The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Are you a teacher upset by your school’s resistance to allowing the original version of Huck Finn? I may have the solution–The Hunger Games.
I admit, I read the first page and thought I would hate it. The book is written in first-person present tense, has simplistic prose and starts with a huge load of back story. After the first chapter, though, I was hooked. The novel is bullet paced and winds through twists and turns that, for once, I did not anticipate.
So what does that have to do with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Well, Mark Twain’s 127 year old classic has racism as its theme: A young white runaway realizes he has more in common with a runaway black slave, than with affluent whites. The problem is that Twain was a product of his time and uses the “N-word” liberally throughout the text. Although class struggle and racism don’t bother school boards at all, the N-word apparently does, and the book is frequently banned from school libraries, English classes and social studies.
Enter the Hunger Games–a modern book with the theme of class warfare and imperialism that has an almost spooky resemblance to the Jasmine Revolution. (No small feat given the book’s copyright in 2008.) Because it is a futuristic novel, the N-word is no where to be found. In fact, there are no black people at all. That takes care of that. Instead, the former US is split into 12 Districts that are pitted against each other in a reality show that is must see TV. I mean the government makes you watch. Two children ages 12-18 are chosen by lottery from each district and forced to compete in a kill or be killed game for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Capitol district. Throw in media control, massive government spying, police state, and the exploitation of the periphery districts by the Capitol district and the themes of this modern novel should provide more than enough material for a discussion of the problems of modern society and how they are portrayed in literature.
And if you still miss the racism aspect of Mark Twain, well how about talking about the foundation of racism–artificial adversarial relationships that keep those without power from forming solidarity for the benefit of the powerful.
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