Tuesday, May 8, 2012

1984 For a New Generation

Judging by the reaction of the books and the first film of the trilogy, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, has been an unqualified success.  However, it has also caused a bit of debate, owing to its subject matter.  It is about our society in the distant future, at least 74 years hence.  What do the Games consist of?  Each of the twelve districts of North America is required to choose, by lottery, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18.  These are sent to the Capitol, where they are placed in a stadium that has been transformed to look like a forest.  Once inside, the “tributes” must fight to the death.  The last one standing wins food for life, in a world where food is lacking for the vast majority, except in the Capitol.

The theme is rather heavy for the intended audience, being written primarily for teenagers. However, the author does not describe the violence in graphic detail, and at the same time the reader never loses the sense of anguish that the protagonists feel in the “game” – a world class euphemism if there ever was one.

Why is it the new 1984?  Sixty-three years ago, George Orwell published a book in which he revealed his idea of how the world might be in the aforementioned year.  It is easy to see that he was largely correct, failing mostly in choosing the timeframe.  In the end, it is a criticism of the world in which Orwell lived.  

It is this book that gave us the poorly named “Big Brother.”  This program is nothing more than a human zoo, full of argumentative, bad tempered people.  By the way, why do they call it a “reality show” when it has nothing to do with reality?  The participants are not allowed to do anything – read, use a computer, watch television, play games, listen to music, go to work, e.g. anything that a normal person would do.  With no other options, they fall into a pattern of gossip, argument, and shouting among themselves, until at least one breaks down in tears in the confession room or a bed or wherever, all so the spectators can spend an enjoyable evening in front of the television. I doubt that I am the only one who wonders:  How long it will be before someone is killed in the Big Brother house?

Maybe it is this question that gave birth to the Hunger Games.  I am not sure of the motives of the author, but we can speculate about them.  Instead of children, she could have put adults in the arena, as we see in a lot of action movies.  She could have made it so that the participants had to be knocked out instead of killed. However, I believe that she wanted to create a highly charged situation, to warn that this could be the future of mankind if we do not do something about it.  Maybe it will not be exactly like the book, nor with children, but is it so difficult to imagine a deadly reality show within the next 25 or 50 years, if that long?

Obviously it would not be the first time that a society enjoyed such a spectacle.  Ask any Christian during the Roman Empire, for example.  We would like to think that we have evolved beyond that as a society, but I am not sure that we have.

I am not one to burn or prohibit books.  For this reason I have not prevented anyone in my family to read it.  What I do want, once it has been read, is that the reader think about the repercussions, especially for a Christian.  Therefore, the question is:

What would a Christian do, once chosen to participate in the Hunger Games?  


  1. You bring up a really good point about how Christians should react to these stories. I am currently studying 1984 and am analyzing the idea of "doublethink" and how it is affecting the reality we live in. This is something that Christians should definitely worry about because of how the existence of God can be challenged via the digital world by writing him out of history. What are your thoughts?

    1. If I remember correctly, Orwell didn't put anything of religion in his book, and neither did Collins. I'm not sure which is worse - writing Him out of history, or just pretending He doesn't exist. Both of course are foolish, and deny the spiritual aspect of the universe.

  2. I view books the same way as you Michael. I am one to allow my children to read secular books as long as I know what the content is and I make an effort to either read them myself first or along with them or have some knowledge so as to have a conversation about the content at some point with them. I have had some experience with people in my circle of friends who when the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling came out would not read them because they were thought to be demonic. In my opinion, they were just another classic good versus evil series just that they happen to be all wizards. This does not mean that I don't believe in demon spirits but I don't believe one can be possessed simply by reading a book. Anyway, regarding the Hunger Games, my students were shocked when they found out I had not read the series yet this past year...it was definately the most popular amongst my students. I have yet to read the series although Kimberly just finished it. I enjoy your blog Michael even though I have not had much time to respond to much of it. I hope to participate more in the future.

  3. I have to admit I was a little late coming to the party myself, and have read only the first book. Projects, projects . . . :-)



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