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The Hunger Games and The Power of Pain: A #100blogfest Blog

I just read what may be one (or three?) of my favourite books of all-time.

A quick hello to all those following #100blogfest! Welcome to Lana Meredith: Stories of Hope in a Post-Fairy Tale World. I’m so glad you came! I hope you enjoy what you find and leave a comment – even if only to say hi – before you leave. If you like what you find here, please visit my home or ‘about’ pages.

On Fridays I pick a book, blog, article, paper, or magazine to share with those ‘non-compulsive readers,’ aka. the people who, unlike me, don’t seek out their literary fix at every turn. In other words, people who need a huge pull to get  them to read a book.

If you’re one of those people, look no further than The Hunger Games.

No, I’m not kidding. I had big plans for this week. Those plans got blown to smithereens when I took my good friend’s advice – okay, ten of my good friends’ advice – and read The Hunger Games.

Besides its amazing entertainment value, this young adult trilogy says a lot. Too much to go into detail here. There’s just one piece that I’ll share with you, something that fits very closely to the theme of this blog.

Those of you who’ve read the book, or heard even a little bit about it, know the basic premise. A post-North American society – called Panem – institutes an annual, mandatory, televised, fight-to-the-death Hunger Games to discourage the poorer districts from rebellion. Each of the twelve ‘districts’ choose one male and one female between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in each year’s games. The ‘choice’ – called the ‘Reaping’ – is by lottery. Of the 24 contestants, only one can remain alive: the ‘Victor.’

The Victor’s District is showered with much-needed supplies, resources, and food. The Victor receives a large home and a very comfortable living. He/she is no longer required to work following the games. Their only task – besides being at the Capitol’s disposal – is to mentor all other ‘tributes’ from their district in the following Games.

Richer districts, closer to the Capitol, spend their resources training potential tributes. Termed ‘Career Tributes,’ or just, ‘Careers,’ those from Districts 1-4 are the strongest, most aggressive, and most blood-thirsty of those in the arena. They have the greatest skill, access to the greatest amounts of weapons, and usually the highest number of sponsor donations for the games, since, of course, the Capitol residents bet on the victor.

I know, as a friend said, ‘kind of a twisted premise.’

But if you think about it, it’s not too far off our own society.

Think of our gluttony for food, pleasure, entertainment. Think of our thirst for leisure. If we were given the opportunity to have all play and no work, wouldn’t we at least think about taking it?

Suzanne Collins brilliantly crafts the ultimate underdog story, and, as you’ll find if you hang out here long enough, I’m a big sucker for the underdog.

Aren’t you? Aren’t we all? Don’t we spend pieces of our lives – some larger than others – feeling like the underdog?

District 12, one of the poorest and most neglected in Panem, has only one victory in the Hunger Games’ 73-year history. So when our hero, Katniss Everdeen, volunteers to take her 12-year-old sister’s place at the ‘reaping,’ she – and we – know that she volunteered for certain death.

Or did she?

From the moment she’s sent to the Capitol with fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark – I won’t discuss him this week, but I do love this character – Katniss feels certain that one of the ‘Careers,’ will win again. If not for her promise to her sister to come home alive, she would prefer short, quick death.

But as the Games progress, we find that Katniss – the ‘girl on fire’ – has a fiery will to live.

Fans of Survivorman, Man vs. Wild, Mantracker, and even Lost will enjoy the primal quest for survival in this first of the three books. But beyond the twists and turns of Katniss’ –and some of her allies – creativity, we learn something about the power of pain.

Katniss has been virtually orphaned for years. Her father died when she was young. Her mother slipped into a deep depression soon after. Katniss was her family’s only hope of survival.

So, she learned to hunt with best friend Gale.

She learned to evade the Capitol Peacekeepers.

She learned to ration. She learned how to find food when none existed. She learned how to hide.

Turns out the Careers didn’t need to learn any of those things.

I was furious at the growing gap between rich and poor in this book – not that unlike our own society – but then Katniss points out something powerful:

“That the Careers have been better fed growing up is actually to their disadvantage, because they don’t know how to be hungry.”

As any of us who’ve been without food know, hunger eventually causes pain.

And what’s our natural response to pain? Think about a prick on your finger, or and accidental touch of a hot surface. Our bodies are programmed to pull back the moment we feel pain.

But there’s a different kind of pain, the kind we get from exercise. The burning, the stretching, the I can’t go on moments that we’re meant to push through so we get stronger.

The Careers were never forced to do that.

Up until the age of 19, I was a Career.

No, not blood-thirsty. No, not a part of the fictional world of Panem. But I’d been given a pretty easy life. I’d not experienced much difficulty. My childhood was filled with trips to Disneyland, McDonalds, and the playground. I owned almost everything I could desire and was never, ever hungry.

Then I turned 20. Not only would my body no longer allow me to eat whenever I was hungry, or eat whatever I wanted, but circumstances slammed me into a ‘bootcamp’ I’ve never really escaped.

Oh, but this pain? It’s been good for me. I’m much, much stronger than I used to be.

This pain is crafting, not crushing, me.

Have you ever envied someone who seemed to have everything go right? The Hunger Games remind us that there are gifts from hardship that are gained no other way. And when that someone who seems to never have anything hard to deal with finally does, they don’t know what to do with it.

Those of us who’ve faced some giants aren’t as intimidated by the ‘big stuff.’

That’sthe power of pain.

Childhood should be pleasant, not painful. The commentary Suzanne Collins makes on war’s effects on children is compelling and sobering. But that doesn’t mean we raise our children to avoid all difficulty. Dr. William Sears in his parenting books advises parents to allow children calculated measures of frustration in their young lives to help develop creativity and problem-solving skills.

Those are two things our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, has in spades.

I don’t want to give away the ending. Some of you have yet to read this fabulous book. I sure hope you take the time to do so. I really don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Especially if, like me, you love inspirational, entertaining, come-from-behind tales of justice, victory, and peace.

There’s so much else in this book I could touch on, but I won’t today. Instead, tune in next Friday when I talk about Book 2 in the series, Catching Fire.

And if you’ve read the books, I’d especially love to hear what you thought, good or bad, and why. Were you able to relate to this story, or not? How so? What was your favourite or least favourite part? Which character was your favourite? Would you recommend The Hunger Games to others?

And the big one: Will you see the movie?

A #100blogfest note: These blogs are all about fun and sharing. Thank you for reading a ‘#100blogfest’ blog. Please follow this link to find the next blog in
the series:

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