Social Criticism in the Hunger Games and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Topics: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice in Wonderland, Queen of Hearts Pages: 6 (2173 words) Published: September 16, 2013
Social Criticism In The Hunger Games And Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland “Off with their heads!“ (Carroll 122) could be the motto of Suzanne Collins’ bestseller The Hunger Games. Published in 2008, the novel tells the dystopian story of Katniss, a young girl who has to participate in a fight-to-death-tournament with 23 other teenagers. Connoisseurs might have recognized the quotation of the classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, first published in 1865. Mostly known as a children’s book, the novel depicts the story of Alice a girl that finds herself in a wonderland, where she meets many curious people and gets confronted with arbitrary brutality. Although they don’t seem to have much in common at first glance and have a totally different date of origin, both novels provide room for comparison in terms of their claim to criticize society. The protagonists constantly find themselves confronted with the theme of government oppression whether it is Katniss, having to accept the arbitrary rules set by the Capitol, or rather the Gamemakers or Alice, who has to cope with the tyrannical queen. This confrontation leads to a reflection about the self, which both girls experience. Another theme worth comparing is therefore the depiction of identity formation and the chaos that comes with growing up. As a last issue I will concentrate on the way Collins and Carroll contrast artificial and natural elements in their fantasy worlds. Government oppression is a topic unfortunately still current in our world and as well relevant to Katniss and Alice. Katniss, who after sacrificing herself for her sister Prim has to participate in the Hunger Games, experiences the Capitol’s control on her own body. It is already in the beginning of the novel, where the reader gets to know that “Starvation is not an uncommon fate in District 12” (Collins 33). The Capitol doesn’t provide enough food for the residents in the poorer Districts and that is why Katniss knows the feeling of being “desperate enough to eat [rotted vegetables at the grocer’s]” (Collins 35). The governmental control is present in all parts of Panem but especially shown in the set up of the Hunger Games designed by the Gamemakers. They are free to change the rules and manipulate the games whenever they feel that these are getting less entertaining for the audience. This includes, for instance, setting up a fire wall to drive together the Tributes. Katniss states that “everyone knows they could destroy [them] all within seconds” (Collins 214) but that they “don’t want [her] dead” (Collins 214) because the audience is attracted by her. This is why she “only” gets hurt badly but doesn’t get killed during the Gamemaker’s intervention. As they announce the rule change, which declares both Tributes from one District as winners if they are the last ones to survive, their whole power becomes obvious. This shows not only their capability to arbitrarily manipulate the Tributes physically, but also on an emotional level because Katniss now sees the chance to return home with Peeta. Just as Katniss, Alice experiences government oppression, carried out by the Queen of Hearts. Already at their first meeting, Alice gets to know her oppressive nature when all of her followers anxiously “[throw] themselves flat upon their faces” (Carroll 118) as the Queen arrives. The extent of her horrific character is underlined as one gets to know that the Queen punished three of her gardeners to be beheaded for no apparent reason. “Off with their heads!” (Carroll 122) seems to be her favorite phrase, since “The Queen had only [this] one way of settling all difficulties, great or small” (Carroll 128). The Queen’s Croquet Game can be compared to the Hunger Games in terms of setting arbitrary rules which please the oppressor: If someone doesn’t follow the Queen’s unfathomable rules, he is declared to be beheaded. The use of these arbitrary death sentences is similar to the manipulation the...
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