Warning: This discusses The Hunger Games trilogy. If you haven't read the entire trilogy yet, wait to read this.
I just finished Mockingjay this past weekend. I keep waiting to fully recover, but keep having dreams of naked, helpless little beings who are my friends or family in critter disguise and need protection.
At some point, maybe when Peeta attacked Katniss after being rescued, I started hoping it would not have too happy of an ending. Not because I don't like happy endings - they're my favorite! But because I just couldn't see how the Panem universe could be so hideous, ramping up to what you knew had to be even worse hideousness, then resolve itself into people living in peace with the love of their lives. Thankfully, thanks to Suzanne Collins and her conscience as a writer, the story stayed true to itself. It ended about as happily as it could, I guess, with people pursuing peaceful and free lives, but not necessarily permanently so.
This ending of charred hope was extremely unsettling to me. And that feels a bit shameful, because there are probably many people on this planet who have read THG and, unlike me, have survived war, or live in a constant state of political instability. Do they look for blissful endings, or realistic ones? I didn't grow up in a war zone. I like pretending there is this happy-ending bubble, but only if the universe of the story being told is in that bubble all along. So I loved the ending of Mockingjay. There was no bringing some people back. Others knew they had to move to a new area, hopefully to make fewer hate-filled decisions in their lives. Katniss made the choice to keep living, because that impetus that makes us risk our lives for other people is some kind of instinct that says life is meant to be lived. She wanted to live for the ones who died for her. And our favorite pair finally had the peace to be together, and to take the ultimate action of optimism for their future: to bring new children into the world. I keep reminding myself that there was that very clear hope for life, in the end.
The thing that bothers me the most, though, that keeps nagging at me and will after the post-Mockingjay nightmares stop, is the culture of District 13. People were raised from birth to be soldiers. Their lives were completely regimented, even "Reflection" time, which was only 30 minutes. Everything - the clothes, walls, food, and especially Coin, were gray. The only real color was in the red doors of the torture rooms.
You know poets were born there - people who see color everywhere, are distressed when it is purposefully left out of a space, ones who hear music in their minds and share it with others, and fit the lives they know into fantastical stories - what place did they have in District 13? You know they couldn't have all adapted. You can't take a poetic soul, and force that soul into a gray uniform, even in a relatively non-violent place like the kitchen, and expect a sane individual to result. Did they have some kind of asylum for the sensitive people?
If you are reading this, you probably have felt at some point that it's hard to live in cultures based on money, and not simply immersed in art, music, stories. We've had to learn to navigate it. And yet, our various cultures are filled with beauty and chances to compose music, tell stories, push color around. And there are beautiful souls who aren't artists themselves, but are simply happy and loving, like Peeta's friend, Delly, expecting the best from life. It distresses me very deeply to think of people like us being born into District 13 and realizing one day that there was no place for them. Just slopping gray turnip allotments onto someone's breakfast plate.
One happy thought that comes to me, though, is that Delly must have left District 13 after the war. That was not a place for her. She was sunshine, and needed sunshine back in some way from her culture and neighbors - even at least the chance to live above ground. I'm hoping she moved away from District 13 and into more vibrancy. I hope this, because even though Peeta and Katniss were healing, and choosing a hopeful future, they were very damaged people. I've seen friends of mine whose parents were Holocaust survivors. These friends had an emotional struggle approaching life that I just don't see in all the rest of us lucky to have been raised by parents who weren't threatened with extinction as children. I want Peeta and Katniss' children to have someone that understands grief, but grabs the sunshine. I hope Delly moved back to District 12.
Picture "Alone Lonely Drawing Sad Picture" from Layoutsparks.com