22 Comments

  1. Great analysis, not only of ‘the Hunger Games”‘ but of literature. I once asked a friend who taught Literature in college what was the difference between writing and literature, and the said without hesitation “The reader!”

    March 23, 2012
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  2. Great post & love grandfathersky’s comment. I’d add that for me that sometimes literature like other art forms painting, sculpture, music,etc is in the eye and/or ear of the beholder. And in this day and age anything that gets young people reading has some inherent good.

    March 23, 2012
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  3. leander42 said:

    Good post, intelligently written.

    March 23, 2012
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  4. In a children’s (more like YA) lit class in grad school the professor, a former Random House (?) editor, said that The Hunger Games is what Harry Potter wishes it could have been. Just. Saying.

    March 23, 2012
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  5. said:

    I love this question, and I love dissecting it when it comes up (disclaimer: I have not read The Hunger Games). The post and comments are very true. It seems that, as in many areas of life, certain consideration should be given to the maturity of a person’s reading life. Someone who is not often a fan of reading might be drawn to a more popular work (meeting all the aforementioned criteria) and that may propel him or her to further growth in their analysis and preferences (not something to scorn – always good to get other reading). Another reader may be well established in the literary classics and perhaps refer to more popular works with an air of disdain or “guilty pleasure”, not because the work is inherently bad but because the reader is looking at it through a more broadly-informed lens. Doesn’t make either one wrong, it just means they found the book at different stages in their “reading life.” All that to say, ditto grandfathersky and musingsfrommelody.

    March 23, 2012
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    • Thx for reblogging and for joining the dialogue! Your comments are so true. The reader builds up their muscles slowly but surely, and it’s completely fair to argue that “popular” books should aid the young reader’s development and growing interest in the medium. Too many high school reading lists are fully of incomprehensible texts fulfilling someone else’s political agenda rather than instilling a love of literature or desire to understand the world through words. Why make a sixteen year old read Ulysses? Why not save it? A professor of mine at Vanderbilt wisely told me not to read Proust until after I was 30. I haven’t, but now I’m 30 and am tempted to dive in.

      All in all, time is the only critic that matters. Literature is what’s left when the rest is out of print.

      March 23, 2012
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  6. said:

    Reblogged this on Reading Today and commented:
    If you aren’t following The Literary Man, you should be. Here’s another great post on an age-old question. While he here refers it specifically to “The Hunger Games,” it can easily be applied elsewhere and more broadly. “What is literature?”
    Full disclosure: I’ve not read The Hunger Games yet…I’m debating whether to add it to the TBR pile or just watch the movie and be done with it. I posted a comment which basically reiterated what others had commented on this post. For Reading Today readers, here are some of my questions/theories/views to throw into the discussion, in a very haphazard, undefined sort of way.
    * Just because something is an “enjoyable” read or “popular” should not immediately disqualify it for literary standing. I confess that in high school I pretty much assumed anything that was considered a classic (save Jane Austen, of course) must be depressing and boring. Perhaps this is more the fault of high school reading lists – could we engage more students in an open dialogue about reading and literature by at least starting with a book that is generally popular in the day. Once you get students to start asking the right questions, much more in the book world becomes interesting!
    *I do believe that someone’s perspective on a particular work will be greatly influenced by their previous reading history. There are books that I read early on that I enjoyed for the story (Les Miserables and War and Peace, for example) but would probably get much more out of if I were to read them now. There were other books that I read or started about the same time that I greatly disliked (Doctor Zhivago and Catch-22) that I wonder if I might not appreciate them more now. The most important piece is that I still love to read. Somewhere along the way, my parents didn’t worry so much about what specifically I was reading, but that I was doing it and enjoying it. They knew if it caught on, I would continue. And the same is true for my other three siblings. We read very different works and prefer different styles and stories, but we keep reading. You appreciate a book based on where you are.
    *But none of those observations really answer the question “What is literature”? This post puts forth some pretty good parameters, but applying them is still subjective. And so the discussion continues as readers continue to read and non-readers are enticed by good stories in popular novels (and there are a lot of them out there). What should be clear is that literary snobbishness does more to discredit than affirm the value and joy of reading.
    ….Which could then lead us down the road of does it matter what someone reads as long as they are reading? Or, in the theme of this post, does it matter if something is “literature” or not?
    That’s enough rambling for tonight. Seriously, check out The Literary Man – good stuff.

    March 23, 2012
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  7. said:

    Love the thoughts you shared here! I tore through The Hunger Games early last year and couldn’t wait to share with the world how much I adored it – and then I went on it’s website. Another young adult series that I’m in love with in my adult life? You’ve got to be kidding me. All of the sudden, embarrassment settled in. Until the world became abuzz, and I felt off the hook. Have you read Ender’s Game yet? Also a delicious read. That and Battle Royale are the two stories that interested me and have been compared to The Hunger Games. I still need to read the latter. I’m excited to read more of your posts!

    March 26, 2012
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  8. said:

    What I love about books like The Hunger Games is that it is getting children to READ – even those who would normally find it difficult to read half a page. The story captivates them and the author is helping teachers and parents in encouraging kids to read.

    March 28, 2012
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  9. said:

    My 12 year old daughter and all her friends, read the books, and had to see the movie. Thought they were great. A grandmother on my bus today told me she took her grand daughter to the movie and was shocked by all the killing. Well, there’s nothing new about killing, I told her. Like Colline above, I’m just glad she’s reading, is off the fach-book, and all the insipid games they waste time on…

    March 31, 2012
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  10. Well said. I would add (though you covered this somewhat under “Does it capture a specific zeitgeist?”) “Does it make us think, wrestle with, bigger ideas?” Again the answer is, yes. It seems to me, as book ends, literature must have a story, but that story must demand something more of us. The older meaning of the word entertainment here helps. To open your mind to something new or hard or bigger. Defined that way entertainment contains a compelling story and a challenge.

    April 6, 2012
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  11. Reblogged this on Beth Christopher and commented:
    Thanks to my friend Eugene, I discovered this fantastic blog today, The Literary Man. Check out their recent post which asks the question, “Is the Hunger Games Literature?”

    And fyi… I’m jumping right on this happy bandwagon, too.

    April 6, 2012
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  12. said:

    Have to agree with the “less so with Books 2 and 3.” I thought they could’ve been combined and made better as one book….Hmmmmmm, “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” (Ah well, a forced trilogy is nice work if you can get it) :P
    I hope she writes again.
    Thanks for jumping on the bandwagon.

    April 18, 2012
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  13. said:

    I’m a parapro in an elementary school, and I love discussing author purpose with the 3rd ,4th and 5th grade students who are reading these books. (For the record, I believe the books are too violent for this age group, but I don’t choose their reading material.) I emphasize with them Peeta’s conviction to hold on to his character and not allow the Hunger Games to turn him into an animal, and we talk about Catniss’ decisions that follow that same philosophy. With this and with other stories (like Star Wars) I am always trying to get them to realize that a person is defined by the decisions he or she makes. Even as young as they are, their decisions now are important for determining the paths they will take in life.

    June 12, 2012
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  14. said:

    Solid analysis. I think it makes the genre accessible- nothing wrong with that

    June 12, 2012
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  15. said:

    Hey. Thanks for stopping by and liking my post! I think the Hunger Games manages to be literature, but I think all written work is literature of some degree. Infected with IB literature analysis, I have managed to pick out a lot of symbolism/motif action, if that counts for anything.

    June 13, 2012
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  16. said:

    Literature, good or otherwise should be at the least a bit challenging. The trilogy not only encompassed but put on in full display the human condition on both stand points. It had depth and was thought provoking and the subject matter leaves a person to question things such as who truly was the needy and wanton? It surely wasn’t lacking in issues concerning morality or entitlement. There are many a lesson to be pulled from the book. Is it literature? Wait a few years and see if it doesn’t become required reading in High School.

    June 26, 2012
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  17. Liana said:

    is HUNGER GAMES literature? Hell to the Yes.

    July 12, 2012
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  18. Thanks for giving official props to the Hunger Games. We read it in my book club and it was one of the best discussions we’ve ever had – we actually stayed on topic for almost the entire 2 hours! The trilogy really is a tremendous piece of writing.

    July 13, 2012
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  19. I really like how you’ve analyzed what makes a novel “literature”. I read once that “art evokes thought, entertainment distracts thought.” This could also be used as a criterion for evaluating if a novel is literature, or if someone is writing literary fiction. Another way to determine the difference is if you’d still continue to read even if it had no compelling plot–just for the language or insight into the human condition. I think Hunger Games evokes thought, and is also greatly entertaining. But if there was no compelling plotline, if I didn’t want to know what happened next, I never would have finished the book. As I was reading it, I kept asking myself, why is this working for me, why do I want to read on, even though the language was not as engaging as I’d wished. Because I cared about the characters and I wanted to know what happened to them, and because the world she had created was intriguing and I wanted to know more about that. And because the the book got me thinking about things long after I’d stopped reading for the night. But I still wouldn’t call it literature, or literary, because the language couldn’t stand on its own, and its insight into the human condition did not rise to the level of Shakespeare or Morrison or Conrad and the like. She brought up important issues about our time and about the human condition, but there wasn’t necessarily any insight into it, no revelations, no epiphanies. It doesn’t not rise to the level of literature–but its a darn good read.

    July 25, 2012
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  20. Mansi Sharma said:

    Great analysis! And thank you for the post! I soo want to throw it on my Literature Prof’s face! She just doesn’t get the fact that popular contemporary novels can very well be critical of the times and of society. (-_-)
    There are these theories that we use to critique a literary text and each one of them can be applied to analyse The Hunger Games. Keeping Katniss as the protagonist and telling the story through her internal monologue gives the book a strong Feminist thumbs up. There’s Marxism oozing out of the book in its description of the Capitol life and how it treates the districts. There’s Existentialism and Absurdism all along the internal monologues of Katniss. The HUnger Games is so much more that just a popular novel.

    May 17, 2013
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