Thanks to reader V.’s recommendation, I have spent another sleepless night reading the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire. I found it to be a lot better than the first. The model of “one hero and a bunch of pathetic people and nasty evildoers” does nothing for me. In Catching Fire, though, that model is abandoned for the sake of a much more interesting model where people resist, cooperate, and there is no single hero who is a lot better at everything than everybody else. I have always been bothered by the “Superman plot” which revolves around the idea that we all need a hero with superhuman powers to save us all from our pathetic weaknesses.
What I find disconcerting in the novel, however, is how the male protagonist, Peeta, is presented as a person whose only goal and overpowering interest is to serve the needs of the “fair lady.” How would we feel about a 16-year-old female protagonist who tells a boy that her entire life is about him and that life has no meaning if he isn’t there? A female protagonist who shows no interest in her parents, siblings, or even pets, who has no friends of her own, who disappears when the boy she likes dismisses her and reappears as soon as he shows some interest or has need of her services? A female protagonist who tells the boy she wants to die so that he can go ahead and marry some other girl?
I think we would all passionately condemn the novel as extremely patriarchal and promoting the image of women as subservient to men and as having no value of their own apart from male needs. Doesn’t it make sense for us, then, to feel equally bothered by a book that denies a male character any other role as being an uncomplaining and unquestioning servant of a girl?
The inhabitants of Panem at least manage to rebel against the authorities that enslave them. I hope Peeta does the same by the end of the 3rd novel in the trilogy.