The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

August 14, 2012

The Bow and The Baker

By: 
Rachael Green

This spring I picked up Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy and could not put it down until the very last page. The story features Katniss Everdeen, the bow-wielding ‘Girl on Fire’ who comes of age in a violent and oppressive world.   

This young adult novel blazed its way to the New York Times’ Bestseller list for over 100 consecutive weeks, capturing the imagination of a generation—and no wonder too.

Like Katniss, we live in a violent age, where rumblings of war overseas, acts of terrorism, and shootings shake us—not  in 'Districts of far-away fiction'—but on our campuses, in our cities, and our world.  

Yet, throughout The Hunger Games, one character emerges as a dissenting voice in contrast to the unimaginable violence and oppression of the Games.

Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son, stands as a symbol of nonviolence and dissension.

Katniss and Peeta live in Panem, a colonial superpower that ruthlessly wields its power over its twelve Districts by imposing the infamous Hunger Games—where every year, two children from each District are selected from a lottery to compete in a horrific public fight to the death. 

This cruel form of violence is not only enforced by the oppressive Capitol, but also is celebrated as entertainment in a twisted ‘Survivor-esque’ reality tv show.

I’m not sure what disturbs me more about the Hunger Games–the violence or Katniss’ response to this violent power-play by the Capitol. While Kat displays self-sacrifice and a subtle sedition towards the Capitol, she accepts her bleak reality and even becomes a ‘piece’ in the Games.  

Resisting the Games

Peeta Mellark, however, resists becoming just another player. 

For instance, the night before he and Katniss enter the Hunger Games, Peeta shares: “I want to die as myself…I don’t want them to change me in there.  Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.”

He deeply questions Panem’s violent designs, desiring to keep his integrity despite being thrown in the middle of its monstrosities. 

Katniss, on the other hand, thinks only about the ‘availability of trees’, not even questioning the game they are thrown into. 

As the Trilogy develops, total war breaks out among the Districts and Katniss joins a revolutionary army, fueling the fire of a violent rebellion. She becomes the symbol of the revolution–the Mockingjay. 

In contrast, Peeta calls for a cease fire: “We can’t fight one another…If everybody doesn’t lay down their weapons—and I mean, as in very soon—it’s all over, anyway.”  

Katniss and the rebel army scoff at Peeta’s stance, calling him a ‘traitor’ and spurn his call for disarmament, thinking a cease-fire could “only result in a return to [their] previous status.  Or worse.”

But would it? Would non-violent protests only result in the status quo?

To find out what happens to Katniss and Peeta in the end, and whether Peeta retains his integrity…well, you will just have to read the Hunger Games trilogy for yourself. 

Where the Hunger Games and the Story of God Collide

Though, as Christians, we can ask: ‘How does the Hunger Games fit in with the story of God?’

I would say: “Let us remember the One who faced the power of an oppressive State. One who was thrown into a Hunger Games of his own. One who died a violent, humiliating…and public death.”

Jesus.

When Jesus was asked, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” in the Garden of Gethsamene, Jesus responded, “No more of this!” and then miraculously heals the man arresting him. 

As Jesus followers, we need to honestly assess how much violence has crept into our attitudes and worldviews (as reflected in The Hunger Games) and to think again about where true power comes from. 

If we believe that true power comes from God, then we must wrestle with the life of Jesus and ask ourselves: How did Jesus use his power? and How can we follow his example?

Rachael Green serves on International Student Ministry staff in Portland, OR.  She's a bookworm, bread baker, and writing enthusiast.  Her experience growing up in the Friends church inspired her towards nonviolence and peacemaking.

Comments

I love Peeta too, but I'd like to offer an alternative interpretation, as I think you've taken some things out of context. *Spoiler Warning* Remember, Peeta was consigned to dying for much of the first (and second) books. He was struck by the horror of the games and defeated, only to be saved by the hands of Katniss (yes, he did save her once, but his pre-game comments showed his true condition). He wanted to fight the capitol, but his point was hardly non-violence - in fact, he only came to the statement you quoted after being clearly brainwashed by the capitol. In actuality, Peeta recognized that his only hope of stopping the capitol relied on keeping Katniss alive. Katniss, on the other hand, chooses to not lie down but to engage the Capitol on its own turf. She never once kills unless threatened, going so far as nursing two other players to health and holding a funeral during a deathmatch (in the first book alone). Ultimately, she puts to death her own desire to flee and becomes the Mockingjay so that her people might live. When the going gets tough and morally complex it is Katniss has the saavy to navigate the situation without being pulled into either evil side (Capitol or Resistance). Peeta is an okay, but not exceptional, model of nonviolence (inaction is not the same as nonviolence). Katniss, on the other hand, is I believe an excellent example of how to think critically and uncompromisingly in morally ambiguous situations. If only our students could learn from Katniss in how to navigate tough situations like pol:itics!
The amazing thing is, that even when it appears that evil has overcome goodness, such as when violence seems to overcome non-violence, we can be assured that ultimately evil will not win. The general resurrection in a new creation is our hope of a world without sin and the evil that sin causes. Christ has already demonstrated this - even when it appeared all was lost and death and violence won, the goodness and love of God overcame in the resurrection of Christ. Great post! We need to remember that our hope of peace can only come from God; and our lives through Christ reflecting that peace to the world. I wrote a post (interestingly enough inspired by Batman) which echoes this call for Christian non-violence as well: http://thekayakingchurch.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/not-even-batman-wanted...

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