Wednesday, 26 March 2014

And So It Ends.

The Hunger Games trilogy have always been a favourite series of mine, as I really enjoyed finally finding a Young Adult novel with a strong female protagonist, where a love story is not the main focus of the novel. I loved that Katniss cared more about herself, her family and the uprising then getting caught up in boy drama. Honestly, it was refreshing even to my 16 year old mind! This blog has given me the chance to delve deeper into these novels again, which I have loved. While I had always been struck by the stark difference between The Capitol and the districts, I never realised just how significant the use of food is within these texts.
The function of food in these texts is to show the significant differences between classes, and thus the different districts. We see this in the kind of food that is eaten in the districts; in 12 they survive on what they can find or what little food they can buy, with many children being forced to sign up for tesserae to ensure their families survival. This compared to all the luxurious meals that are served in the Capitol, where we witness absolute gluttony and excess. The idea that the wealthy have it all and the poorer, lower classes are left to struggle on is only to reminiscent of modern society, and I wonder if Suzanne Collins actually intended readers to make this connection when she thought up the fictional Panem.
I am amazed by how much influence food actually has in these texts, and how important it is to the story to take note of what is being consumed as we follow Katniss on her journey. There is so much left to explore on the topic of food in The Hunger Games, and I hope to continue writing on this blog after the push of final deadlines in my last term at University.  But I hope you have enjoyed this learning process with me, and we can continue on together in a few months!   
Until then, may the odds remain always in your favour.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010. Print.
Collins, Suzanne. Catching Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, 2013. Print.
Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010. Print.

The Capitol

The Capitol is home to the wealthiest people of Panem. It is the only place in the nation where the children are exempt from taking part in the Games. Its inhabitants have incredibly different priorities to those in the districts.
The Hunger Games film presentation of the Capitol.
The Capitol’s residents seem to have very little idea of what life is like in the districts, as they have no notion of hunger or starvation. This is shown in Katniss’ and Peeta’s visit to the Capitol in Catching Fire; Katniss wants to try every dish available as all the food looks so good, better than anything she could eat in 12. Obviously she starts to get full and tells her prep team she couldn’t possibly eat another bite. Her prep team tell them about a little purple drink, which will cause them to vomit so they can eat more.
A scene from The Hunger Games film, showing the Capitol party annd really highlighting the excesssive nature of the Capitol.
Katniss and Peeta are outraged, there are so many people starving in 12, and yet in the Capitol there is so much food going spare that it is acceptable practise to throw up your meals just so you can eat more. This overconsumption and excess that we associate with the Capitol is what really sets them apart from the districts. They literally want for nothing. Parents never have to feel the fear of their children being reaped for the Games, and they see it as an event to be celebrated, something to enjoy. They also never have to worry about going hungry, as there is such an excess of food. The food in the Capitol is exotic and extremely rich. Katniss enjoys dishes such as;
- Creamy Pumpkin Soup- Frothy Raspberry Soup- Goose Liver and puffy bread
-Chicken and oranges in a creamy sauce with flower shaped rolls
- Lamb Stew with dried plums, which is her favourite! 
An example of the lamb stew which can be found at as well as many other recipies for the food in The Hunger Games!
This luxurious, well prepared food is obviously very different to what Katniss would be eating back home. The food of the Capitol definitely highlights the differences in class between its own residents and those of the lower districts. Every meal is like a feast to Katniss and Peeta, there is always so much food left over after meals.; this kind of luxury could never be afforded in 12.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Career Tributes. (Districts 1,2 and 4)

Career Tributes are tributes that train throughout their life for the honour of competing in the Games. It is illegal to train for the Games, but because of their wealth and close ties to the Capitol, they tend to get away with it. It also goes without saying, that the Career tributes are all fit and strong, as they have been well nourished their entire lives, which is partly the reason they are to be feared. Career Tributes come from the higher class districts; 1, 2 and 4. All three of these districts are in favour with the Capitol. They are treated much differently from those in lower districts, such as 11 and 12. They are all incredibly wealthy, and so starvation has never been an issue. There are similarities between 4 and 11, in that both of them produce food for the Capitol and the nation. However, 4 are in favour with the Capitol, and so their citizens are not exploited in the same way they are in 11.
Career Tributes from Districts 1 and 2.
While being well fed may seem like a strange disadvantage, during the Games it can definitely be considered one. Tributes from the lower districts are generally used to going without food, or with little food for long periods of time. During the Games, the only food available is that which you can acquire from the initial bloodbath at the Cornucopia. You can also forage for food; children from lower districts have much better basic survival skills, while Career tributes do tend to go hungry. Having less food than they are used to makes the Career tributes much weaker during the Games.  
When Katniss climbs a tree to escape the Careers, they are unable to follow her up it. As demonstrated in the film, Cato (furthest right) tries to climb the tree but he is too heavy. This is a result of being well fed and well prepared fitness wise, for the Games.
So if we ask how food relates to survival, Career tributes have never had to go hungry in their own districts, where food has always been in abundance. However, being well fed is generally a disadvantage when you get into the Games, as it is the first time many of these kids will experience any kind of starvation and they are unable to handle it.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Importance of Bread

Bread plays an incredibly symbolic role in The Hunger Games triology. For instance, the word Panem is Latin for bread, and so we can already see its importance and its integral role throughout the novel.
Peeta's parents are both bakers, and his name is clearly a pun on the word 'pita'. Peeta and Katniss' relationship also begins because of bread. We are told that after Katniss' father dies and she is starving and trying to find food, she ends up outside Peeta's house after digging through his trash. It is hinted at that he purposely burns a loaf of bread so he can give it to her. Katniss may have starved if it wasn't for Peeta, and this role in her life earns him the nickname of 'The Boy with the Bread'. Food plays an important role in this book, as it is the thing that establishes a relationship between our two protagonists. It helps to establish a kind of trust between them, and it is essential for Katniss to be able to trust him in order to ensure her survival in the arena.
We see this element of food used to establish trust in Catching Fire. When Katniss is in the woods she comes across two women in Peacekeeper outfits. In order to convince her that they are not in fact Peacekeepers, but rebels from District 8 who are on the run and trying to get to District 13, they show her a piece of bread with the Mockingjay symbol on it. This enough to convince Katniss not to shoot them, as the Mockingjay symbol is fairly synonymous with Katniss at this point in the novel and so she knows that she can trust them, they are on her side.  
Bread with the Mockingjay symbol emblazoned on it.
Bread is often used as a means of communication in the series. In the first Games, Katniss received a roll of 11’s speciality bread. She realised it was intended as a thank you for the way she looked after Rue as she lay dying, and covering her in flowers before she was lifted from the arena. Sponsorship costs an exorbitant amount of money, especially in the later stages of the Games, and so Katniss knows that 11 must have pooled all their money together to send her that gift, and that many people in 11 would have gone hungry that night. It’s a really touching moment in the book, showing 11’s true appreciation for Katniss, as it is totally unheard of to send tributes gifts to those who are not in your district.
District 11's bread. Cresent shaped and sprinkled with seeds.
We see food used as a means of communication again in the second novel;  Katniss’ allies know when to expect a rescue from the arena, using a bread code. Katniss mentions throughout their time in the arena that Finnick seems to be almost obssessed by bread, as he compulsively counts the bread rolls that they received from sponsors. It is only after they are rescued that Katniss realises that the bread was a code. They received 24 rolls of District 3’s speciality bread, meaning that they would be rescued in the 24th hour on the third day they were in the arena.
It is clear how important food, specifically bread in this instance, is important in these texts. The function of food in these instances is to establish trust between potential enemies, and be used as a means of communication from mentors to their tributes so they knew when they could expect to make their escape from the arena and the total control of the Capitol.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Body Image in YA Literature

Body image is a massive issue in contemporary culture, and is a phenomenon which affects a lot of teenage girls. Pressures of society and the media have made girls feel like they need to be a certain weight and have certain features (thigh gaps/exposed hipbones) in order for them to be pretty. This often leads to a problematic relationship with food, with teenage girls being among the highest percentage of women who suffer from eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

 I began to wonder if Young Adult (YA) literature portrays a relationship with food and, if so, to what extent is this relationship healthy. In The Hunger Games, Katniss definitely has a healthy relationship with food. She literally has to hunt down each meal, and knows that food is not a luxury, it's a necessity. She needs to eat as much as she can get her hands on in order to remain as physically strong as she can during the Games, and even at home in 12. Katniss cares not about her body image, instead she understands that her body is the vehicle that will take her through the Games and feed her family at home.

Jennifer Lawrence was cast for the role of Katniss in the film version of The Hunger Games. Lawrence has made no secret of the fact that she had to fight for Katniss to have a more realistic figure in the movie, as she was being pressured to lose weight for the role. While we know that Katniss would naturally be very thin due to the fact she has been underfed her whole life, Lawrence saw that they had the opportunity to present a heroine who wasn’t stick thin, and knew the affect this would have on young girls. Hollywood is full of unrealistic images of women’s bodies that young girls try desperately to imitate. Lawrence wanted to set a more positive example to young women, and show that they did not have to conform to this ‘ideal’ stick thin figure. Lawrence set out to promote a healthier body image for her contemporary female audience.
YA literature has a responsibility towards its readers, and should not be promoting or romanticising unhealthy relationships with food. Jennifer Lawrence has helped to reverse the idea that a size 0 is the ideal women’s figure, and has shown just how damaging the media’s portrayal of this ideal is. She has highlighted just how problematic fat shaming is, after the media repeatedly refered to her size 10 figure as 'fat'. She is promoting strength. She wanted to portray Katniss as a strong woman and it is having an incredibly positive affect among young women who really look up to her, and to Katniss.

Friday, 28 February 2014

District Eleven.

District 11 is the largest, and one of the poorest districts in Panem. Their industry is agriculture, so we would expect the people of this area to be better fed than those is 12 but this is not the case. The Capitols control over 11 is totalitarian. Almost everything they produce goes straight to the Capitol, despite the evident starvation. Food production is so vital, and so the Peacekeepers are a lot tougher here then they are in other districts. If a citizen in 11 is caught eating crops; they are to be whipped in public and used as an example for the rest of the workers. 
We learn a lot about 11 from Rue. Rue is the female tribute from 11, and the youngest of all the tributes at age 12. It is through her we learn about the rough treatment of the Peacekeepers - they have no qualms about killing people, even small children, if they break the rules. 11's tributes never really fare well in the games, as they arrive underfed and well underprepared for what is ahead of them. However, as Rue was the oldest of 5 children, she is used to going without much food for long periods of time which is beneficial in the Games. She can also recognise edible plants and berries due to the fact she has worked outside for most of her life. 

Food plays such an important role in many Young Adult fiction books, but it is the lack of food which makes it important in The Hunger Games. By withholding something so important, something so vital from the people in these outer districts, the Capitol is ensuring they remember their place in the hierarchy of the nation; which is of course, the very bottom. 

It is a simple concept, and one that hits close to home in reality and modern society. Those with all the wealth and power have all the food and those with nothing are left to starve. Food is a large indicator of class in these novels, and because 11 are of the lower class they are left to starve by the Capitol. Despite the importance of food production and the fact that 11 provides all fruit and crops to the nation, they are not treated with any importance by the government. And so it can be argued that in this text, the function of food is to highlight the differences in social class. Food serves as a reminder to those in poorer districts as to where they stand in the social hierarchy of the nation.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

District Twelve.

District Twelve is one of the most important districts in The Hunger Games. It's where our protagonists Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark live. It is also the poorest district in the nation of Panem, with a population of around 8000 people. 

Katniss lives in the poorest part of the district; the Seem. It's were all the coal miners live and it is incredibly hard to find food here. It's the most impoverished area, where there is much death as a result of starvation.
Children from 12 are also more likely to sign up for tessera. After you sign up, you receive tokens for a years supply of oil and grain, and you can sign for every member of your family. However, every time you sign up for tesserae, your name is added additional times to the reaping; and its cumulative. Katniss has taken out tesserae for every member of her family since she was 12, which means that by the 74th Games, there are 20 slips of paper with her name on them. This happens a lot with kids from the seem, for every 1 person that takes out terresa from District 1, there are 800 kids from 12.
Katniss's father taught her how to hunt before he died and she is incredibly skilled with a bow and arrow, she is able to catch squirrels, pheasants, and sometimes even larger game that she is able to bring home for her family, or to sell in 12's black market - The Hob. Katniss's father was the breadwinner in the family, and after he died in a coal mining accident when she was just 11 years old, Katniss had to step into the role of sole provider for her family. 
Knowing the dangers of his job and the fact that many children in the Seem die of starvation, Mr Everdeen tries to equip Katniss with the knowledge she would need in order to survive. Both Katniss and her sister Primrose were given their names for a specific reason. Both are edible plants, that are easily recognised and enough to sustain them.
I knelt down in the water, my fingers digging into the roots. Small, bluish tubers that don’t look like much but boiled or baked are as good as any potato. “Katniss,” I said aloud. It’s the plant I was named for. And I heard my father’s voice joking, “As long as you can find yourself, you’ll never starve.” (4.22)

 Peeta is from the Merchant Village, his family own a bakery and so he has never had to struggle for food the way other people in this district have. He and Katniss are in completely different classes in society; while the Mellarks are far from wealthy they have never been on the brink of starvation the way Katniss and her family have been. 
Katniss’ ability to hunt is essential to her survival. If she did not have these skills, there is a high probability that she may have starved to death, like many other children do in 12.  Hunting is forbidden, and is an offence that Katniss could be shot for. However, it is also her only chance of survival due to the lack of food and complete poverty in 12.

Works Cited:
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010. Print.