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The Importance of Knowing the Story

Don’t read this post if you haven’t finished the Hunger Games series or if you plan on ever reading it.  Spoilers abound…

So I finished Mockingjay.  It didn’t pick up for me until Boggs. (I’m trying to be discreet in case people haven’t clicked away yet and are reading this first line.  I really don’t want to spoil the books for anyone.)  The first 3/4ths of the book were a little dreary; too dreary.  And while some of the twists were good, they didn’t lasso my attention.  I devoured Catching Fire, but I meandered slowly through Mockingjay.

Until that end.

I thought there were bits of sloppy storytelling up until that point; places where I wanted Collins to — apologies for using this cliche — show instead of tell.  Especially when Katniss literally was the girl on fire; I thought it was a cheap exit out of the problem of confronting Snow.  But that lack of confrontation led to the greater moment with Coin.  And I LOVED that.  I loved that she shot Coin.  That she had one arrow and she took out the greater evil.  Because while Snow was evil, he at least was upfront in his evilness.  Coin was evil disguised as good, and that, to me, is a worse kind of evil.  I have a special dislike for people like that.

But what I loved at the end, and what was really a running theme through all three books, is this idea of other people holding the truth.  That there are facts that you want, but other people have them, and sometimes they will give it to you and sometimes they won’t.  And sometimes they can and sometimes they can’t.  Snow manipulates and inverts Peeta’s thoughts. Whole districts are wiped out and with them, the collective memories.  And in the very end, it comes down to Katniss not knowing who killed Prim.  And Gale — unable or unwilling — to tell her whether or not he was involved.

But I mostly connected to this idea of the memory book that Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch create at the very end; to remember all the people they knew on this earth.  To collect those stories and put them down on paper so others could have them in the future.  They are consistently the only three characters who willingly give others the truth, so it’s fitting that in the end, they are the three who will keep providing that for generations in the future.

I’ve been a little manic working on my family tree.  There are these names out there, and they’re unreachable.  And on one hand, what does it matter?  How will my world change if I know the name of a great-aunt who was killed in Auschwitz?  But I have this handwritten note from an aunt who died years ago, telling me that this couple had a little girl who was lost in the camps.  And how can I not be consumed trying to count her so she isn’t forgotten years from now?  It feels like every few generations, tides of people slip off the earth, out of records and out of memories.  And while that may be fine for other families, I don’t want that to happen in mine.  So I’ve been a little consumed.  A lot consumed.  I think about these missing names from the family tree when I’m supposed to be sleeping.

So it was fitting to read that end of Mockingjay when I’m in my own space of trying to ferret out the facts.  Sometimes, they’re not knowable, as is perhaps the case of Prim’s end.  But many times they are, such as the case of remembering those that existed.


1 Rachel { 02.12.14 at 8:21 am }

Omg, it’s been so long since I read them I had forgotten the ending until this post. I agree, it gets VERY dreary. Depressing, almost. And if you don’t stick out (which I can totally see some people not sticking it out) you miss out the mind blowingness of it.

I think I have to go read them again.

2 andy { 02.12.14 at 8:52 am }

Liam asked about researching our family tree last night, getting an account on Ancestry. ca but my struggle all my life has been who’s family tree do I research? My birth family? My adopted family? For Liam – his birth family? My adopted family? Hilary’s family? Hilary’s step father’s family or her father’s family? it’s way too confusing now….. I think I might need to blog about this, so thanks for the prompt!

3 Shelby { 02.12.14 at 6:27 pm }

I am also consumed by genealogy for the same reasons. How can someone live an entire life leading to countless other lives and simply be forgotten? For instance, I have a great grandmother who came from Scotland and, after having four children in her new country, died at the age of 27. My grandmother was only seven when he mom died. And yet no one, even two generations later, seems to know the circumstances of her death or what she was like. I feel like I have this obligation to unearth her story because ultimately, she is a part of me and my story. And I feel like so little pride has been present in my family, which reflects in our failure to preserve our roots. In reclaiming where my people come from, I am taking back that pride. (Hence why I am a 23andme and ancestry.com junkie!)

4 Mali { 02.12.14 at 11:38 pm }

I understand the desire to want to know everything. I know I could become a genealogy junkie if I let myself (I have too many other things to do now – but will get into it before we ever visit the ancestral homes). I love love love the “who do you think you are” TV series (both the British and US versions) – especially as they pick interesting people on any related branch, not just the direct ancestors. I like the idea of a great-niece or nephew or a great-great-niece or nephew, seeing my name on a family tree and wondering what I did in life.

But you know, as you said “… every few generations, tides of people slip off the earth, out of records and out of memories.” Yes. (That was beautifully expressed, by the way.) Because that’s what happens. It’s inevitable. And so I have to rationalise it all. We will ALL be forgotten at some stage. Maybe I’ll be forgotten sooner, because I won’t have any great-grandchildren researching me. But you know, I’ll be dead. I won’t care. And actually, I am at peace with that.

5 A. { 02.13.14 at 5:56 am }

I teach Animal Farm and 1984–in the middle of 1984 right now, actually–so Hunger Games and the rest of the hot new dystopia series usually summon shadows of these great grandfathers of the genre. In the cases of Coin, Napolean, and Big Brother we get rebel leaders who bill themselves as heroes, but underneath the promises and rhetoric, are burgeoning tyrants in savior’s clothing. And it often works that way in human history too, hence Orwell’s vast sea of inspirations for his dark fantasy worlds, so I’m glad Collins invokes a bit of realism there.

But I still thought the f’irst book was the strongest.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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