Who is ready for another formal essay? I had the idea while reading Gone With The Wind again. I rushed to mom, beged her to let me write it, and this is the finished result. Yes, I am going off again on the Hunger Games. But it really works well with the essay, so bear with me. 🙂 Tell me what you think!
“A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us.” (W.H Auden) Curling up with a good book is the epitome of relaxation. And what constitutes as a good book save one that teaches one something about himself or his world? A great myriad of authors have tried, through the centuries, to write books that illuminate the darkest corners in the minds of man. One of the more famous books of the last century is Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind,” the story of selfish Scarlett O’ Hara and how she finds redemption during the time of the American Civil War. In contrast, a famous book of the past decade is “The Hunger Games,” where young Katniss must use her ingenuity and skill to kill other youths in order to win food for her starving nation. The books are similar, both having a strong, willful, wary protagonist, but Gone With The Wind is a far more complex and satisfying story, better written, with more believable characters and a redemptive end. As good books go, it is one of the best, whereas The Hunger Games is a book that is easily read and even more easily forgotten.
The protagonists in each book share a great many qualities. Both use the threat of starvation to make themselves do things that they would have otherwise considered improper. Both fake love in order to gain gifts. Both have a deep love for their families, but for no-one else outside of their family unit. Scarlett O’Hara begins her story as a vapid flirt, who thinks she is in love with the handsome Ashley Wilkes. When Ashley marries sweet Melanie, Scarlett is heartbroken, though she cares for Melanie like a sister for Ashley’s sake. Scarlett is truly loved by the rich scoundrel Rhett Butler, yet she scorns him to pine after Ashley. But after starvation, war, heartbreak, and death, she realizes too late that she loved Rhett all along. But a disgusted Rhett has left her. She ends her story with hope, though, having learned the bitter lessons that follow the selfish and cruel of humankind, and says “Tomorrow is another day,” meaning that she will begin her life again and become a better person. Scarlett has been redeemed. On the other hand, Katniss offers herself up to go to the gladiator-like Hunger Games in place of her little sister. This shows her willingness to die for another, her only real redeeming quality. However, by the end of the book, she is no better off than before: she has gained the enmity of her government, the boy who loved her is now embittered towards her, and she is still the same proud and cynical child she was at the beginning of the book. She is famous, but is she a better person for her ordeal?
The stories are written in distinctly different styles. The Hunger Games are written for an age where the average High-Schooler (the target demographic for the book) reads at about a fourth grade level! The book is written accordingly. There is very little complexity. The story explores only one character, telling only one story. Simplistic, short, removing any of the complexity that the exploration of virtue adds to a story, The Hunger Games is dull in it’s very excitement. All it has is adventure after adventure, no time for the reader or protagonist to devote to introspection. And as for a moral, it seems as though they are almost afraid to add one, for fear of offense to a conscience-guiled reader. Gone With The Wind is written with the assumption that the reader can understand the complexities and twists of the plot. Scarlett and the other characters all mesh together beautifully, and the book explores every single person. The plot also gives a moral: Scarlett did wrong, and therefore suffers the consequences. The reader cannot help but identify with one of the characters, be it sweetly naive Melanie or impetuous Rhett. And each character is flawed, deeply, and these flaws allow the reader to see the same flaws in himself, and strive to make himself better before the fate of the character becomes his own.
For the characters of Gone With The Wind are remarkably human, with fears and passions and angers and doubts. You explore the story through a great many eyes, often hearing of a turn of events from a gossiping biddy or proud Union general. You can sympathize with Rhett when Scarlett turns him out in favor of Ashley, or with Frank when his wife forces him to collect debts from his friends. Every person feels real, feels concrete, from scornful India to kind prostitute Belle. You can lose yourself in the well-written world and come out again a wiser person than when you went in. In the Hunger Games, no such luck for the reader. The story is entirely told by Katniss, and characters are remarkably one-dimensional. Either a person is evil, in the story, or they are good. Take Peeta, the boy who is in love with Katniss. His only job in the story is loving Katniss. He does nothing else. Compare him to Rhett Butler, and they are similar on the surface: both love someone pretends to love them to further her purposes, both are comparatively wealthy to those someones. Yet Rhett is fleshed out, his jealousy, his anger, his courage, his debonair attitude. His role changes as many times as any human’s here would. Peeta has a role and he sticks with it: the star-crossed lover, wallpaper for Katniss’s heroism. The other characters are the same: drunk and vulgar Haymitch, perfectly gentle Prim. If “Nothing is worth reading that does not require an alert mind,” (Charles Dudley Warner) than this book is not much worth reading at all.
In conclusion, Gone With The Wind is a book that is more healthy for the soul than The Hunger Games. For Gone With The Wind exists solely to make a person think and act and be a better person for the reading of it, whereas the Hunger Games is a book made for an ignorant, self-righteous generation to waste time with. This book was made to spend time with and then leave, much the same attitude as people treat their lovers today. For, it seems as though man treats his books as he treat his loved ones: once they were cherished and protected with stone walls and steel gates. Now, they are pastime for a while before one moves on to more entertaining amusements. In losing respect for the people around him, he has lost respect for the people who came before and the books they wrote to instruct and to guide him. Maybe if men could regain the respect for men, then they would regain the respect for books, and no longer waste time on useless twaddle, but reach up for morality and redemption.