Death Mocks Her

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 1:25 PM By crosswaysnet , In

"Doom am I, full-ripe, dealing death to the worlds, engaged in devouring mankind." Lord Krishna

For two cycles now, Katniss Everdeen has stared straight into the maw of death… and let it consume her. There's only a shell left, yet this irrepressible teen has become immortal by becoming the dealer of death. "I’m running on hate. When the energy for that ebbs, I’ll be worthless," she groans. At first she had to kill to survive. Now she must hate and kill to survive. What kind of survival is this? It's not. And to think, all she ever wanted was to settle down and spend her years angst-ing over which high school crush to marry. Well, dear soul-weary reader, if you've persevered with her this far (and millions have) there's no choice but to see her through until she flames out and rises from the ashes.

Katniss is alternately oblivious to and obsessed with her powers. She seems to instinctively know that she will inevitably fall into the pit and take everyone else with her. Still, she refuses to accept the reality of death in any concrete way. "To believe them dead is to accept I killed them." And she's killed plenty, by commission and omission. Her kin from District 12 are the first to succumb in the new global war, adding to her critical mass. The Panem apocalypse draws the opposite poles of the Capitol and the rebel District 13 into a death spiral. And die they will continue to do.

Some deaths are simply plot dominoes, some poetic, others terribly ironic. Watch the downfalls of one tyrant at the very moment of exultation and another in defiant lunacy.  They're the two faces of tragedy acting out their final scene simultaneously, following the direction of Lord Katniss, Destroyer.

By now, if death is not your opiate, you have a stronger constitution than most. Yet even when the stage is collapsing around us, some passings still have the literary power to prick the heart. What makes these particular deaths more poignant than others? They connect us to the innocence or beauty that we still know in this world, but which is so conspicuously absent in Panem. For almost three books, Suzanne Collins has allowed us a little vain hope, but hope is not intended to survive this house of horrors. The little hothouse flower, the last little splash of real color in a world of scorched neon is ultimately extinguished. As the flames lick her own body, Katniss finally confesses "the ones I hated are winning, and if she clings to me, she’ll be lost as well. “Prim, let go!” And finally she does."  We know that the hated ones had won long ago. Perhaps it is proper of Prim to fly away from this Land of Neverhope. But where's there to go? Perhaps annihilation will be more merciful than Miss Collins.

How do you know when you're really dead? In Panem, you never will. This has always been a land of living execution.  Fairytales - especially the dark ones - have always possessed the shadowlands. They're supposed to scare us back to the light. Katniss has a strange gravity, however, and keeps drawing us back into her orbit; her universe; her singular doom. The universe is flying apart and collapsing at the same time with Miss Everdeen as the seed of demise at its core.

Without a spiritual dimension, and wholly lacking a redemptive subtext, The Hunger Games trilogy is firmly rooted in a naturalistic worldview. The only seemingly transcendent elements are visceral. " can feel the rejuvenating effect that a good meal can bring on. The way it can make people kinder, funnier, more optimistic, and remind them it’s not a mistake to go on living. It’s better than any medicine." Dickens saw beyond the meal to the "Milk of Human Kindness." Not the inhabitants of Panem. For Katniss her most 'spiritual' moments are brought on by designer drugs. As moving as Katniss's hallucinations are, visions of eternity are nothing more than the cruel hoax of a distorted 'reality' distorted even further by hyper-heroine. 

In  the end, there's nothing more than an end. And don't be fooled by the innocence of the children. There's no utopia ahead for them, and there's no shepherd to lead them. The only phoenix here is the song itself - taking flight and trilling its melody down on the scarred earth. It's a mocking song.


Cher said...

Too bad the book was not as good as your review!!

August 24, 2011 at 2:16 PM

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