July 13, 2020

Why We Feast on The Hunger Games

posted on: Wednesday March 21, 2012

Katherine Bacino ’24/A&E Staff

Not 24 hours after I arrived home, the grumbling started. It began after an encounter with an old teacher who was preaching the sustaining value of the novel. As I discussed my piqued appetite with my little brother, his eyes craved the arrival of tomorrow afternoon when his piece would arrive in the mail. It continued the next day as my aunt and cousin both expressed their fulfilled satisfaction. In short, The Hunger Games was starting to make me hungry.

The next day, I picked up a copy of the novel, and admittedly due to a very social, sunny, and splendid week in southern California, I have read maybe a quarter of the first page. Sitting now on an airplane, not tempted by the urge to bask in the sun or devour another street taco, I pick up The Hunger Games. But before I begin, maybe inspired by my philosophy reading, maybe just reflective of a particular reading palate, I question just why everyone is so hungry for The Hunger Games…or for that matter, why we were so blood-thirsty for Twilight (I admittedly was, with not one, but two expressions of my obsession in previous issues of The Cowl)? Or enchanted by Harry Potter?

An influential high school creative writing teacher of mine suggested that this type of sweeping literary obsession was not new. Particularly in reference to vampire literature, the same curiosity in the “undead” was sparked during the time of Shelley’s publication of Frankenstein. This societal obsession is of the same phenomena that caused families to flock to the theaters in post-World War America: an experience unlike that of this world. People wanted to feel once again, and by removing themselves from the dismal gray that was reality and placing themselves in the dynamic and (eventually) colorful world of the movies they could feel happiness in that removed “happily ever after.” From my very limited knowledge, The Hunger Games is an adventure story based in a post-apocalyptic world. From my very extensive knowledge, Twilight is a modern-day love story filled with the mystery and excitement of monsters. And from my consultation with, let’s face it, most people of the college-aged group, Harry Potter is all about magic. The increasingly smooth transition from New York Times bestseller to Hollywood blockbuster (not to mention the influence of social media) has made cultural obsession all the more accessible. I, for one, know I would not be nearly as interested in The Hunger Games if the nationwide film release were not a week away. In light of this current obsession, I think it’s interesting, and maybe important, to look not only at what we read, but also why we read it. As one who finds great joy and solace in the company of a novel, I find it wonderful to see more and more people discovering and embracing this form of unhurried leisure in a world where speed is faster and more demanding than ever. Who cares if the book is at a sixth-grade reading level? It’s not like other popular forms of expression and socializing are far above this (think the language of texting and the brevity of Twitter). So although I am a bandwagon fan, I will now guiltlessly feast my eyes on the pages of this acclaimed novel, satisfied with society’s continued craving to keep reading on the Entertainment menu.

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