The Bird & the Snake

The Bird & the Snake

“Remember who the enemy is,” Haymitch tells Katniss, moments before she is taken off to the Quarter Quell arena. Again, he reminds her as she attempts to talk down a man in District 2 holding a gun to her head; “Who is the enemy?”  

The enemy, she knows, is the Capitol, and the man who embodies the so-called “beating heart” of Panem: President Snow. Where she is the symbol of freedom, he is the symbol of an oppressive system. 

When Katniss first meets the President at the presentation of the victors, she understands instantly that he knows she is a threat, that she is the reason the Games and the Capitol were undermined. In the film, he seems to come across softer, commenting on her mockingjay pin and telling her that her district must be proud.

This softness and civility, we know, is a ruse. His eyes, she notes in the novel, are “as unforgiving as a snake’s” as he crowns her. What Katniss doesn’t realize at the time is how alike the two are, and just how much they will come to understand each other.

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Panem Today, Panem Tomorrow, Panem Forever in Our World

Panem Today, Panem Tomorrow, Panem Forever in Our World

Katniss raises her bow and lets loose an arrow, blowing a Capitol hovercraft out of the air. As it crashes into a second craft and they plummet to ground, the screen bursts into flames, and then: the Mockingjay logo over black. We watch this in the theater at the end of a trailer, Panem sees this at the end of a rebel propaganda short—a propo. The Hunger Games reflects a darker version of our own future, but our world reflects Panem right back.

Young Adult dystopian fiction is not a rare genre to find. Divergent, The Chemical Garden, Delirium, Uglies, Unwind, Chaos Walking, the list goes on. There are a vast array of reasons young adults connect with dystopian fiction. Give them a world they can see coming in their own future, a land destroyed by those before them, rules that tear away their agency, adults who would manipulate them, and yet give them the strength to grow, to change the narrative of their world for the better.

By wiping away the tedious normalcy of our lives now and exaggerating the things that already make life harder for everyone such as surveillance, media bias, body autonomy, and more, YA dystopian literature manages to not only distill issues in our present, but warn of future problems.

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