When I finished my doctoral dissertation about the Latin American Novel of the Dictatorship in 2007 I was hoping to eventually find another literary work that was a social criticism, but on a much more global scale. I found it rather unexpectedly in 2012 in a trilogy written for young adults. The Hunger Games was written by Suzanne Collins, the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran who was very knowledgeable about world history. I read up on Collins after reading her work and I wasn’t surprised to learn that about her father. The underground district 13 reminded me of the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam. There are so many references to history, Roman and Greek mythology and modern literature that even though the work is supposed to occur in the future, it reminds one of the past and present.
Supposedly Collins was channel surfing between a war documentary and a reality t.v. show when she got the idea for The Hunger Games. That is probably why the games themselves seem like an episode of Survivor, but with a very violent twist. Also referring to the Greek myth of the Minotaur, Katniss not only refers to the hero of that myth but also Spartacus from Roman history. Katniss’ last name, Everdene, also refers to a more modern heroine, Bathsheba Everdene in Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, another strong female character.
The funny thing now is that when I reread a novel of the dictatorship, it reminds me of The Hunger Games, even though the work is futuristic, post apocalyptic and dystopian, it is also a novel of the dictatorship. The most important thing that I learned from reading the trilogy is that not everyone who goes to war wants to go to war. Sometimes they just have to. It’s inevitable and that is true for many novels of the dictatorship. The ending of the work is poignant and rings true for many of the novels of the dictatorship that I have read. It seems to say, “Life goes on, but you never forget.”
The Hunger Games criticizes modern society in so many ways. All you have to do is ask yourself, “Are we the capital?” If you are middle class or higher in a so-called first world country, then the answer is yes. The intricacies in which we unknowingly take advantage of other countries and their natural resources are astounding, while we really doing nothing meaningful to “level the playing field.” A live example of this was when I went to Peru in 2012. I was so excited by The Hunger Games I was telling everyone to read it. The man I spoke to in a book store in Lima said “Eso es cosa para los jovencitos” (for adolescents). When I explained why adults should read it, he said it wasn’t necessary because they already had lived it. Being a Latin Americanist, I realized he was talking about the years that Peru was ravaged by the Shining Path. Could a middle aged American who was born in this country and grew up here say the same thing? Within our country we have not experienced anything like it for a long time.