Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Hunger Games: A Gladiatorial conquest?

NOTE: I wanted to share something about a book I had read of late, and compare it to a movie that I have always loved. I shall also say that there is a spoiler alert, since I do mention events in The Hunger Games that might ruin your read if you haven’t yet managed to lay your hands on it! So, if you have read the book, or if you don’t mind the spoilers read on…
For a short preview, you might want to watch The Hunger Games Trailer and the Gladiator- the trailer.

The Hunger Games, a book by Suzzane Collins, tells the story of a seventeen year old girl named Katniss Everdeen. Katniss lives in a world where there is an anarchic rule by the Capitol over twelve districts. The districts had originally rebelled and this led to the Capitol reinforcing their rigid authority by introducing something called the hunger games. Here, two children from each district between the age of 12 and 18 (one boy and one girl) are chosen to compete each other in an arena until only one survives while the rest of the country watches the televised version. Katniss, a girl from District 12, which supplies coal to the Capitol, offers to participate in the hunger games in her sister, Primrose Everdeen’s, stead.
Through the three novels that Suzzane Collins spins, we see an act of rebellion against the reign of President Snow and the Capitol. What is interesting about this novel is the comparison between a future that Collins creates and a Roman past. After reading the books, I happened to watch the movie Gladiator (2000) by Ridley Scott and I was struck by the similarities. It is true that Collins herself has acknowledged the influence of Roman history in writing her book- Roman senators, the idea of the arena and the weak pitched against each other or other natural forces (in the gladiatorial games it would be other animals, while in the hunger games it was also weather and other natural phenomena), and the people watching the entertainment.
The gladiatorial games were for the entertainment of the masses. However, in the movie, Maximus (a Roman general who becomes a slave and is compelled to enter the arena) proves that he will not obey the command of his emperor. He, at every possible chance, throws dirt at the face of Commodus’ reign. Maximus, through three vivid instances (his three games in the Colloseum), defies the crown causing Commodus to retch with anxiety and eventually leads to his death in the extraordinary finale between him and the erstwhile general. Similarly, Katniss, through three different instances (the three novels), defies President Snow leading to his overthrow in the end.
It is fascinating to see the similarities between the appearances of the commentator and the senators in the film and the gamemakers in the novel. The clothes are similar: the gamemakers wear purple robes, while the senators don white. The people of the Capitol are said to dress ‘differently’- with plastic surgery and plenty of makeup.  This is akin to commentator Cassius in Gladiator. - Cassius - Ceasar Flickerman
It was really curious to see that only the people from the Capitol were named after Romans: Cinna, Portia, Caesar, Cato, Octavia, Flavia, Plutarch, Seneca etc. While Katniss, Prim and Gale and elements of nature in them. Even Rue (meaning compassion) and Thresh (related to the agricultural ‘threshing of the corn’) have more ‘humane’ names. This could be percieved as a nature-culture shift.
Finally, there is an amazing similarity between Haymitch Abernathy who trains Katniss and Antonious Proximo, a gladiator trainer who buys Maximus. Both men primarily look out for themselves, and yet they accomplish so much more for their chosen candidate. Both of them have a rather antagonistic and yet protective approach to the people who go into the arena.
I found a lot of similarities between the story and the movie. And for those who love the arena, both the book as well as the movie are a must read/see.

1 comment:

Bharathi said...

You know what?! I never realised the similarities till you mentioned them. And they are so true! Especially the use of Roman and nature names for the characters.
The review is written well and quite captivating. You have succeeded in summarising the essence of both stories in a few lines :-)