Totalitarianism in “Catching Fire”

This book is a very fast read. It was so engaging that it was difficult to put it down. I found myself crawling out of bed at 4:00 am to get some reading in before the day started and work began dominating my mental energy.

In case you don’t know already, Catching Fire is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. Personally, I enjoyed this book better that the first one. Maybe it was because I was already invested in the characters and the story, but I think it was also the way that the book examines totalitarian government and how a totalitarian regime controls the masses.

While I was in college, I took an interdisciplinary honors seminar that had an emphasis on totalitarian government, and one of the books that made a lasting impression on me was Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt. The book goes into detail on the social climate that gives rise to totalitarian regimes, how they gain power, and the methods they use to spread misinformation and control the masses. It’s a fascinating book and I have never looked at government and media the same since.

The Capitol in Chasing Fire is the classic totalitarian government. It uses fear and extreme forms of public punishment to control the masses. Control of resources keeps individuals weak and focused on basic survival. Finally, and most important, is media control. The government controls what images and what information is presented to the people. Never underestimate the power of the media when it comes to manipulating people.

I love that this book introduces the younger generation of readers to the threat of totalitarianism. Let’s face it, totalitarian governments still exist today, and in many countries, the sociopolitical climate is ripe for the rise of a tyrannical regime. Large groups of people are embracing the fear that is spread via media and seem willing to accept the oppression of those they fear in order to gain a sense of security. Thankfully, there are still people out there who recognize the threat and can express the dangers in a way that motivates people to stand up and face these issues. I see these brave individuals embodied in the character of Peeta:

He can use words. He obliterated the rest of the field in both interviews. And maybe it’s because of that underlying goodness that he can move a crowd–no, a country–to his side with the turn of a simple sentence. (p. 235)

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