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Are you a teacher upset by your school's resistance to allowing the original version of Huck Finn?  I may have the solution--The Hunger Games.

I admit, I read the first page and thought I would hate it.  The book is written in first-person present tense, has simplistic prose and starts with a huge load of back story. After the first chapter, though, I was hooked.  The novel is bullet paced and winds through twists and turns that, for once, I did not anticipate.

So what does that have to do with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?  Well, Mark Twain's 127 year old classic has racism as its theme: A young white runaway realizes he has more in common with a runaway black slave, than with affluent whites.  The problem is that Twain was a product of his time and uses the "N-word" liberally throughout the text.  Although class struggle and racism don't bother school boards at all, the N-word apparently does, and the book is frequently banned from school libraries, English classes and social studies.

Enter the Hunger Games--a modern book with the theme of class warfare and imperialism that has an almost spooky resemblance to the Jasmine Revolution. (No small feat given the book's copyright in 2008.)  Because it is a futuristic novel, the N-word is no where to be found.  In fact, there are no black people at all. That takes care of that.  Instead, the former US is split into 12 Districts that are pitted against each other in a reality show that is must see TV.  I mean the government makes you watch. Two children ages 12-18 are chosen by lottery from each district and forced to compete in a kill or be killed game for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Capitol district.  Throw in media control, massive government spying, police state, and the exploitation of the periphery districts by the Capitol district and the themes of this modern novel should provide more than enough material for a discussion of the problems of modern society and how they are portrayed in literature.

And if you still miss the racism aspect of Mark Twain, well how about talking about the foundation of racism--artificial adversarial relationships that keep those without power from forming solidarity for the benefit of the powerful.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    De air is de air. What can be done?

    by TPau on Sun Jul 10, 2011 at 03:44:02 PM PDT

  •  Interestingly, someone mentioned this book to me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a few months ago but I forgot to order it.  Me and my Kindle thank you :)

    If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much stupid costs

    by Sychotic1 on Sun Jul 10, 2011 at 03:47:49 PM PDT

  •  My daughters have all three books in the series (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sychotic1, RunawayRose, TPau

    and on whim I picked The Hunger Games up off of the coffee table and I was hooked.  Read all three in a couple of days, they far exceeded my expectations.

    Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day. Harry Truman

    by temptxan on Sun Jul 10, 2011 at 03:51:44 PM PDT

  •  I liked the Hunger Games - all 3 books. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, TPau, libnewsie

    I was never much a fan of Huck Finn but think it should appear in schools in the original form and find it quite interesting that anyone would think otherwise.

    What I think is really interesting is that I read it in Jr. High School the first year the school was integrated.

    We spent the first day in class with the book having the teacher explain about the way the world was in Huck's day.

    Now, 42 years later the world hasn't changed enough so here we go still having the same argument.

    I had hoped that  by now people would have found the use of the "n" word as odd as the way Hamlet talked. Nothing that they would ever have heard in real life, at home or on the street.

    Very sad that we haven't moved on.

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

    by ZenTrainer on Sun Jul 10, 2011 at 05:21:52 PM PDT

  •  I hated the second book to the Hunger Games (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WI Deadhead, RunawayRose

    series. I felt like it was pointless and just a repeat of the first. The first was great and the third one was better than the second.

    •  Good to hear because I just started... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Luthien Tinuviel

      the third and I was a little disappointed in the second.  The second does get the characters and Panem where it needs to go to have a final show down between the government and the districts though.

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Sun Jul 10, 2011 at 08:52:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i don't want to spoil the third book for you, (0+ / 0-)

        but there were some things I liked about it and other things that I had problems with.

        i feel like the second book could had been meshed into the third and the series would have been just two volumes. And it would have been better.

  •  Uh... (0+ / 0-)

    ...what's wrong with first-person present tense? Just curious—I've never heard this POV before.

    •  First person present tense (FPPT)... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      keirdubois, libnewsie

      has a few things going against it:
      1.) There are a fair number of people who naturally dislike FP.  I happen to be one of them.  This seems to be a taste thing but I am sensitive to it.  There will always be a small group who finds FP disorienting and dislike it for that reason.  I find it disingenuous and a ploy to make me identify with the protagonist without giving me ample real reasons to do so.

      2.) It is limiting for the writer.  You must constantly keep the same POV and voice as the protagonist.  This limits what the reader can see and also limits your prose.  If the protagonist is a 15 yo with limited education, don't expect a beautifully composed descriptive sentence to emerge. Some writers use this as a crutch, so they don't have to develop their prose.

      3.) With PT it is easy to get tangled in the verb tensing and the action and slip back into past tense, making the narrative confusing for the reader.

      4.) Lately, FP has become the property of poorly written vampire books and YA fiction.  That alone would kill it for me.

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Sun Jul 10, 2011 at 09:04:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I see. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I've always enjoyed it, in the context of unreliable narrators—or rather exploiting the reader's natural inclination to side with the narrator. Bret Easton Ellis really had fun with that. And you don't have to keep the same POV if you have multiple narrators.

        On tense, well...if you know what you're doing, tense won't be a problem. Multiple drafts and proofreading skills should take care of any tense problems. That's just basic competence.

        I got 2 drafts into a multiple-POV FP narrative where half the characters were present tense, and half were past tense. It was really fun to write.

        I agree with the vampire books-and-YA-fiction comment. That leads me to this:

        If the protagonist is a 15 yo with limited education, don't expect a beautifully composed descriptive sentence to emerge why I didn't get into the Hunger Games books very much. The narration is a bit lifeless and clinical for me—though that could have been the point. Was it supposed to be Katniss looking back on her life as an old woman? Cause it works that way. If not, 16-year old has that voice.

        However, when I was 16 I was reading Hunter Thompson like a fiend, so WTF do I know?

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