Hunger Games

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YA Dystopian novels don’t teach you how to live in a dystopia.

One thing that aggravates me most about YA dystopian novels is the amount of angst and edginess. It makes sense, however, since the novels are written for a young audience…
After reading a few dystopian novels from this class, I started paying more attention to what these books, and what popular media teaches it’s audience. In this blog, I want to discuss how YA dystopian novels teach teenagers the wrong values. I will be looking The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins to exemplify a typical popular YA dystopian novel.

I am the main character.
YA dystopian novels are reflective of teenage fears regarding our society and our own lives. The fears come with feelings of being misunderstood as a teenager. As we grow and experience new emotions and new problems, we believe that no one else shares the same struggles, so we believe that we are misunderstood. These characteristics of being alone, misunderstood, and different is what forms the main character of most dystopian novels. We feel like we are the protagonist in our own lives.

The truth is, there are no antagonists or protagonists in this world: just people. Though we may be the main characters in our own lives, we shouldn’t always be so focused on our own struggles. Of course, America was designed to be a country that promotes individualism, however we shouldn’t forget that everyone has their own struggles, have similar life experiences, and interact/work together. When we recognize the entire world and realize that you are not only the main character of a single story, but a also a character in 8 billion other stories, we might become more aware of our true purpose and role in this world.

The world is against me.

In The Hunger Games, we see a world filled with violence. In the Arena, you have to fight, to put on a good show, and to kill in order to reap your rewards. If you don’t, you die. The world is against you (because you are misunderstood). The Hunger Games also teaches that your freedom and long term happiness comes from a romantic relationship. Much of the plot revolves around Katniss’s interaction with Peeta.

In my opinion, I believe that the world is not against us. The world works simple whatever way the world works, regardless if it’s in your favor or not. Our government does not intentionally want to make it’s people suffer. Your liberty and long term happiness also does not have to come from a successful romantic relationship. If you take a look down below at the video I posted, it discusses more about happiness, and how your environment will always work against you. The world isn’t necessarily against you, it’s just the way it is. Your happiness does not depend on what you do and do not possess.

The hero is chosen.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss has to volunteer as tribute in order to save her little sister. She doesn’t have much choice but to become the Hero. Peeta is also chosen. In a dystopian novel, the hero is often chosen, or becomes a hero due to a stroke of good or bad luck. What this teaches us is that regular folk can’t do anything unless they are called upon.

In reality, there is no guarantee that someone will ever be called upon to change their social environments. If you continue to play the victim due to your environments, you will only continue to be the victim. A hero doesn’t have to be chosen: a hero only needs to take initiative.

 

In conclusion, I don’t believe that dystopian novels teach great values for maturing teenagers. There are probably healthier messages that a dystopian novel could convey.

My ideas stemmed from this book Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith. It’s a self-help book that teaches about how much the environment can affect your behavior. In the video below, Marshall explains that happiness doesn’t come from achievement: that’s called a TV commercial. Happiness is a process, not a result. Many of the messages conveyed in dystopian novels go against what Marshall tries to make his audience understand.

Imagine a world without technology. What do you think might happen? A global search engine vanishing. Communication systems shut down. Transportation stagnating as communities become isolated. Access to food, water, friends, and information: all restricted and unobtainable. It is quite hard to conceptualize, as our generation relies heavily on technology for much in our everyday lives. But in dystopian societies, people live this challenge constantly. The fearful majority usually have no access to what we would refer to as modern innovations. Contrasting this is the powerful few who hold advanced technology easily in the palm of their hand. This difference in technological prowess is a defining aspect of what makes a society a dystopia. In my conference presentation, The Tyranny of Technology, I will explain how this disparity is evident through acclaimed YA dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and Red Queen.

Dystopian societies are notoriously protective about the media. The ways in which the elite communicate among each other and with the public is a careful process. The message they send out always has an undercurrent of strength and brutality while emphasizing peace and prosperity on the surface. But it is also broadcast in public avenues in a complex technological way. The Hunger Games gathers many people in rundown streets to watch a game of horror on a big, high definition screen or on advanced projectors. Meanwhile, there is only one citizen in the entire district who even has access to a phone. Similarly, the inhabitants in Red Queen have barely working generators that fail to keep the lights on half of the time while the elite rulers have all manners of communication to spread their tyranny over the land. This allows them to broadcast propaganda and gather information at a much faster rate than any sort of rebellion. In turn, this vicious cycle allows the government to amass a large amount of power and influence.

The big turn that allows the resistance to start winning battles begins when the playing field of technology is leveled. Other sectors that this may occur in can include militarization, transportation, and engineering. Popular YA dystopian novels introduce a new factor in one of these areas to compensate for the offset in influence. When District 13 comes into play, Katniss now has the weapons and resources at her disposal to launch propaganda campaigns and begin her attack on the Capitol. When Mare obtains her lightning ability, she, a commoner turned royal, is then able to promote a strong symbol of freedom and power back at the government. It is important to recognize the power technology can bring to the table, whether in our world or in books. For if a gap starts to form between us and the government, who knows what kind of imaginary technological dystopia might eventually become a reality.

Works Cited

  1. Henderson, Greg. “Futurespect: Utopia vs Dystopia – 10 Depictions Of The Future.” Rootnotion, 22 Aug. 2014, http://rootnotion.co.uk/utopia-vs-dystopia-10-depictions-future/.

Censorship is the prevention of certain ideas, phrases, or images from reaching the general public. Throughout history, censorship has occurred in the form of banning and challenging books. Although countless authors have warned against the idea of censorship, it is still prevalent today. Moreover, censorship and book challenging is especially common among YA dystopian novels. In my research, I will be discussing the effects of censorship in YA dystopian literature. Why are these books banned, and how does it affect the targeted young adult audience?

 

Every year the American Library Association publishes a list of the most frequently challenged books of the year and the reasoning for banning them. Within these lists are countless YA dystopian novels. Titles such as The Hunger Games and Feed are frequently on such lists. What is interesting about many of the challenged and banned novels is that their reasoning for being banned is often obscure. For example, The Hunger Games was once challenged for the “religious viewpoint”(Biller). It is interesting to me that parents would choose to challenge a book based off of a said religious viewpoint when there is so much violence that would be easier to challenge.

 

Another interesting aspect of censorship I wish to uncover is false censorship. My independent novel, Delirium, had some sources claim it was banned or challenged, yet I have not found any conclusive information. Could this be a marketing tactic used by the author to draw attention from young readers? It has been found that banned books are more popular among young readers because they feel that in a sense they are being rebellious by reading content that is deemed explicit. Additionally, Lauren Oliver, the author, has appeared in a YouTube live video about censorship and its effects in the past. A small detail in Delirium also covers the idea that books that promote love are banned from the fictional society.

 

Finally, I hope to uncover some of the effects censorship has on young adults. The content of ya dystopian literature was written by authors to address topics they felt the youth ought to be able to comprehend. Are parents being overbearing in their quest to put an end to what they deem unsuitable literature? The content is meant to evoke emotions about the current and past political states and promote change in society. By banning and challenging books that contain such important material, what are we teaching the young adults of today’s society?

 

Works Cited:

Biller, Diana and Charlie Jane Anders. “The 12 Weirdest Reasons for Banning Science Fiction and      Fantasy Books.” io9, Gizmodo, Sept 2014, http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-12-weirdest-reasons-for- banning-science-fiction-and-1639136022

http://www.bannedbooksweek.org

 

https://rampages.us/mtzim33/effects-of-censorship-of-literature-on-minor-students/

For my presentation, I will be discussing the effects that Dystopian novels have in influencing the minds of their young adult readers. Ever since we’ve been analyzing dystopia from the beginning of the semester, I’ve managed to catch onto the underlying subliminal messages that Dystopian novels try to convey to young adults in many of the different novels and films we have studied. Since this is a prominent aspect of the novels that I have found interest in, I thought it would be a perfect topic for my research paper and presentation.

The role of dystopia itself is a warning. It portrays a dysfunctional society which has some sort of qualities or aspects that are akin to our own society and shows us that if we don’t fix something soon, we could end up falling into a dystopian type society similar to the one in the book. In Little Brother and Homeland, we see the dangers on a society becoming too technology oriented. In the Hunger Games, we see the rise and revolution of a nation against an unjust and overly oppressive government. In the 100, we see the problems of a government keeping information from their citizens while trying to maintain a sustainable society. All of these have some aspect which subliminally warns the reader (or viewer) about our own society and now the writers and trying to cater this to their younger readers. The writers of these books and TV shows know that the younger generation is going to be the leaders of the future and if anyone is going to be able to make a difference in our society, it will be them.

One source that has been incredibly useful has been the charts off of the article, “Understanding the Appeal of Dystopian Young Adult Fiction.” They go very in depth on what aspects are added to Dystopian novels that make them appeal to young adults and they cover a fair bit of ground, analyzing 16 different dystopian novels and seeing what major themes and elements each one has. This has been a very useful source and I’m looking forward to synthesizing it into my essay and presentation.

Scholes, Justin, and Jon Ostenson. “Understanding the Appeal of Dystopian Young Adult      Fiction.” Scholarly Communication Department, Research & Informatics, Virginia Tech Libraries,  Scholarly Communication, Virginia Tech University Libraries, 2013,  scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v40n2/scholes.html. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

For my conference presentation on Monday, March 13th, I will be presenting the highlights of my research paper How an Author’s Perception of Perfection Influences His/Her Dystopian Society. I believe that “perfect” is a term that is relative to an author’s own unique life. I will use contextual examples from our readings thus far to point out where I see each author’s values showcased in their writing. I will argue that what a given author perceives as a “perfect society” will ultimately determine the type of dystopia that he or she creates. Consequently, I will bring up the fact that a lot of what authors prioritize in shaping a dystopian flaw is developed from their backgrounds, the way they were raised, and their beliefs. Additionally, I will give an overview of the key discoveries I have made, simply because there has not been much prior research done on the topic.

My presentation will begin with an outline of my thesis and my overarching thoughts. I will then give a brief summary of the origin of dystopias and the idea of “perfection.” I will then segue into literary examples that I use in my paper, such as Shatter Me, The Hunger Games, and Little Brother. In my presentation, I will analyze the societal flaws that I see present in the novels and I will consider how those relate to the authors’ backgrounds and upbringings. I also utilize two different samples of forums where people of varying ages have shared what they believe a perfect society to look like. One shares responses from a college-level English class while the other presents opinions from the older adult population, which helps me to contrast the varying values that different ages possess. With the ideas presented in the forums, I will extrapolate what I believe their dystopias would look like based on what they value when creating their utopias.

I hope that the synopsis of my research is intriguing to you, and that my usage of both concrete evidence and inferred material is interesting to you. In order to see where my research thus far has brought me, you will have to listen to my conference presentation and read my paper. I encourage you to reach out to me about any questions or suggestions you may have regarding my research-especially considering that much of it is being developed based on my own ideas.

Works Cited:
http://alexsb.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/utopia-vs-dystopia.jpg
http://www.clipartkid.com/images/59/presentation-t9a30r-clipart.jpg

 

Fresh Hell is an article from the New Yorker website that explains the appeal of newer YA dystopian novels while focusing the most on the Hunger Games. Its main argument is that these novels attract readers because they understand what teenagers are going through. Or in other words, they are allegories of our young adult lives, fraught with dangers and difficulties.

One of the main theories is that the dystopian worlds described are similar to the world of high school. This is most evident in the Hunger Games where children are thrown in an harsh environment by unfeeling adults and must survive. It also compares a main difference between adult and young adult dystopias which is the ending. The first is pessimistic and the second is more optimistic so it can be suited for a younger audience.

Its organization is effective as it goes from one point to the other while bringing examples first from the Hunger Games then from other books. These include The Knife of Never Letting Go and Little Brother. Each section first outlined a claim about young adults that related to an aspect of a dystopian novel, then it was backed up with references and examples. It had a formal tone but the diction was not ridiculously high so that everyone could understand: teenagers and scholars alike.

This source was especially important to me because it helped me with some of my points regarding the novel I was studying: After by Francine Prose. It helped me delve in deeper to some of the hidden themes the writer used. I also understood how it was an allegory to our daily lives but exaggerated. Instead of mirroring the world high-school, for example, the story was set in an high-school that turned slowly into a dystopia. That was an interesting twist that I had not realized. The negative world incorporated itself into daily life directly, which was very different from other young adult novels.

Sources:

Miller, Laura. “Fresh Hell.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 14 July 2015, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/06/14/fresh-hell-2. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

Dystopias are interesting because so much of their characteristics are left up to interpretation by writers and readers. They are similar to The Constitution in that there are groups of people who strictly interpret its roots and those who stretch them to fit into other categories. That is why dystopian fiction has bled over borders into the realms of science-fiction, romance, and apocalyptic ideas. These variations in theme, setting, and plot have caused different interpretations of what is considered a “perfect” utopian society, and alternatively its anti-perfect, dystopian counterpart. For my research project, I am hoping to research how each society’s idea of “perfect” differs, and how these ideas shape its culture.

In the dystopia The Hunger Games, the Capitol maintains control of the twelve districts by forcing them to participate in the games. By portraying this to be a dystopia, one can infer that the author’s idea of a utopia would be a society where people are free to do as they please without a ruling autonomous government. Alternatively, in the book Shatter Me, Juliette lives with a touch that is fatal. The society is made up of rampant disease, food shortage, and dreary conditions. The government uses Juliette’s supposed flaw to for their own betterment. She is ultimately left with the choice of either giving into the government’s orders or fighting for what she believes in. Overall, this society seems to be flawed in the way it emphasizes the government’s manipulation of weakness for its own strength. One can infer from this that the author’s idea of a perfect society may be one where people are applauded for their differences and accepted for their disabilities.

I think that discovering how authors’ different ideas of “perfect” influence the way that they shape their dystopias will be interesting. However, I know that basing their ideas of “perfect” solely on the opposite of their dystopian novels is not an effective form of research. Dystopias come out of present day society, so finding out more about how this relates to a perfect society would be interesting. I hope to research more in detail about the history that brought about dystopias as seemingly anti-perfect societies. Moving forward, a question that I hope to answer about Shatter Me is how a certain period of time may or may not have influenced the author to write the book, seeing as it focuses on such an imperfect society.

Works Cited:
https://ktbpdrama.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/artt.jpg?w=584

 

I think it is really interesting that dystopian architecture can vary from novel to novel, but even so they all seem to inflict the same general feeling among the characters. In particular, they seem to reinforce the idea of oppression by the government.

For example, in How I live Now, my independent reading novel, when the war hasn’t quite started yet the characters live freely and without adult supervision in a picturesque home in the English countryside. Once the war picks up, the characters are forced apart and into smaller homes when the soldiers take over their home. Then they are moved into a barn, and eventually they end up seeking shelter in an old shack in the middle of the woods. As things in England got worse, and the residents of England began to feel the effects of the war, architectural comfort diminishes. When the government takes over the kids’ home they are forced into situations away from the comforts of family and the architecture simultaneously diminishes.

I believe a similar concept is true in The Hunger Games. In The Hunger Games, The Capitol contains houses and buildings of comfort and luxury. Then as the districts move further and further away from the Capitol the architecture become less aesthetically pleasing and used more to provide shelter then to provide comfort. One of the things I think is really interesting about The Hunger Games though, is that the area where architecture provides the least comfort is the area in which the Capitol is the most oppressive, the arena. The only real architecture in the area is the cornucopia, and the cornucopia only reinforces the government’s power.

Moving into my research project, I want to find out if this correlation between architecture and oppression continues throughout YA dystopian novels. I want to also look at how architecture can influence the way one acts and feels. For example, does living in poverty give one strength or break them? Does living in luxury provide a sense of entitlement and possible lead to becoming an oppressor? Overall, does the surrounding architecture in YA dystopian novels contribute to the presence of oppression?

 

http://opinion-as-a-moviefreak.blogspot.com/2014/08/how-i-live-now-2013.html

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwii1NDky53SAhUG6CYKHcuxDgkQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onesimusnuernberger.com%2Fconcept.html&bvm=bv.147448319,d.eWE&psig=AFQjCNEgtEunDLEu9LCK8VsM8igQvZXYtw&ust=1487642836895709

http://thehungergames.wikia.com/wiki/The_Seam

There seems to be a common theme across utopian literature centering around the concept of interpretation, particularly pertaining to the fact that a work may be considered a utopia to one person but a dystopia to another. I find this idea fascinating, specifically with how it relates to history, both within and outside of the work. Therefore, the question I am hoping to be able to research is: Without history proving human failures in properly organizing society, would utopian literature be as realistic/probable?

It is widely understood that people relate to other people, movies, novels, etc by comparing them to their lives, through past experiences, historical events, and general knowledge about the world, developing an opinion based on this process. Due to this, many utopian novels choose to omit, or revamp, history in the minds of the characters, as if one has nothing to compare their life to, or only horrible events to compare their life to, they are likely to feel content. The Hunger Games, for example, utilizes this, as the history of the districts is characterized as a time of tragedy, war, and poorer than current conditions, quelling the ideas of rebellion and revolution in most characters, by convincing them that it could be worse, and has been.

On the other side, history can also play a part outside of the novel, as once again, people compare things to what they know to be true. Historical implementation of utopian ideals has shown the world that these societies are not merely daydreams, but are to be taken seriously; the world can, and will be pushed to, improve, whether its inhabitants like it or not. In response to this, and the horror associated with the planned societies of communism, utopian works not only took a more dystopian turn, but also took a more serious turn. In my opinion, these works are now less philosophizing and more of a call to action. The authors do not want us to simply ponder their articulations of society, but to change to reflect the issues they address. With each novel, the idea of a non-existent society with a “happy-ever after that always eludes us” develops into realistic societies with issues eerily parallel to those of the real world, as if the authors seem to have grown irritated with trying to creatively and cleverly hide their commentary (Claeys 154).

Therefore, I think the most important aspect of a utopian novel is the history, both inside of the novel and in regards to the outside world at the time it was written. Through analyzing the history, the author’s message can be clearly discovered, with no room for misinterpretation or disregard of its importance. For example, for the novel Candor by Pam Bachorz, the history within the book is cleared from the town inhabitants’ minds, leading them to accept their society how it is and not strive for change, proving that history is important for future advancement, as the best predictor of the future is the past. In addition, the time period this book was written in is the twenty-first century, lending to its focus on the control that technology and routine can have on life, along with how even perfectly-planned and organized societies do not go as planned. The commentary of this book directly relates to the importance of history, since without it, the human race would all be robots in a sense, fitting a perfect mold for how we are supposed to be, void of art, beauty, etc, and merely accepting this fate.

In lieu of this, I desire to uncover the impact history can have on the message of a novel, and the interpretation of a novel. I want to look at trends among certain time periods, and the relationship between the main commentary of the utopian novels and the main issues of real-world societies. I think it is very easy to read a utopian novel for pleasure, becoming captivated by the characters and the story, rather than to take the work at face-value for what it really was written to do, change a defective part of society.

 

Works Cited

Bachorz, Pam. Candor. Egmont USA, 2009.

 Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. NY, NY, Scholastic Press, 2008.

“The Dystopian Timeline to The Hunger Games”. Goodreads. 21 Mar 2012.

The Hunger Games. Directed by Gary Ross, Lionsgate Films, 2012.

“Utopia and Dystopia”. SlideShare. 21 Feb 2011.

To start class today, we went through a brief review/refresher on some visual rhetorical choices; for a more in-depth coverage of this material, look back to WOVENText Chapter 5 and 14. The PowerPoint from today’s class is available to you in TSquare, under the Week 5 folder in the Resources tab.

We then spent the majority of the class working through your Peer Review of your Infographics. Each team was asked to find different partners in order to review a different infographic. The Infographic Peer Review worksheet to help guide your response to your peer’s work is also available on TSquare.

You will complete your peer review digitally and email a copy of that sheet to your peer review partner. Once you have your own comments back, you and your teammate should review the comments carefully and decide what advice you want to follow and what additional changes you need to make based on your own review of other infographics. This peer review process should help you to see your own work with fresh eyes and help you to revise the document before Friday’s deadline. Finally, be sure you save those peer reviews of your Infographic in your folder for the final portfolio!

With the time that remained in class, we closed out our discussion of The Hunger Games book and films, allowing you all to bring up your final thoughts and ideas that you continue to be interested in pursuing, perhaps into your research project. We will start discussing Little Brother by Cory Doctrow next class, which will be a switch in focus and sub-genre.

HOMEWORK:

  1. Infographic will be due at 11:55pm to TSquare on Friday – 1 copy per group. Please put both last names in the Infographic file name
  2. Read Little Brother chapters 1-8 (LIVETWEET + Discussion Question)
  3. Continue to research for Project 2. Compose a #FollowFriday tweet related to your research findings with 3-5 @usernames (user names of scholars, journals you’ve found useful, user who has tweeted sources you might use)