Picture of students using computers in the library

Catching a Sand Shark at "Hunger Games: Catching Fire"

November 30, 2013

I cannot say being a USCB Sand Shark has made me privy to all that is to be understood about the habitat of our mascot creature. Yet being a USCB Sand Shark has helped to make me privy to my habits of “humanness”. It has strapped me into reflection, watching, waking, and freed me into inquiring, pursuing, and growing. It is in the perhaps “most ordinary” traditions and habits and pastimes we must look at (like for example--going to the movies) and ask “Why? Why do I do this? What is the purpose?” and in this we find things, living things, like knowledge, and faith, and hope.

Friday night I was invited by a friend to attend Beaufort’s local movie theater “The Plaza” to see "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire". I accepted the invitation, hoping that seeing the first of the series was not a necessary prerequisite.

In talking to my mother about my plans for the evening she inquired if I had read or seen the first story, I discovered whereas I had not --she had done both, and was more than delighted to give me a synopsis of the first "Hunger Games".

I believe this is a good place to introduce my mother: my Mom loves to read! If you are looking for my mother I will tell you where you can find her: she is entranced into a faraway place behind the pages of a good story. If she is not there she may be comparing a movie’s loyalty to a good story or she may be telling you about a good story she has read, such as in this moment--

As I listened to my Mom unravel Katniss Everdeen's and the Districts of Panem’s story, my face lit up with recognition, “Oh! This is like Shirley Jackson’s, 'The Lottery'!” I had read Shirley Jackson's short story in a previous English class and I had even recently discussed its curiosity with a friend and former classmate on none other than Thanksgiving Day. Although my mother had only told me one concept of the "Hunger Games" story so far, that of “a law enforced drawing” which resulted in certain unhopeful ends, I leaped to this connection. My Mom tilted her head to the side and said “well, kind of”.

And “well, kind of” was right. Although both tales carried elements of corruption, learned helplessness, irrational and questionable (yet unquestioned) societal behaviors, and the consequential and lengthened fistfuls of ethical dilemmas plaguing both worlds, Suzanne Collins (author of the novel series "Hunger Games") took her story in another direction if not steps further. This is not to say Jackson’s story did not serve well, in fact from the response it received in the time period it was written in (and beyond), I believe it was found to be, or had most certainly become--revolutionary-ground breaking-eye opening-and purposeful:

“…the torrent of letters that arrived at The New Yorker in the wake of ‘The Lottery’—(was) the most mail the magazine had ever received in response to a work of fiction. Jackson’s story, in which the residents of an unidentified American village participate in an annual rite of stoning to death a person chosen among them by drawing lots, would quickly become one of the best known and most frequently anthologized short stories in English. ‘The Lottery’ has been adapted for stage, television, opera, and ballet; it was even featured in an episode of ‘The Simpsons.’ By now it is so familiar that it is hard to remember how shocking it originally seemed: ‘outrageous,’ ‘gruesome,’ or just ‘utterly pointless,’ in the words of some of the readers who were moved to write.

In a lecture Jackson often gave about the story’s creation and its aftermath, which was published posthumously under the title ‘Biography of a Story,’ she said that of all the letters that came in that summer—they eventually numbered more than three hundred, by her count—only thirteen were kind, ‘and they were mostly from friends.’ The rest, she wrote with mordant humor, were dominated by three main themes: ‘bewilderment, speculation, and plain old-fashioned abuse.’ Readers wanted to know where such lotteries were held, and whether they could go and watch; they threatened to cancel their New Yorker subscriptions; they declared the story a piece of trash. …

There were some outlandish theories. Marion Trout, of Lakewood, Ohio, suspected that the editorial staff had become ‘tools of Stalin.’ Another reader wondered if it was a publicity stunt, while several more speculated that a concluding paragraph must have been accidentally cut by the printer. Others complained that the story had traumatized them so much that they had been unable to open any issues of the magazine since.

For the rest of her life, Jackson would receive letters demanding an explanation for ‘The Lottery.’

‘I suppose I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village, (it would evoke or work) to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.’

In 1948, with the fresh horrors of the Second World War barely receding into memory and the Red Scare just beginning, it is no wonder that the story’s first readers reacted so vehemently to this ugly glimpse of their own faces in the mirror, even if they did not realize exactly what they were looking at." - Ruth Franklin

 Collins inspiration similar to Jackson’s came from worlds outside her own (studies of other villages / other “worlds” throughout life and history). However Collins was also inspired by her own presence in her own world-- to not only hold up a mirror, or give a dream or nightmare (depending on your stance), but to abruptly awaken audiences into action: into faith and hope with works. Collins, in a sense, indirectly took to the task of unfolding Shirley Jackson’s concept, out of its reflections and painted pictures of unspoken realities, and mastered it (with perhaps hope) into, not only extremely recognizable realities of past, present, and future, but realities that evoke readers and audiences into deep inquiry and sought understanding. Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” has laid it on the table and now "Hunger Games" seems to be reminding and refreshing us to the humanities; perhaps making us hungry to understand our  own game.

“‘A significant influence would have to be the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur,’ said Collins of her inspiration for the story, reports News Times. ‘The myth tells how in punishment for past deeds, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete, where they were thrown in the Labyrinth and devoured by the monstrous Minotaur…(later) I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss' story came to me,’ Collins said. ‘On one channel there's a group of young people competing [in reality programming] ... and on the next, there's a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story.’" -Interview News

As I watched Collin’s "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" portrayed on the screen, I recognized characters plagued and freed with the psychology I study in my Learning and Memory class. I recognized the qualities of leadership (discussed in great lengths in my University Leadership class) enlightened by the heroism in many of the contenders and district citizens. I saw plausible repercussions to the human body by the dangers in the arena, and plausible revitalizations-- made comprehensible through my Human Biology studies.

Yet what fascinated my mind most was the intrigue that roots this story, and the powerful role hope plays throughout the districts of the "Hunger Games" world. I wonder if audiences and readers admire this story’s hope because they find it today to be unattainable, or admire it because they desire or even intend to live it, or admire it because they are simply lost in the place of the story as an escape from the entrapments of their own place-- perhaps not realizing or knowing how hope may live in the real places of their life…

It is the perhaps “ordinary” traditions and habits and pastimes we must look at (like going to the movies) and ask “Why? Why do I do this? What is the purpose?” and in this we find things like knowledge, and faith, and hope: as I have, as Shirley Jackson and Suzanne Collins have—morphing their inquiries into more than a stagnate perception but evoking works...yet only one more of the many gifts of seeking, of living; of education.

 Yours Truly: Sand Shark Caught in Inquiry,

                                                                   Erin Dailey