November 5, 2012
Life or Death
In our present day society, violence and crime fill the news, magazines, and the web. With all of this going on around us, what current author wouldn’t write about rebellion and conflict? Suzanne Collins tackles this current issue in her book The Hunger Games by talking about teenagers being forced into a fight to the death battle. There are many other examples in literature that portray violence in a similar way: Battle Royal, The Lottery, and The Lord of the Flies. One book that The Hunger Games has been compared to numerous times since its release is Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale. Both of these books take a very serious look at a hard to swallow subject: children and teenagers forced to fight each other to the death by a totalitarian republic. These two books have some huge similarities such as themes and storyline; they have big differences as well like the style of writing and the way the themes are approached. In this paper I will look at and discuss these two similarities as well as the two differences.
One of the many themes surrounding The Hunger Games is violence and rebellion. However, Suzanne Collins deals with these harsh subjects in a slightly mild way. In fact, a key to the book’s success with all kinds of audiences is that it only plays with real violence, pain, and outrage, truly making it a story about the viciousness that is adolescence. Of course there is a quite violent story going on through this book yet when some authors would dig in to the gore making the story almost unbearable, Collins sidesteps the bloody violence with some less visual wording. “The cold would be torture enough, but the real nightmare is listening to Cato, moaning, begging, and finally just whimpering as the mutts work away at him” (339). And as far as rebellion goes, there is only one true defiant act mentioned: Katniss and Peeta trying to trick the capitol so they can both live and win the games. “If Peeta and I were both to die, or they thought we were…” (345). Overall, The Hunger Games deals with its themes in a teenager appropriate way because of Suzanne Collin’s juvenile way of writing.
Battle Royale shares this theme of violence and rebellion in Koushun Takami’s portrayal of a fight to the death battle between young, middle school age children. In Japan, where this book was first written, it was almost banned for being so controversial and disturbing. This controversy is what brought the book as much fame as it received; people enjoyed the brutal war in the failed economic system that rings similar to that of present day. “At the dawn of the millennium, the nation collapsed. At 15% unemployment, 10 million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted the schools” (10). Violence in the book included rape, torture, and of course murder. When a boy threatens to rape one of the girls she wrestles him to the ground and stabs him in the genitals; and before the games even begin Teacher Kitano throws a knife at one student for talking while he is talking. The rebellion is also much more evident than that of The Hunger Games. One student says, “Even if you think something’s wrong, your life is too precious to risk by protesting, right?” while talking about overthrowing the government (507). One boy rebels and his necklace, that every student is made to wear, explodes after a torturous amount of beeps from the necklace and the boy screaming for somebody to help him. In another chapter, two girls announce for everyone to stop fighting and are subsequently gunned down by a fellow student. This book deals with its themes in a gory and terrifyingly realistic way because of Takami’s very vivid almost poetic writing style.
There is one huge similarity between these two books: storyline. While one takes place in America and the other in Japan, they are both a dystopian