The Hunger Games: Life Lessons from Katniss

I didn’t seek out The Hunger Games; it found me, before the sweeping publicity that came along with the movie debut. This book was placed in my hands as a must-read. As in, I MUST read it because it’s my job. It was selected by my colleague to be the novel for my advanced ESL reading/writing class that I taught last year at my local university.

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I read the back cover to see what I was getting myself into:

“In a dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed. When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katriss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.”

Dark…future. TV show. Kill or be killed. Death. Survival.

Gulp.

I was convinced by these words that I would not like this book. AT ALL. I gravitate towards light-hearted romances, inspiring travel memoirs, or sometimes a good mystery, but never heart pounding, fear inducing topics like those above. Plus, I’d much rather read about the past than the future.

“You’ll LOVE this book,” my colleague assured me. I kept mum about my skepticism.

Once I started reading, I ran into my colleague’s office exclaiming, “The Hunger Games is SO good! I couldn’t put it down!”

Lucky for me, I even got my love story. The Hunger Games is up there on my list of greatest love stories of all timeSwoon. 

It’s not just love that intrigues me, there are five criteria that make a book a good read, in my opinion:

  1. I must feel a personal connection to the characters, as if I know them in person. In other words, I have to care about them on a deep level. Katniss could have been the sister I never had.
  2. The story must move me emotionally. While reading The Hunger Games, I laughed out loud, I cried real tears, and I wanted to yell at the Gamemakers and cheer out loud for Katniss and Peeta.
  3. Above all, I need to be inspired. On the rare occasion, a book will make me look at life differently. The Hunger Games did.
  4. Finishing the book feels bittersweet; I feel better for having read it, but I’m sad it’s over. I mourned a little when I finished The Hunger Games. Luckily, I still have yet to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay.
  5. I want to read it again…and again. I want to read The Hunger Games again even more after seeing the movie.

A story is only as strong as the main characters. Without meaningful character development, the most action packed plot will fall apart if the reader doesn’t care about the characters’ fate (i.e., emotional connection). The Hunger Games is great not because of the plot, but because of the characters, namely Katniss.

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I admire Katniss’ unwavering strength and dignity throughout the book/movie. I know for a fact I would have curled up in a ball if I were in her situation. Here’s the life lessons I take from Katniss on how to be braver and stronger in the face of adversity:

Humility. Don’t be afraid to accept help when you most need it. Katniss wasn’t ashamed to take Peeta’s bread when her family was starving. Furthermore, she is not arrogant about her archery skills, and doesn’t try to show them off like the other tributes boast their skills.

Be yourself. In The Hunger Games, survival is not ensured by skill and wit alone, but also popularity (popularity means sponsors, which means lifesaving gifts in the moment of greatest need). Katniss is nervous about how to make people like her during her interview with Ceasar Flickerman, but her charm lies in being her slightly awkward, honest, unintentionally witty self.

Family is everything.  Katniss’ purpose in life is caring for her family, and her inner strength during her ordeal comes from the desire to reunite with her younger sister, Primrose, and mother.

Perseverance. Katniss face multiple crushing setbacks, yet she never, never gives up. And she never feels sorry for herself.

You can do the thing you think you cannot do.  Katniss wants to win the Hunger Games, but initially she doesn’t really think she can do it. But she does.

Be kind to your enemies. Okay, so Rue would never be Katniss’ enemy outside of the arena, but they’re supposed to be enemies in the Games. Katniss sees the humanity in her competitors. Rue and Katniss genuinely care about each other and want to help each other, perhaps an understated yet powerful statement against the Capitol and the Hunger Games.

Single pointed focus. Don’t let your mind get cluttered with useless thoughts that don’t change the situation. Focus on the outcome you want. Peeta wants to show the Capitol “that they don’t own me.” Katniss tells Peeta, “I can’t afford to think like that.” She doesn’t let self-defeating or unnecessary thoughts keep her from her goals. Plus, think of how much focus is required to shoot a bow like that!

Love is nice, but…True strength comes from within. I love how love makes Katniss stronger, not weaker (unlike a nameless heroine from another popular series), and I’m not just talking about Peeta’s love, but also Katniss’ love for her family, especially Prim. It’s refreshing to see a young girl whose sole purpose in life is greater than pining away for some boy.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” Lucille Ball

Everything is okay. Katniss repeatedly says, “Everything is okay,” even when it seems like it’s not. She says it to Primrose before  she’s hauled off to the Capitol, and she says it again to Peeta when there’s a gaping hole in his leg. In the end, she’s right. Everything is okay.

Have skills. Katniss is killer with a bow and arrow (in more ways than one ;)). Skills give you character, and you never know when you’ll use them!

Being such a fan of the book, you bet I raced to the theater to see The Hunger Games! Of course the book is still better than the movie, but even though I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

Some of the things I loved about the movie version:

  • The movie followed the book pretty closely. Although, I wanted to see Katniss get the traditional bread from Rue’s district! That was one of the parts that really touched me while reading the book.
  • The director took into account that the book is told from Katniss’ point of view. Oftentimes the camera was angled so that the audience was could see and feel as Katniss did.
  •  The director added the Gamemakers in action and Gale watching The Hunger Games on TV (which we don’t get to see in the book since it’s in first person from Katniss’ point of view).
  • All of the actors were PHENOMENAL. I think the casting was spot on.

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MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR.

2 comments

  1. I just read the hunger games this past weekend and loved it :) I’m going to see the movie tomorrow and more excited than I can explain!

    1. I hope you liked it! I think they did a pretty good job staying true to the book =)

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