Discussing
Can we learn anything about sacrifice from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire?

Josh Larsen

Jr. Forasteros
November 26, 2013

I would say that Peeta's about the only one coming close to something akin to Jesus' wholly selfless sacrifice on behalf of his beloved. The other acts seemed to be more motivated by resistance to the Empire/courage/etc.

None of them seemed ready to offer themselves up in a way that becomes redemptive for either their fellow oppressors OR for the empire oppressing them.

Then again, any response to injustice is better than no response to injustice :)

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
November 26, 2013

I like that distinction, JR. Still not sure if I'm ready to name Peeta a Christ figure though ;)

JKana
November 28, 2013

I honestly hadn't thought much about the volume of self-sacrifice you see in Catching Fire until reading your post here, Josh. But you're right...there is a LOT of it in this movie, and the degrees of motivation for the various sacrifices are especially interesting. Certainly, there is the matter of a vision of something better that has captivated the imagination of some of the characters and made them willing to sacrifice themselves for a greater cause they believe it. But I actually think the self-sacrifices that come closest to the Christian vision are the ones that are motivated by pure love of another. I found myself most moved by the volunteering of the fragile old lady that Katniss befriends during the training. She substituted herself, knowing full well that the consequence would be her death, in order to spare the life of an arguably undeserving "crazy" young person back at home. And she did it motivated by Katniss' selfless act of volunteering in place of her sister the previous year.

If there is a Christ motif in the Hunger Games, it's surely to be found in that old lady's substitution. Though I agree with you Josh...I'm not sure Collins was after anything quite that profound.

Christopher Hunt
December 2, 2013

I confess that I have neither read any of the novels nor watched either of the films. (Great start to a comment, huh?) But I did read the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. The main character, Gregor, a boy of about 12 from New York, is called repeatedly to the Underland, a secret world far beneath the earth's surface, where he is a kind of champion as proclaimed by an obscure prophecy set forth by the man who first discovered the Underland. Repeatedly, Gregor offers himself for his family and friends as this prophecy sweeps him inexorably toward some final confrontation. Ostensibly a series of children's books, the Chronicles become more and more grim (e.g. like the Harry Potter series). Although Gregor sacrifices almost everything, the series ends of surprisingly little to show for it, except a debilitating case of PTSD. Hopelessness seems to be an overarching theme. Gregor is left wondering what it was all for and fearful about what might happen to his family in the unknown future. I suspect Collins brings a similar logos to the Hunger Games series...which is one of the reasons why I have not read them: the prospect of hopeless struggle and the depression such futility wells in me holds me back. It also makes me wholly grateful that Christ has done away with hopelessness in the non-fictional struggles of our own lives.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
December 2, 2013

Interesting, Chris. I wonder what it says that the sort of bleakness that seems to be a common trait in Collins' work is being embraced by readers/moviegoers. Why might hopelessness be resonating now?

Also, you might be interesting to note that PTSD is also a strong thread in Catching Fire, as attention is paid to the damage that has been done to those who "won" previous Hunger Games. They survived, but not intact.

Karissa Knox Sorrell
December 4, 2013

While I'm not big on attributing Christian ideas to works that were not intended to be religious, I do believe, as Madeleine L'Engle did, that all art is, in a way, incarnational. The thing about the sacrifices in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire is that, ultimately, all of them are driven by the government control. The government is forcing people to participate in The Hunger Games and forcing customs and regulations in the Districts. The sacrifices are just a domino effect of responses to that control. So I don't know that I agree that Peeta's sacrifices are similar to Christ's.

But what if we look at not what the sacrifices are motivated by, but what they create? One thing created from those acts is trust. The citizens of Panem, particularly from Districts like District 12, have learned not to trust anyone. But when, for example, Katniss dares to give the people in District 11 their own hand signal, yes, people are killed for it, but District 11 now knows they can trust Katniss. Another thing created is hope. While I agree that Collins is realistic about the effects of The Hunger games and the Panem government, each time a sacrifice is made, it creates hope that there is still good in the hearts of the people and that maybe the nation will get better. You could argue that the sacrifices create redemption in that the people of Panem begin to re-imagine themselves and their nation. However, I don't know that the book goes so far as to redeem the oppressors.

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