War: Real vs. Not Real - A Reflection on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part Two

2:08 AM

Tonight I had the opportunity to see the premiere of the new The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Two movie with a group of my college’s dorms. As I watched, I couldn’t help but take notes on my phone about the subject I’m writing on now (I apologize to those around me who had to deal with the occasional light on my phone. I felt like the annoying, rule-breaking cartoon shown at beginning of movies, depicted to tell people not to be rude in the theatre.)

Throughout the movie and in the books, characters Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark engage in a game called “Real or Not Real” in order to decipher the memories that have been falsely placed in Peeta’s mind by his captivators as opposed to those he has really experienced. The game evokes an emotional response for the reader as well as the characters.

There are many things that stand out to a reader or viewer of The Hunger Games, one of those is Katniss’ love interest(s). Watchers and readers of the series will argue – Gale versus Peeta. While I’m not against such debates and have actively engaged in them before, I feel that the novel offers bigger questions that need to be answered. I have no doubt that Suzanne Collins wrote the series with more in mind than a love triangle.

Collins wrote a series of young adult, dystopian novels about war, something that has been all too prevalent in the history of our world as well as its current state. The traces of reality in The Hunger Games are real and frightening to a reflective viewer. Perhaps what seems like a get-a-way novel for teens to dig their noses into and pass the time poses questions that our young people (and old) need to be asked:

How do we get to be these people who can justify the killing of another being? Is death redeemed by more death? Is there ever a reason to take a life? What is the goal in war? Power? Revenge? Is there such a thing as fighting for peace? Is any place really free after experiencing war? And can there be a return to normalcy, or a pre-war state, after crossing that life changing line?

If you watch, you see the effects of their war, of their constant fighting and turmoil. The characters deal with PTSD, loss, and grieving in so many ways. From the beginning to the end, they are not the same, and it is not for the better. The series is painfully upsetting, and upsetting merely to watch in a movie format; I couldn’t imagine experiencing it in real life. True, the novels are fiction, but I believe that in every piece of fiction there lie truths about the society that we live and breathe in. In this case, truths about war.

In my English class, we’re reading The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. We haven’t finished yet, but we have read and discussed enough to see the similarities in questions that both authors ask. Forna’s novel takes place in Croatia, former Yugoslavia, and post-civil war. The civil war has had great damage on the society and the relationships that exist in the town. Forna questions whether human nature is inherently evil, due to all the war that occurs; she asks whether a perpetrator of violence can ever return to a pre-violence, pre-war situation; she asks at what point a society implodes, wonders if we are all too sensitized to war, and begs to know how we reconcile with the people we’ve hurt and the actions that we’ve done.

War is not a game, as it is played in The Hunger Games; It is not a book; It is not a movie, though it can be depicted and examined in these forms. As said in the new release, “No one ever wins the games.” Does anyone win a war? Are the benefits really greater than the cost of loved and cherished lives? Can we claim that “these things happen in war” after the killing of innocent women, men, and children? Is that the excuse?

I want to encourage those of you reading to reflect on the questions asked in The Hired Man and The Hunger Games. War is, by definition, deadly and filled with bloodshed. Before we seek revenge, before we fight, before we shoot, before we tear someone else’s world apart, we must ask both what life we are taking, and how our own lives will be taken, in a non-literal way, after we have done the deed. Can a person ever be the same again after an act of violence such as that? Is a life ever the same? I don’t believe that hate and vengeance are ever the answer. Reconciliation is something we must become more familiar with.

Unfortunately, time and time again we show ourselves that this is not possible. The character Plutarch writes a letter to Katniss in which he says, "But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction." We have a history for not learning from our mistakes. Is returning to normalcy possible after a state of war?

I ask these questions and expect no answers, though I will take suggestions if you have them. I have none. I don’t think I’ve been around long enough to know them, though I certainly think about them a lot.

In the end, Peeta and Katniss romantically pronounce their love as Real. What I took from their words was that, above all else, all we have is each other. Think about losing a loved one to war; maybe you already have. If so, you know that what is won in war is never greater than the lives lost. Never. This I know to be true, as well as the fact that war is capital R, Real. Those who want to destroy us do not place it in our minds, though it exists for the same reason, to destroy. It is real-life, present, and ready to take lives.

I’m not okay with that, are you?

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