’s my take on it and it's my opinion only.
Actually it was a very good book. Suzanne Collins drew you in and made you like the heroine, Katniss. You identify with the girl and her tribulations in a post-apocalyptic world. Then Collins made you want to root for her in the games. She had to win. I think it was well written, a bit stilted in some parts, but overall a very good, quick read. Now, I am a lot older than the average fan of this book and I have a lot of life experiences that a pre-teen would not have. I can appreciate the darkness and the cynicism about the government. I understand the struggle for survival that is all through this book. Katniss does exactly what I would do to protect my family. She does it nobly and with honor. All the things we hold dear in a heroine.
BUT, I just do not see this as a young adult novel, or at least a novel for the pre-teens who are devouring it. The darkness, the despair and the utter hopelessness that pervades the book could become depressing. I also do not think that a pre-teen (and here I am actually talking about fourth to sixth grade children) should be subjected to the murder and mayhem occurring in the book. It just seems too intense. I won’t spoil the book for those of you who have not read it but there is one character who dies in this book and it is not an easy death. I hated it but it was a necessary part of the plot. I am conflicted about this book being read by children who do not possess enough life knowledge to understand that death is final and that, unlike a video game, you aren’t coming back from it. I truly believe death has been trivialized by a lot of things in our society – video games where the object is murder makes it seem impermanent. This is not to say that Ms. Collins trivialized the deaths in the book. What I am trying to say is that children reading this see a heroine who kills. Without the knowledge that is pertinent to understanding Katniss’s predicament, the killing of others just seems inconsequential. I think that the age limit for this book should be, like movies, rated to young adults, thirteen and above. Just my opinion.
The theme of this book closely parallels the gladiator games in Rome. I also wonder about what the popularity of this book says about us. Are we like the ancient Romans who need excitement and the death of others to make us feel more alive or to feel entertained? I know, it’s just a book but it’s a young adult novel. Do our children understand the deaths and the reasons for those deaths in the book? That the government is punishing the Districts like Rome punished its provinces? Maybe this would be a good time to show the children that this has actually happened before. Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.
How do you feel about the book? Do you feel that it’s appropriate for pre-teens (and I know they do) to read this? Give me your opinion on the books, whether you’ve read them or will read them. Also, tell me your thoughts on the underlying theme of the book. I’d like to know.