The Larger Ring of The Hunger Games Trilogy: The Meadow

March is officially Hunger Games month here at HogwartsProfessor in celebration of the stories themselves and the movie release on the 23rd! In addition to Prof. Elizabeth’s review of HogPro’s Greatest Hits on the Panem Saga, I’ll be giving three lectures, one on each of the three novels, at Full Circle bookstore in Oklahoma City. They’ll be recorded and, God allowing, will be available before the movie release at iTunes for you to enjoy. I’ll make an announcement here, of course, when that happens.

The three talks will be a taste of my new book in the works, this one tentatively titled For the Serious Reader of The Hunger Games: Seven Keys that Open Up the Artistry, Meaning, and Magic of Suzanne Collins’ Panem Trilogy. As you’d expect, if you’ve been reading the Mockingjay post on this subject or my comments in Christianity Today on the relationship of Hunger Games and Harry Potter, one of the chapters is on Ring Composition.

I have to get back to my talk preps but I thought I’d share with you today these two quick notes on the structure of Ms. Collin’s story.

First, what Ms. Collins has spoken about in her interviews is her preference for the the Three Act Story model for writing, something she learned on the job as a television writer. I will be covering this in some detail in my talk because, as you’d expect, the three parts of nine-chapters-each, 27 chapter novel formula she uses conforms to the “put the character in a tree, set the tree on fire, get the character out of the tree’ three-step plotting dance. Albeit she does set ‘The Girl on Fire’ rather than the tree (in case you wondered why the Career tributes didn’t do just that when Katniss was treed at the dead center of Hunger Games).

Next, the series as a whole satisfies three of the four requirements of a ring structure as described in Mary Douglas’ Thinking In Circles. And the fourth is satisfied by the individual books. Let’s review our ring checklist!

(1) The Beginning and End have to hook up as echoes or mirror inverse reflections.

The first part of Hunger Games and the last part of Mockingjay are the story of Katniss and Peeta and their recovery from/preparation for a nightmare in the Capitol’s arena.

(2) The Story Center must reflect the question or central issue asked and answered in the story Beginning and End. This Center is the Turning Point, as well, of the Story’s Narrative Line.

The dead center of the series’ 81 chapters is chapter 14 of Catching Fire. I’ll let you go back and read that chapter so you can ask yourself if and how this choice was a deliberate one for the Story Origin and Pivot. I think it is, and, in one word, I think the link is “meadow.” See this post for more on the District 12 Meadow as the ‘story origin’ and this one for Katniss’ ‘Meadow Song.’ I don’t think it is an accident that the central image of the series’ pivot chapter is of a Meadow of Death and a character who chooses to defeat the Gamesmakers by attacking the parameters of their story telling.

(3) The Chapters or Story Parts on Opposite Sides of the Story Pivots are ‘Parallel Analogies’ that echo or reflect their Going Out and Coming Back Counterparts.

Here the PowerPoint slide I’ll be showing tomorrow is of some help. If you line up the nine parts of the trilogy as a circle, you can see the reflection and how the parts are ‘parallel analogies,’ as Mary Douglas describes it, to their ring opposites. The relationship of 1, 5, and 9 we touched on above, 2 and 8 are Katniss at war in an Arena with Peeta misunderstood and neglected, 3 and 7 are opposite ends of the Katniss-Peeta relationship spectrum — forced together into public love at their first Games and separated into 13 and the Capitol’s antagonistic propos post Quell, and 4 and 6 are Catching Fire’s two trips to the Capitol, the first the circular Victor’s Tour and the Second the Victor’s Quell in the circular arena.

(4) The Larger Ring is made up of Smaller Rings Within It.

Each of the three books and their respective 27 chapters and three parts is a ring as well. For that discussion, I hope you’ll tune into the talks as soon as I get them up on iTunes or buy the book I’m writing that will lay it out in great detail.

Until then, of course, I hope you’ll share your comments and corrections in the space provided below. Happy HogPro Hunger Games Month!

Comments

  1. Very excited, John! I’m looking forward to the lectures and the book! Slightly off-topic: Can we look forward to Harry Potter Unlocked any time soon?

  2. How many times have I promised that update?

    I hope to have it done this summer by the time we go to the various fan conferences. It will be worth the wait; thank you for asking!

  3. Mary Ellen says:

    Wonderful post, fascinating diagram. I’m just re-reading Chapter 14 and it really is a pivotal moment for the series — one where the evil of the gamemakers comes through so clearly, but also the one where Haymitch steps out of the shadows. It also has a revelatory moment when Peeta says, “Why don’t you get some sleep?” And Katness thinks, “Because I can’t handle the nightmares. Not without you.”

  4. I am very excited about this. I met you at the JMU Quills Symposium this year and was interested to hear some of your thoughts on Ring Composition (btw–your letter, the one between C.S. Lewis and Dumbledore still warms my heart. Is it out anywhere?). My dissertation is is going to be on the intersection of “theological and ethical anxiety” and young adult dystopian literature and the the potential in your work is just fantastic (I say that knowing you were the cornerstone of my work in my HP M.A. thesis). Keep up the good work John!!!

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