Bread and Fire

Analysis of The Hunger Games Trilogy

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Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm doing a THG analysis, do you think "the fight for justice" would be a good common motif that ties all 3 books or ??
thganalysis thganalysis Said:

Sorry about the delay. I’ve been very busy with real life. Hopefully this response isn’t too late for your needs, but I’m going to answer anyways. :)

I think that the books are definitely about “the fight for justice,” but I think that’s also a bit of an oversimplification, and just barely scratching the surface of what they’re about. I think that they’re about a great many things, but in this situation, I think they’re much more about the fight for autonomy and agency. I think that this ties into the fight for justice, because ultimately, I think one of the greatest injustices man can commit against man is to take away those things. It’s the right to decide for ourselves how to live our lives that ultimately matters to us at our core. Taking that away is absolutely an injustice. So yes, in that sense, I would say that they’re about the fight for justice. But I think a stronger motif would be to say that they’re about the right to our own agency, without others taking that away from us.

In other news, updates will be returning soon! Probably by next week, when things are calmer for me. :)

I considered that as well, but given what we know about the night - that Gale and some of the others pushed over the fence in the Meadow, which Katniss tells us early on is close to her old house in the Seam, I don’t think it logistically makes sense. Though it all depends on the set up of 12, really. If Victors Village is closer to the Seam than the town square, that is certainly a possibility. :)

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Given Gale's falling victim to the us vs. them (rich vs. poor, merchant vs. seam, etc.) line of thinking, do you think his perspective lead to only a few merchants being saved after the bombing of District 12?
thganalysis thganalysis Said:

I suppose it’s possible, but you have to remember that Gale was one boy in a population of 8,000+ people. I’m sure he went after certain people first, namely his own family and the Everdeen’s… but in this situation, I don’t think Gale really had much of a choice to do more than that. The night the bombs fell on 12 was likely a night of mass chaos and confusion. The people who  were more likely to get out were the people closest to the edges of town, where they could make an easy escape. Merchants more likely went down because they were near the center, and it was harder for them to get out. Gale wouldn’t have had the time to save the Merchants, regardless of whether he wanted to or not. 

What this DOES make me wonder about is where the Everdeen’s were living by that point. Part of me wonders if they had moved back into their house in the Seam. I know that the bombs didn’t hit Victors Village, but remember when Katniss mentions at the beginning of the book that if she were to die, they would have to move back? Katniss obviously wasn’t dead yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Mrs. Everdeen and Prim were forced to move back anyways, as mandated by the Capitol, since they weren’t assigned to live in that house. That could be another reason they managed to escape with Gale’s help, along with his own family. 

Further groundwork for Katniss’s character arc. Katniss starts out the series rather judgmental towards those struggling with their mental health—her mother being the primary example of this. But as we know, she develops a healthy case of PTSD after her time in the Games. And along with that development and her experience comes the lesson that sometimes people can’t help the things they’re struggling with. In fact, she says as much at the beginning of Catching Fire.

Another interesting thing is that Katniss proves to be more like her mother than she wants to admit… though I would guess that deep down, there was always a part of her that suspected it, considering the walls she put up to protect herself emotionally.  

This moment right here is some of the biggest set up for Katniss’s character arc. Katniss goes from this, a practical-minded girl whose only concern is the welfare of her and her own, to becoming the face of the revolution. The interesting thing about it is, Katniss admits herself, at several points through out the series, that she used to go off on rants about the Capitol and the system herself, but learned to keep quiet once she realized that doing so is fundamental for safety. It’s interesting, because this is exactly what the Capitol is relying on. This is why Snow is so intent on keeping everybody in Panem divided and away from each other. If everyone is too afraid to risk standing up for anything, and place more importance on protecting their own than they do everyone else, then the odds of any more uprisings are diminished. Remember the conclusion Katniss herself comes to when she and Peeta walk through the town in Catching Fire?

Even on a more personal level, this is set up for the kind of growth Katniss is going to go through as a character. Katniss tries so hard to be an island, free of emotion and attachment to others. But going through life like that, while useful for surviving, is no way to truly live. Part of Katniss’s character arc, specifically in terms of her relationship with Peeta, is learning learning this lesson.

This is a major point to pay attention to for this series, because as I’ve mentioned several times before, this is EXACTLY the tactic that President Snow uses to keep the nation of Panem under his thumb. This is why The Girl on Fire AND The Star-crossed Lovers of District 12 are both equally inspiring to Panem as symbols and sparks for the rebellion. Katniss reached across district boundaries and reached out to little Rue. After witnessing the way she took her sister’s place in the reaping, was there any question that this girl from District 12 would also be willing to die for this young girl in the arena? Especially after watching her break down over her death. Given the nature of the Games, and the division that was in the very fabric of Panem’s society, this kind of thing was virtually unheard of. 

The same thing happens with Katniss and Peeta, only this time, the two actually BOTH make it out alive. Katniss becomes the face of the rebellion, because she was the one who reached out to more than one tribute during the Games, but both she and Peeta play their part in this role. 

Ironically, despite this passage, both she and Gale still manage to fall victim to this line of thinking, at least at first for Katniss. She spends a huge part of the first book not sure if she can even trust Peeta, and frankly, she has plenty of reason to feel that way at that point. But a huge part of her character arc is learning not to judge others quite so quickly. A major turning point in her relationship with Peeta comes in Catching Fire, when she finally realizes she had been underestimating him all this time (we’ll get to that later). And even here, in this passage, Katniss assumes that Madge has never had to take out tesserae. And maybe she hasn’t. But as she learns from Peeta later on in the Games, the Merchant class don’t have things as well off as she’s believed they do. 

The sad thing is, though both she and Gale start out with their own misguided beliefs despite knowing better, Katniss learns over the course of the story why she’s wrong. Gale does not; or, he at least doesn’t until it’s too late. This fact leads to the ultimate demise of their relationship.

More foreshadowing. Madge, who gives Katniss the pin that becomes the symbol of rebellion, wishes Katniss luck. Luck which actually seems to work: she isn’t reaped, though she ends up going into the Games anyways. And when she’s in the Games, not only does she win, but she makes history, along with Peeta, by being the first ever team that wins the Games. The berries in this passage allude to the book’s ending.

What’s interesting to me about this exchange is how the first film seems to draw from it. Remember how Katniss tells Prim that as long as she’s wearing the mockingjay pin, she would have good luck? Well, technically she does - even though she’s reaped, she’s fortunate enough to have her older sister take her spot as tribute. And once Katniss herself wears the pin, she’s “protected” as well.

But Madge? Well, not so much…

Foreshadowing! First off, Gale gets it right about Madge, because she won’t be heading off to the Capitol. However, notice all the talk about their odds in this section? It’s interesting, considering the tagline of the series, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” The odds made it much more likely that Gale should be reaped… and yet he isn’t. Neither is Katniss, technically. But her sister, with only one slip of all, IS reaped. So is Peeta, who most likely didn’t have many slips in the  ball either. For that matter, so is Madge’s aunt, Maysilee Donner, though there was a much bigger pool for her to be selected for during her Games. But it’s interesting that out of all the District 12 character we know by name who have been reaped, only one of them (Haymitch) is actually from the Seam.

The other interesting thing about this paragraph? It’s the introduction to the mockingjay that would soon come to be the symbol of rebellion for the districts. And it’s right next to a mention of bread—you can bet it’s not a coincidence that Suzanne Collins chose break, out of all food, for this particular passage. The mockingjay pin and the break represent Katniss and Peeta respectively, but they can also be taken to a deeper meaning. One which we covered earlier on this blog: that the rebellion feeds the nations, both figuratively and literally.

And the description of the mockingjay pin’s gold? Real or not real?

Asker norbertsmom Asks:
I'm trying to figure out when Cashmere & Gloss won their games for fic reasons. In CF Katniss says "consecutive years when I was little." Finnick won when she was 7, so I'm thinking a few years before him or maybe just after. What do you think?
thganalysis thganalysis Said:

That sounds right. We know that Annie Cresta won when Katniss was 12 years old, 4 years prior to her and Peeta’s Games. (As an aside, notice how Annie is from D4, as are Mags and Finnick’s, and her Games took place before Katniss’s. Katniss and Peeta also participated in the 74th Games. Finnick won his Games when he was 14, and is 24 in Catching Fire. And Annie won hers when Katniss would have been 12 years old. Those two numbers are echoed a LOT through this series, and later we’l explore why.) So we know it wasn’t when Katniss was 12, or 7. Remembering what I considered to be “little” when I was 17 myself, I doubt it was much past 10 or 11 anyways. I think I would have them either win the two consecutive years before (the 64th and 63rd Games), or the two years immediately after (the 66th and 67th Games.) I doubt it was much before the 63rd Games, though, because Katniss likely wouldn’t remember too far before that. Though I guess she could be remembering history more than she might be her own memories of their Games.

Katniss sure has a knack for picking rebellious friends, eh? Maybe because Katniss herself is quite subversive, though she doesn’t understand it at this time. 

Both Gale and Katniss seem to presume that, since the station of life the Merchants are in seems to much better than their own in the Seam, the Merchants they come in contact with on the regular are not going to question things like they are. Katniss says as much several times during the Games, when she assumes that Peeta’s life has been easier because he grew up in the bakery. 

Neither seem to realize that life for the Merchants is only marginally better than life is in the Seam. It’s a part of the tactic Snow uses to keep them divided against each other, since along with this feeling comes resentment towards Merchants from the Seam. And as Mrs. Mellark suggests later, there’s a good chance the Merchants look down their nose at those in the Seam.

But clearly this is not the case for all, as Madge, Peeta, and Mr. Mellark will all show us. What’s also interesting is how, in Gale’s quickness to dismiss Madge, he’s overlooking someone who could easily be an ally and kindred spirit in his railings against the Capitol. Because if Katniss is right about Madge’s sarcasm - and I’m guessing she is, given her later actions - Madge has some opinions of her own about the system.