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Sit In On A College Class About 'The Hunger Games' 

Think about anything else that day? Fat chance.

I’d been waiting for this for over six months.

Before I left college for summer, I enrolled in a Young Adult Literature class for the fall semester. The title is all I needed to hook me. What made it better? The book list we were required to read.

Number four on that list? The Hunger Games.

The day of class arrived. Barely keeping calm, I poked my Mockingjay earrings into my ears. I braided my hair (well, the best braid I can manage with hair that is as thin as tissue paper and only shoulder-length). I grabbed my bag, making sure a notebook and functioning pen came with me.

When I made my way to campus, I passed a few people. I caught them looking at me a second longer than they probably should have. “Who invited Katniss Everdeen?” The question reflected in their eyes; pride reflected in mine.

I was the first to get to class. I carefully placed my supplies on my desk, waiting for the company of my best friend, who turned me on to the novels in the first place. Soon, she was seated beside me half-shaking her head at my eagerness, half-fangirling over it. As others began to file in, I could not keep the smile off my face. A few who knew me better than the others asked me, “You’ve been waiting for this, haven’t you?” Ha, waiting. More like living for it. 

My professor made his way to the front of the class, cranking up the computer and old, semi-haunted projector. Finally, it was time to kick this into high gear.

“So,” my professor began. “The Hunger Games.” He paused. “Thumbs-up, thumbs-down? So-so?”
Every thumb in the room shot up to the ceiling. Soon, a three-finger salute went up and a Mockingjay whistle broke the silence from behind me.

This was going to be great.

We began with our professor giving us general information he had researched about the series. Soon, we broke off into groups, with a list of discussion topics we'd formulated as a class. Later, we came together as a whole and went over the discussion topics even deeper.

I never volunteered (ooh, puns!) so much in a class. Throughout the class, I was able to provide my professor and classmates with additional information about the events in the book series, Suzanne Collins, her inspiration for the novels, the movie franchise, and even the theme park. (Yep, that’s still a thing.)

Those two and a half hours were some of the best ones I spent at college. I could feel how much I belonged in that room, with those people. The love I had for this series only burned brighter upon my exit.

Since you couldn't be there with me, I'm sharing the notes I took in the class. First is the general information my professor brought to our attention. Second are the discussion topics that took up the meat of the class. What would you want to talk about in a class session completely dedicated to The Hunger Games? Sound off in the comments.

General Information:
  • - What is the book’s appeal? Katniss is a heroine. The book can encompass different subject areas (meaning English, history, science...). The movement of the plot. Something that has never been seen before in a novel.
  • - The book reflects our obsession with war, games, and reality television.
  • - The plant names as people's names: Katniss, Rue, Primrose. Katniss is shaped like arrow heads (seriously, what did Collins NOT think of?). These used to be popular in our culture a few years ago. Rose, Violet, Lily, etc.
  • - The guessed time-frame of the novel is 300-400 years from present day. (That is haunting.)
  • - Panem map appears as though flooding is what changed the US to Panem. We lost the coasts.
  • - "Panem," the actual word, roots itself to a meaning of roughly "bring everything together." Pan= bread (in GREEK-- thank you, Julie, for brining that to my attention AFTER class!). Panem is bread and circuses.
  • - In Theseus Myth, he was able to survive the minotaurs because he had a thread that was given to him by his lover. (Think Katniss and Peeta.)
  • - Katniss reflects Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt. (Google pictures. Girl uses a bow and arrow, too!)
  • - In comparison to Harry Potter, The Hunger Games also includes the idea of training/schooling sessions before one is cast out in "the real world."
  • - "Arena" is the Latin word for "sand." There are many Latin words to depict different types of sand. THIS type is a special one that was dug out from the hill where the Vatican stands. It was good for, well, sopping up blood.
  • - In contemporary sports games, the balls are “missiles.” The sport is ritualized warfare. Sports have been a substitute for war for a long time. Way back when, war ceased during Olympiads. The Olympics were created to try and make peace-- if only for a few weeks' time.
  • - They say "may the odds be ever in your favor," but that is not unlike our "good luck." There's nothing we can DO to push someone's luck. What's done is already done. We just hope things work out well for the person.
  • - The Hunger Games was a form of population control. People would not want to bring kids into the world knowing this may be their fate (K-K-Katniss). Also, in most Districts, romantic love is not a large focus. It's a burden. It's unnecessary to survive, since most are struggling so much already. No one needs someone else to look out for, another mouth to feed.
  • - Though Katniss loves her family, namely Prim, they are a burden to her. Think of all she does at a very young age once her dad passes. Wouldn't all that work weigh you down, too?
  • - In today's world, we generally view the upper class as conservative. In the Capitol, they seem as liberal as can be. They are extravagant-- people in our current upper class would scoff/laugh at.
  • - Katniss literally does not need a single man in her life in order to accomplish what she does in this book. They're in her life, but they are not vital. (“That’s our girl…”)
  • - Power is fragile. In a few words-- berries, Seneca Crane, Snow.
  • - When it comes to fame, do we identify with the actual person or the person said human appears to be? His "character," if you will. Think of Katniss and Cinna just before she goes on stage for her interview. Cinna tells her to be herself, but she can't TRULY. Everyone would hate her guts. He wants her to put on a persona.
  • - Fame sneaks up on many of the Tributes, especially Katniss. Peeta? He already gets it. He knows how to play the game. Why might this be? The difference in class. He's merchant, and Katniss is from the Seam. Ultimately, fame is what keeps Everlark alive in the Games. The fame they have is similar to that of a modern-day reality show. They're famous (at least until they win the Games) just for being famous. Their looks (thanks, Cinna and Portia) are a staple in that fame. It's almost an identity. Katniss is, figuratively and literally, a girl on fire.
  • - The Hunger Games is a distraction with all the hype that comes with sacrificial offerings. The Tributes are scapegoats for all that happened during the Dark Days. The history of the scapegoat goes back thousands of years to killing a lamb, sprinkling its blood on a goat, and leading the goat into the woods. It is a ritual of cleansing sin. In the meantime, the Capitol hunkers down so no one will notice their own wrong doings.
  • - There is no mention of God/religion in the book. Religion is a way to distract and tame the masses. In THG, the Capitol takes the place of religion. They are the raw power. (This particular point has been in the back of my mind ever since.) 
  • - The Mockingjay pin-- it reclaims a symbol and turns it against the Capitol. A Mockingjay was never meant to exist. Smell that? That's irony.

Discussion Topics:
Dystopias, Family, Satire, Government, Rebellion, Sacrifice, Human Rights, War/Power, Relatability, Survival, Fame, Odds, Character Development, Katniss's psychology, The Mockingjay Pin


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Reader Comments (4)

Wow, that's awesome, Lara. Thanks for letting us vicariously experience that class with you! Unfortunately, I never had fun reading assignments like that in school! Sounds like there was a lot of fascinating discussion to share in.

I have to offer one comment in response to your professor's comment on religion: "There is no mention of God/religion in the book. Religion is a way to distract and tame the masses." I'll allow this professor to have his opinion because, hey, we're all allowed to bring a bit of ourselves into the stories we read. But this statement, to me, is really stretching. God is absent from the story because, well, it's not about God, nor religion. It's about power. Governments and powerful people have always used a long list of tactics to manipulate and control the masses. Food, jobs, money, education, fear... and yes, even religion too. But to sneak into THG a message about religion being "the opium of the people" is going outside of the text and into personal ideology, which is cool over coffee, but maybe not so cool in school.

One of the things I love most about THG is how it demonstrates that politics (and I'll throw in social policy and religion) are rarely ever as straightforward or black/white as many people would like you to think. My parents' generation had a slogan, "don't trust anyone over 30." I won't go that far, but I will say that there are agendas everywhere, and nobody is completely unbiased. So don't ever passively accept something your hear (even from a teacher or other authority figure) without checking it out for yourself. Now, with all that being said, this professor did do a great job of getting his students involved in thinking about how THG relates to our own present-day world, and I applaud that.

September 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCrispyHalo

I would love to discuss about this with anyone. I think THG has a very fierce and clear politic message, you know. In simple words, imagine this: Snow is Capitalism, control, consumerism. Coin is Communism, control too, social equality for for everyone, but at the same time, this way of thinking doesn´t work too. At Mockingjay, we realize the D13 is as egoist as the Capitol... So as CrispyHalo said, it´s so facinating the way the books shows how things are not black and white. I totally agree with the opinion of CrispyHalo, and it would be pretty cool to discuss this with anyone someday :)

September 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterIsa

Wow! That sounds very exciting. I wish I can go someday! :)

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKatniss Everdeen

That's pretty awesome. The world of THG really does seem to provide eternal food for thought, analysis, and discussion. With regard to the topic of religion/God...while religion is certainly easy to wield as an "opiate of the people," to mollify or district or inspire both hope AND interestingly isn't one of the Capitol's chosen tools. In fact, it would SEEM to have no presence in Panem at all. It's safe to assume that our organized religions as we know them are all but gone, at least from North America. MY assumption/belief is that some citizens remain spiritual on some level, even if they're quiet about it and keep these thoughts to themselves--because many would need to believe in something more, something better beyond this world. Something great that awaits fallen tributes and everyone else. Individual faiths may no longer be very defined, and people may not regularly engage in rites or ceremonies that are particularly religious in nature...but yes, I do think that a portion of the population would hold some spiritual concepts, at least wanting and trying to believe in them.

September 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

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