Thursday, November 5, 2015

Juxtapositions: The Hunger Games and Banksy

Juxtaposition:  The fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.

Throughout The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins has juxtaposed the life of the Capitol with that of Katniss and District 12.  We see it in the clothes, the food, the dress, the customs, the arts; every aspect or ingredient of their culture seems to be placed side-by-side for our comparison.

It should be obvious to readers that she is doing it intentionally.  And, she does it whether Katniss is living at home in District 12, or not.

Here is a paragraph from the chapter we just read today: chapter 26.

     "I slump down on the floor, my face against the door, staring uncomprehendingly at the crystal glass in my hand.  Icy cold, filled with orange juice, a straw with a frilly white collar.  How wrong it looks in my bloody, filthy hand with its dirt-caked nails and scars.  My mouth waters at the smell, but I place it carefully on the floor, not trusting anything so clean and pretty." (p. 347)

The difference between these two worlds is intentionally jarring, meant to illustrate the "let them eat cake" attitude of the Capitol.  (For the record, Marie Antoinette is supposed to have said this, but there's little evidence to support that.)

Of course, after having read the article, "The Real Cost of Clothes" or watching "The Deadly Cost of Fashion" or reading the article "21st Century Slaves" this juxtaposition hits a little harder.  It is impossible to read The Hunger Games after that and not put our own culture into it.

I'm here in my fancy classroom, with clothes, and shoes, and posters on the wall.  Coffee I can have at essentially the push of a button.  A computer in front of me that connects to a SMARTboard on the wall.  Both of which are connected to the internet that connects to computers all over the world.  I don't have to worry about the electricity going out, or not having clean water.

Juxtapose that against the life of a 7 year old child working 17 hour shifts 7 days a week.  (As mentioned in the Junior Scholastic Article on slavery.)

It's evident that The Hunger Games is a warning for all of us.

Art (an ingredient of culture) reflects the culture.   The message we find here in this book, we find in other pieces of art as well.  Banksy is one of the kings of unexpected contrast, and he (or she... or they) is giving the same message:

Collins also does this to show us the horrors of the Capitol, and perhaps what we could become if we're not careful.

     "When I manage to pull my eyes away from the flickering fabric, I'm in for something of a shock.  My hair's loose, held back by a simple hairband.  The makeup rounds and fills out the sharp angles of my face.  A clear polish coats my nails.  The sleeveless dress is gathered at my ribs, not my waist, largely eliminating any help the padding would have given my figure.  The hem falls just to my knees.  Without heels, you can see my true stature.  I look, very simply, like a girl.  A young one.  Fourteen at the most.  Innocent.  Harmless.  Yes, it is shocking that Cinna has pulled this off when you remember I've just won the games."  (p. 355)

In case you didn't catch it, Cinna is using a juxtaposition here as well.  He is showing the Capitol what Katniss really is: a young girl.  The Capitol, for entertainment, sees her as a Tribute; a killer.  Cinna, by dressing her this way shows that she's no monster, or rather it draws attention to the fact that now she is - because the Capitol made her so.  That being the case, those living in the Capitol must ask themselves who the true monsters are.

And as a reader of the book, and viewer of the arts, we must ask ourselves, who do we represent, and what should our reaction be?

If you're a student and you read and discussed this with an adult, write a couple sentences in response to the post.  What did you think?  Did you agree with it or not?  What did the adult think?  What parts did you agree with?  What parts didn't you agree with? 

Have the adult sign the paper when you're done.

Turn it in tomorrow.  (Make sure your name, date, and hour are on the paper.  For real... double check this.)

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