They say that a hero can save us,
I’m not gonna stand here and wait…
Chad Kroeger, feat. Josey Scott, “Hero”
I spent the majority of last weekend engrossed in a world that author Suzanne Collins imagined and turned into a three-book series. The Hunger Games trilogy, a recommendation from fellow blogger Monica, is a dystopian young adult series of novels from which I couldn’t break away, that had me forgetting the outside world, so gripped by this imaginative one that left me wondering and questioning our own reality.
Briefly: The story is set in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem, formerly North America, wherein control of the twelve districts in which the country is divided is placed in the hands of the Capitol. To remind the country of the Capitol’s authority and to stave off future thoughts of rebellion, every year one girl and one boy from each of the districts are selected via lottery to participate in the Hunger Games — a brutal fight to the death that’s televised live, revered in the Capitol as entertainment and loathed in most of the outlying districts for its immorality.
I won’t go further into the plot or the themes and meaning of the books. You can find that here and here and here. But books about dystopias and a post-apocalyptic world have always fascinated me for the questions they raise, and The Hunger Games is certainly no exception.
Readers and writers of fiction are always wondering the generic “what if” in regards to life and humanity, looking for meaning and answers to sometimes unanswerable questions, imagining the impossible as becoming possible (ironically, what seemed impossible in the science fiction genre is now far more than possible, it’s a reality). However, in asking “what if,” they must also look at “what is” — what is happening now that could alter the world? How do we sustain this way of living and, if we can’t, how does that change our future?
What does it take for a society to falter, for a utopia to become a dystopia? Is it outside influences (as in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude — arguably one of my favorite books for such similar questions it provokes)? Or is it our own neglect and indifference that creates such powerful destruction?
But most importantly, and perhaps more terrifyingly, the question I kept asking myself throughout these books — and why this genre fascinates me so much — is how vulnerable are we?
Collins describes in an interview that the idea for the trilogy came to mind while she was flipping through television channels in which one displayed images of war and another a reality TV show, the two images merging together into her very own “what if” scenario. If it can be imagined, can it then become possible? In today’s world where violence escalates and such horrors don’t seem so unlikely, where children are handed weapons and taught hatred and harm at the onset, where voices are suppressed, is her imagined world really so far-fetched? Could those older works such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 really be such wild ideas after all?
Just what, exactly, are we capable of?
There are heroes and heroines in every story, those protagonists who stand up and fight for freedom and truth and justice. I can only imagine that’s what has prevented our world from shifting to these extremes, why those books remain, still, works of fiction: we have those people. Those who use their voice to make a difference, who look back on past mistakes, learn from them, and move forward with the sole intent of creating a better future.
Those who refuse to let humanity become inhumane.
Heroes and heroines right here, right now, shaping our own story so that we may always wonder “what if” instead of fearing “what is.”
For now, fiction will always be fiction, but there always rests a bit of truth in every story spun. Writers strive to understand the workings of the world and our place in it, transforming what they see and experience — what they know — by asking how and why…or why not. The page is a place for them to work out problems, to dissect the motivations behind actions, to understand human nature — who we are and why we are.
And who we could be.
Perhaps in that moment between channels, Collins saw some of humanity’s darkest moments, saw what we could be capable of if we let power corrupt us, if we stood divided. Perhaps, too, she understood how that could change if we maintained that common goal of freedom and truth and justice, if we continued to stand together.
If we were our own heroes in our everyday lives.
If we kept thinking, kept questioning, kept wondering…