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Measure for Measure

Does reading “The Hunger Games” make the reader as shallow as a resident of the Capitol?

I read “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and really enjoyed it.


I wondered if I should have enjoyed it, or if by reading the book I become one of the silent villains of the book. Do I become a resident of the Capitol?

The premise is abhorrent – a wide-game of murder, broadcast for all to see. But the premise is compelling, we want to see how our narrator, Katniss, will survive. She must survive as she is our narrator. If they had killed her, and picked up the narrative from another angle, it would have been cheating of the highest order, and surely Collins would never have been published.

Despite suspecting our heroine will succeed, we want to see her do it. And she wins a game of murder as “well” as anyone could.

Her two kills are … well, less morally black and white as many others. She kills one who is murdering her ally. The other she puts out of his misery as an act of mercy.

In Panem, the setting, it is mandatory to watch “The Hunger Games”. Despite this, many watch for entertainment, many watch as their own political and social interest are bound up in the success or failure of the competitors. For a few, they are watching their own children fight to the death.

As a reader, I am watching children fight to the death. If it is repugnant to think of the citizens of the Capitol being entertained by the Games, how can I justify reading it?

OK OK it’s a story. But, that aside…

The reader gets their justification from the narrator. She does not want to take part, but she does so, for the highest of moral reasons – to save her little sister. She is a martyr and we root for her from the outset.

She is the Winston Smith of the piece: she can see what is wrong with the system and she wants to retain her individuality. Where she differs from him is that she has this (unwanted) opportunity to do something to defy the state – where, by being fully exposed, she can be herself, and they cannot silence her as they perhaps would, away from the cameras.

All that may well come in book 2…


So, this book was the “best” book I have read in ages. Which sits awkwardly with me because the subject matter is so horrendous. But Katniss is trying to subvert things, and does not descend utterly to barbarism.

When reality TV does “use” people, I don’t watch it. I don’t watch Big Brother, which has descended somewhere near where The Hunger Games may have grown from.

I’ll have a think about my motivation behind watching “The Apprentice” and “Masterchef”.

Here’s hoping I can live with that.


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4 thoughts on “Does reading “The Hunger Games” make the reader as shallow as a resident of the Capitol?

  1. I would say you are not like the citizens of the Capitol for, at the very least, one reason. This blog post. Or more specifically, the question you are asking. You recognize the horror of what they’re doing, and you question yourself. To me that’s good. The Capitol citizens have no moral questions about watching children murder each other. They have, in a way, lost some of their humanity because of this I think. I too enjoyed this book, or rather I enjoyed the way the story was told, and the story in and of itself. I did not like, however, the actual idea of the hunger games.

  2. I know that when I was watching the movie, I felt the repugnancy of the reality t.v show premiss taken to the worst extreme. Forcing children to hunt each other in a gladiator type competition all to keep the vanquished under the heel of the oppressor is barbaric but I do think that Katniss is a well developed heroine and you better believe it that I was rooting for her.

  3. I’d say the difference is that the Hunger Games is a fictional narrative, although the premise is based in reality taken to extremes the characters are fictional and therefore are not actually used and abused for our entertainment. Reality TV also presents a fictional narrative, (character story arcs are predetermined before and developed during airing) however the characters are actual people, often poorly informed and vulnerable.

    I never watch any sort of “Reality TV” for several reasons, the invisible crowd baying for blood is just one of them.

  4. I love dystopian futures, if only because it reminds me to be grateful for what I have now, imperfect as it is.

    The premise is repugnant but there would be no anti-war, anti-violence, anti-reality tv message without it.

    The book demonstrates the way we are heading, by reminding us where we have been (Roman civilisation, Nazis, school yard, anyone?).

    You will enjoy the sequels, I’m sure.

    Thought-provoking post.

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