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The Hungry Accusative

I finished the Hunger Games trilogy a couple of days ago, as recommended to me by tammabanana. For those of you unfamiliar with them, it's a young adult series by Suzanne Collins which begins when the teenage main character becomes one of her district's two yearly tributes to be a part of the Hunger Games, "circuses" to the death to remind the districts that they should not rebel.

I spent the entire trilogy mildly distracted by the country's name, Panem, being in the accusative case. I realize there's logic to it. It's heavy-handed symbolism straight out of Juvenal, and a change of case might have distracted ((faintly) from that point. By the time it has become a country's name, it's just a word, and it's not as if the country spoke Latin, so much as it was symbolically modeled on the Roman Empire. There's ready symbolism to tie into the case however, as the country is the object of the capitol's manipulations.

So often one of my angles of literary analysis these days is food: but in this case, the food is done so consciously, so blatantly, in general (with the exception of the canned food), that it hardly seems worth writing about the obvious. The country is named after bread, bread is used throughout, stew has a recurring role, and meals are regularly used to typify the districts. (Or is this one of those examples of what is so clearly obvious to me was more subtle to others who don't read most books with food on their minds? Perhaps there is an article in this after all.)

On the whole, I enjoyed these books; the first one especially was compelling, rather-not-put-down reading. But it's always challenging to effectively mix the "real" with the purely symbolic in any kind of subtle way, and these were chockful of symbolism, the food, the names, and the human relationships included.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 16th, 2011 03:26 pm (UTC)
I've come across one Roman town name in the accusative, "Ad Turrem", but it had to have the preposition. There are some town names that are sometimes taken as being nominative plural but on closer examination seem to be ablative (which mopped up the locative). But I agree, country, province, continent names are normally found in the nominative. Partly for the very good reason that they can then take the appropriate case when needed. It would irritate me just as much as it did you to find the accusative used like this; the symbolism just wouldn't work for me as grammatically the direct object is just as likely to be the recipient of obedience as manipulation.
Feb. 16th, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC)
Juvenal is the only explanation given in the book (although by quote, not name). The rest was me trying to make any other sense of it over the course of reading them.
Feb. 16th, 2011 03:32 pm (UTC)
On a somewhat related note - do you subscribe to The Medieval Review's email list? A review of a book on ideas about food just came through: Massimo Montanari, Cheese, Pears, and History in a Proverb. If you don't subscribe (and if you haven't already read the book in question) would you like me to forward the review?
Feb. 16th, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC)
I subscribe, but only occasionally look in the folder into which I auto-sort them. Thanks for the note - I'll go have a read!
Feb. 16th, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love that series (although I cried too much at the end to read the last book ever again). I thought the feast/famine motif all the way through was the best thing about the books and what uplifted them from an average futuristic teenage series into something clever and special. I probably missed half the symbolism so if you wrote an article about it, I'd love to read it!
Feb. 17th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
I totally missed the name as part of the hunger theme - I thought it was perhaps short for Pan-America. (I never learned Latin.)

I noticed the feast/famine theme, but didn't pay as much attention to it. I was more caught up in the various ways characters dealt with trauma: who broke under pressure and how much it took to break them, who rolled with the punches, who could function when they had to but drank themselves into a stupor as often as possible, etc. Katniss's mother's clinical depression - and by implication, Katniss's too - resonated with me.
Feb. 20th, 2011 10:35 am (UTC)
While I got the reference to the name of the county, I've never studied Latin, so thank you for the added observations.

I enjoyed the trilogy overall and while I think the ending left something to be desired, I think it would have been extremely difficult to find one that satisfied all readers (apparently many self-selected into 'Team Gale' and 'Team Peeta' camps a la Twilight).
Jul. 19th, 2011 01:03 am (UTC)
abercrombie fitch size chart
It agree, a useful

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )