Teaching THE HUNGER GAMES

In the fall, I’m teaching a course called “Postmodern Fiction and Environmental Justice,” and the last novel we will read is The Hunger Games. Having just finished it myself (I saw the movie first), I am still in shock that such a profoundly dystopian novel has become so popular. I mean, was a teenage doomster, but most of my peers were not. My contacts in the tween world inform me that entire schools become obsessed with this novel at once.

So now I am starting to think about how to approach this with the class. By the time we arrive at December, we will have thoroughly discussed such cheerful topics as environmental racism, corporate capitalism, and climate change. The Hunger Games will fit right in, once I explain the history of coal mining in Appalachia. But I am very much interested in the way postmodern fictions produce hope as a narrative effect, and the hope of this novel centers on the lack of a double-suicide in the protagonists! Woo-hoo! Yes, the success of Katniss and Peeta implies the possibility of rebellion against the metropole, and the use of the term “district” points to the successful struggle against South African apartheid, but…that’s not a lot by itself.

I will be using this space to think through these problems. If anyone has any suggestions, especially if you’ve taught the novel before, please feel free to chime in.

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2 thoughts on “Teaching THE HUNGER GAMES”

  1. I thought “district” was a reference to how the developed world treats the third world. Just because the protagonists are from district 12 doesn’t mean we Americans are not the spoiled entitled jerks of The Capitol. Except for the Games themselves, the relationships between the Capitol and the districts well-mirrors present-day relations between the first world and the third, from which most of our dirtiest resources are extracted with little benefit to those who live there.

    For example, there is a major famine in eastern Africa right now, caused by climate change but exacerbated by terrorism, the war on terrorism, and first-world racism. Are resources still flowing out of the region towards world markets? Of course. Is this famine in the news here in the Capitol? Of course not. We’re too busy dying our hair unnatural colors, buying useless crap, fixating on brutal sports, eating until it hurts, and defensively shouting about our right to continue doing so.

    I don’t know what Suzanne Collins had in mind when she wrote THG, but this is how I read it, from chapter one on. Hope that’s helpful.

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