Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Hunger Games: Melodrama of the Decade

The Hunger Games trilogy seemed too good to be true when I began considering which famous novel to write a melodramatic critique about. Suzanne Collins practically handed her story to me on a silver platter, begging me to dissect her books. Yet her story remains one of the most celebrated and well-known fiction novels of the decade. While I could write my own personal novel crucifying every aspect of the three books, I have chosen to focus on just the first chapter of the first book, in which Collins lays out the foundation for a novel whose “melodramatic grammar established in the first novels remains firmly in place throughout the saga.” (Bousquet, Harry Potter, the War against Evil, and the Melodramatization of Public Culture.)
 “Our part of District 12, nicknamed the Seam, is usually crawling with coal miners heading out to the morning shift at this hour. Men and women with hunched shoulders, swollen knuckles, many who have long since stopped trying to scrub the coal dust out of their broken nails, the lines of their sunken faces.” (The Hunger Games, Collins)
This first example indicates that Katniss comes from a white-collar background. From what the chapter suggests, food is not easily attainable and luxuries are not relished in. Collins is utilizing a classic melodramatic tool, situating her protagonist in a working class environment. As Dr. Bousquet explains, many “heroes wore the homespun, often undyed clothing of the working class and peasantry.” As the later novels will reveal, this working class rebels against the aristocratic authority known as the Capitol.
“But there’s also food if you know how to find it. My father knew and he taught me some before he was blown to bits in a mine explosion.” (The Hunger Games, Collins)
Like the case in Harry Potter, readers of The Hunger Games are immediately meant to sympathize with the protagonist. Katniss’ father died and she indicates that her relationship with her mother is rocky. We as readers immediately feel a sense of loneliness associated with the protagonist. As Bousquet suggests throughout his piece, the author “victimizes” her protagonist.
“When I was younger, I scared my mother to death, the things I would blurt out about District 12, about the people who rule our country, Panem, from the far-off city called the Capitol.” (The Hunger Games, Collins)
Katniss is an unusual girl. While she has learned to remain quiet as she has gotten older, she has not conformed her thoughts. Katniss is misunderstood by those around her, who cannot see the value in thinking and expressing thoughts conflicting to those of the Capitol. Melodramatic authors, in order to make their protagonists distinct, commonly implement this idea of a “misunderstanding” between the main character and the rest of society.

“Effie Trinket crosses back to the podium, smoothes the slip of paper, and reads out the name in a clear voice. And it’s not me. It’s Primrose Everdeen.”

And lastly, it could not be melodrama without a substantial change in circumstances. As this quote suggests, Katniss’ life is about to be turned upside down. The next chapter reveals that Katniss volunteers as tribute for the games, and the rest is history (a melodramatic, but very creative history, I may add.)

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