One of the essay topics for my English class was 'a secular book that has meant the most to your faith.' After pondering on that for quite awhile, I finally settled on The Hunger Games for its themes of sacrifice, nonconformity, and courage. I thought I'd share with you guys my essay. Let me know your own thoughts on the matter!
The Hunger Games and its Impact on my Faith
“I volunteer as tribute!” (Collins 22). These are the four words that plunge Katniss Everdeen into a deadly game of survival and wits in the novel The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. “Kill or be killed” becomes the rule she and 23 other kids must live by in the Games. Death is everywhere, deceit is the norm, and compassion is rare—yet, despite the prevailing darkness in this fictional world, this book has had a significant influence on my Christian faith.
From the moment she volunteers for the Games, sacrificing her own safety for her beloved sister Prim, Katniss is constantly being made into something she is not. First it is the Capitol's stylists that want to make her into something beautiful (by their standards) despite the discomfort it causes her. Still others want to put words into her mouth for her own good—but all Katniss wants and needs is to look and feel like herself. This struck me as a poignant illustration of the world and its assertive influence on me. Like Katniss, I feel myself being molded into the person I “should” be, by the world's definition, and not the person I really am.
In order to survive, it seems Katniss must stoop to doing things that are against her nature. Even before she steps foot inside the arena, a battle between good and evil is waged within her. Will she kill others to save herself? Her instinctive answer is yes. She is immediately distrustful of those who surround her, even those who show her kindness, such as Peeta, a competitor in the Games. The conflict within Katniss is palpable. She doesn't want to grow to like or trust Peeta because she knows he must die. She even contemplates the fact that she may be the one to kill him. But Peeta says something that makes an impression on her. He said that he wanted to prove that the Capitol did not own him, and show that he was more than just a piece in their games (Collins 142). Although she initially brushes them off, the effect these words have on Katniss is profound. The Capitol will never have her completely. Nevertheless, Katniss does kill others—young people like her—in the games. In one of those instances there is no conflict within her, no warring between what is right and wrong. She takes a life out of anger and revenge, and in that moment the darkness wins out.
I can relate to Katniss.
The world is constantly whispering “conform” to me, just as the Capitol shouts “KILL” at Katniss. Sometimes I wonder if my walk as a Christian is really worth it. Katniss gave in to the darkness. As have I, in the past. But in Katniss' story there is an underlying hope that there is more to life. There is always a choice. And there is always a way to beat the forces of darkness and for good to prevail.
The Hunger Games does not end wrapped up neatly and tied in a little bow. It couldn't. It does, however, present us with hope, because in the end Katniss is not a pawn in the Capitol's games. She doesn't remain untouched by the horrors of the games, but in some ways she is better for them. She is not just a tribute. She is the girl on fire, a symbol to the rest of Panem which meant that they could defy the Capitol and win.
Just as Katniss did, I will have to make sacrifices as a Christian. There will be times when I will be surrounded by evil and tempted to give up. I will have to confront the evil inside of me [“For out of the heart come evil thoughts. . .” (New International Version, Matt. 15:19)]. and I will struggle to stay true to myself. I will have to learn to trust the people I need to trust, to lean on others when I can't do everything by myself, and to help others even when it may not benefit me. It will be difficult, but I have been given more than just a “may the odds be ever in your favor” (Collins 19). God is on my side—and at the end of all the darkness, the pain, and the suffering of this world, I hope will come out changed for the better. Like the girl on fire, I want to defy the world and win.
That was my essay, but there were a few things I wish I had expanded on. I'm not saying that the parallels I've found to a Christian's walk are clear or intentional. A lot of things were different for Katniss. The lines between good and evil were a lot more blurred. Was it wrong to kill in that arena? It haunted Katniss, yes, but then it was a game of survival.
Still, I did describe Katniss's committing that murder as giving in to the darkness. But aren't we faced with difficult choices in the world as well? Even though it's hard to say what was the right or wrong thing to do, when Katniss performed that act she was doing exactly what the Capitol wished her to do. I think a lot of us can relate to being faced with difficult choices. We've all failed at some points, but the best thing we can do is to seek forgiveness, seek strength, and just keep going.
I wish I could expand even further, but I have so many thoughts on this topic! I'd love to hear yours. Is there a secular book that has meant a lot to your faith?