Narration in The Hunger Games

First person narration is a style that has its pluses and minuses. While restricting the reader’s perspective to one person lets us get to know that one individual better, it usually limits our view of the wider world and leaves other characters flat and uninteresting. When comparing the book and movie version of The Hunger Games, the central theme is how each media uses Katniss as the narrator.

A quick confession, I saw the movie before I read the book. I know, I know, a shame onto my family. While the book confines itself to Katniss’ point of view the entire time, one of the advantages of the movie is the ability to follow other characters around. The time spent in The Capital is particularly enhanced by not being stuck in Katniss’ head. The behind-the-scenes look at The Hunger Games give us a different look at what the Games really are about. While reading it’s easy to become focused on surviving, because that is what Katniss is focused on. The movie never lets the viewer forget that it is just a game to most the people.

The character Haymitch, played in the movie by Woody Harrelson, benefits from this change in perspective the most. In the novel, Haymitch and his eventual attempts at redemption are conveyed only through Katniss. We are left to infer what he is doing because all we see are the results, the capsules being delivered to her by sponsors. The movie gives us the viewpoint of following Haymitch as he wines and dines the sponsors and The Gamemaker, trying to score an advantage for Katniss. As such, we get to watch the results of his story of the uncaring trainer who grows to care for his tributes.

Other characters benefit, such as The Gamemaker, and the Games themselves, but one area the movie falls short in exploring the benefits of third person is in the arena. We stick with Katniss the entire time when she is in the arena and never get any sense of the other tributes. In the book, this isn’t a problem because we learn Katniss’ thoughts and opinions about each tribute, but in the movie they are just flashes in the pan, momentary setbacks for our hero. Even the ones that are supposed to be important, like Cato or Thresh, are given no time to develop or in most cases, even be named.

The first person perspective does have some advantages when dealing with Katniss specifically. The story’s love triangle is underdeveloped in the movie because we do not get the same sense of her feelings for Peeta and Gale that we do in the book. When we are inside Katniss’ head, her feelings, or lack thereof, for each of the boys in her life take a major role. When only viewing the results, Katniss comes off as more of a cold-hearted bitch then when we get her thought process behind her decisions. In the book we see her feelings and confusion about what to do, and this makes her more relatable.

All in all, both forms of the story are enjoyable The book does a better job of showcasing the main character and explaining why she does the things she does, while the movie does a better job at exploring the background settings and character. Catching Fire is coming to theaters soon; for consistency’s sake, I will watch the movie before reading the book and see if this is a trend for the series.

In his pretend life, August Baker is a retail monkey who channels anger and loathing into something vaguely resembling literature. In his real life, he is a Space Pirate.

 

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