Another Multi-Question Hunger Games Interview: Join Me!

Raycom Media, part of the Tributes Network of news broadcasters, believe it or not, wrote to me yesterday for my answers to generic questions about teaching The Hunger Games. Several of you enjoyed sharing your answers to the previous questions from a reporter I shared here so I pass on this interrogation with the same pledge I made before, namely, if you send your answers and personal information to john at HogwartsProfessor dot com, I will pass them on to the Raycom reporter (whom I have urged to contact Prof. Joel Hunter at ASU’s Honor College and our own Prof. Baird-Hardy because they actually use the Panem Saga in their classrooms).

Without further ado, then:

Question 1.       What is your personal interest in the Hunger Games series? Have you taught the Hunger Games in the classroom before?

I am a professional writer, speaker, and critic rather than a classroom teacher per se so I have not and will probably never teach a class on these books with daily assignments and the like. My interest is in helping readers that enjoy the series to understand its artistry and meaning better.

2.       How did you decide the Hunger Games was an important piece of literature to delve into and what lessons do you think the book has to offer students?

Readers who enjoyed my books on Harry Potter and on Twilight asked me to read the books because of the several choices Suzanne Collins makes outside of genre that reminded them of the other blockbuster series. I’ve written close to 50,000 words about the value of their “lessons” on my website; please browse through those at your leisure!

3.       There are some that think the book is too violent. Do you think there is an age where the book becomes appropriate? And what do you think of the violence and teaching it in the classroom?

I’m not a classroom teacher so I’ll pass on that last part of your question. I certainly don’t think the book’s finale is appropriate for independent reading for young children, but the first books might be appropriate for even pre-teens if read aloud by an adult willing to answer questions.

4.       Why do you think the books have become so popular as of late? Do you think this novel has more of a chance to teach lessons than say “Twilight” or “Harry Potter?” What’s it’s draw over the other two, or does it have similarities?

I think the books are popular because of their spiritual allegory and the experience readers have alongside Katniss Everdeen of war and love and personal transformation, even apotheosis. The genre is completely different from Harry Potter and Twilight, of course, but the story being told and the experience shared by readers of Harry and Bella’s adventures are remarkable similar. All three writers are adepts with literary alchemy, soul triptychs, and ring composition.

5.       What are the main and most important lessons to draw from the book? Why are these important and do you think people gather these or just like the books for the storyline?

Those four (five?) questions are more the sort of questions a curriculum committee would explore than a reporter or a critic, unless you want only a superficial answer here! Suzanne Collins is writing a work that operates on four levels, so, beneath the narrative line, there are moral, political, and spiritual “lessons,” though the books are anything but didactic. The moral line is that the metanarrative is bad (Boo, Nazis!), the political satire is that teevee is wicked, war is destructive if sometimes necessary, and the capitalists and the government are evil (again, nothing earth shaking there), and the tale of spiritual redemption tells us that love conquers death (the Mocjingjay/Girl on Fire is a Resurrection bird Phoenix and the Boy with the Bread is a story cipher for Christ’s unconditional, sacrificial love). This last is the meat of the story’s power.

6.       How do you feel about the characters? Are they showing younger generations characteristics to emulate? Or are they a little farfetched for being teenagers?

The characters are certainly far-fetched, as you put it, because they are story-ciphers for greater realities, transparencies through which we see and identify with faculties of ourselves, as well as virtues. I’m not sure ‘how I feel’ about these characters means anything, except that, because of Ms. Collins’ skills and choices as a writer, I care about them very much, enough even to identify with the struggles of a teenage girl. Quite the trick for a 50 year old guy!

7.       Is there anything else you’d like to add about teaching the novel? Your own views on how the movie will be maybe?

I suspect that those teaching the novel will neglect the anagogical or sublime layer of meaning in the story as they have in Harry Potter and Twilight in order to focus on the satire and surface morality of the books. That’s a shame. The movie, like al other movies, will be a misrepresentation of the experience to be had in reading the story, but it will invite millions of other readers to have that experience. The film, in other words, is a trailer to the books, which is a wonderful thing.

Now it’s your turn! Go ahead any of the questions you like in the comment boxes below (please give the number of the question you’re answering as preface to your thoughts) and, if inspired, you can answer them all and send them to me for forwarding to Raycom.

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