February 16th, 2011

Fishy Circumstances

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.