Hunger Games and Compassion

Several youth and adults recommended Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for me to read. Since the movie version is coming out later this month, I downloaded it to my Droid and read it yesterday. Though it has a disturbing theme, the story kept me “flicking” pages. In a postapocalyptic future, a ruling class keeps tight control over its outlying resource districts by holding a televised survival competition. Twenty-four youth between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected from the twelve districts to enter the Hunger Games, which are a fight to the death.

The story is a classic “haves” versus the “have-nots”; the empire versus the colonies; the ruling elite versus the struggling masses. In this fictional future, the districts struggle to have enough food and other resources, while the Capital has superfluous abundance. Food plays a role through-out the book with many descriptions of meals. For example, “The stew’s made with tender chunks of lamb and dried plums today. Perfect on the bed of wild rice.” The lamb stew becomes a symbol of the Capital and it capricious ways, giving gifts when it chooses to the districts’ young competitors.

There is no religious or spiritual component in this fictional world. God is not even mentioned in the book. Yet two Christian themes stand out. One is compassion for the neighbor. Katniss, the narrator, remembers being given two loaves of bread by a baker’s son, Peeta, when her family is near starvation. This incident becomes a major subtheme. I can’t help but be reminded of Jesus’ declaration, “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me something to drink” (Matthew 25:35). Katniss and Peeta both practice compassion at times and seek to do good, yet I wonder where is the source of their compassion in a world that knows so little of it.

The other Christian theme is that of sacrifice. Katniss “volunteers” for the Games when her younger sister’s name is drawn as the “tribute.” Katniss sacrifices her security to save her sister from almost certain death. Jesus speaks of this the night before his crucifixion, “Not one has greater love that this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

In such an evil and corrupt world as Hunger Games, it makes me wonder where Katniss finds the courage and power to be compassionate.  If it is a natural human quality, why is there so little of it elsewhere in the book? I continue to believe the ultimate source of all compassion and love is God, for we are created in God’s image. Jesus said, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life . . . I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”( John 6:27,35.)

Heavenly Father, give us today our daily bread, which is you.

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One thought on “Hunger Games and Compassion

  1. christinafree10

    I just finished reading the second book, Catching Fire, yesterday. It’s not as good as the first one, and I think more of Katniss’s selfish human nature shows, but you’ll enjoy it.

    Reply

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