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Many writers base their stories on a myth or event from the past. As we are currently studying western civilization, it comes natural for me to select a film based in part on a myth from ancient Greece and entertainment in Rome. I say in part as there were also more modern inspirations which also contributed to the film. I chose to write a paper on the film The Hunger Games. My intention is to point out the similarities between the Greek myth Theseus and the Minotaur, the predominantly Roman gladiator games and some Roman similarities. I say predominantly Roman as gladiators were also present in other societies. I will also discuss whether or not the cultural references were obvious or not. It is important because it shows how myths, stories and history inspire modern writers and movie producers.
The film is based on a book written by Suzanne Collins. The movie was directed by Gary Ross and produced by Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik. The screen play was written by Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray. Its main actors are Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), and Donald Sutherland (President Coriolanus Snow).
The movie takes place in a post-apocalyptic society where thirteen districts rebelled against its capital Panem. At the end of the nuclear war the capital had won with district 13 being
totally wiped out. Twelve districts remained. As retribution for the districts' defiance against Panem a contest was to be held once a year in which a male and a female age 12-18 must be selected from each of the 12 poorer districts. They must fight each other to the death until there is one survivor. That survivor and their district gain fame and wealth usually in the form of food. These games are broadcasted over television and the population is either forced to watch in the case of the districts or voluntary as in the case of the capitals population.
All of the districts are not equally poor. Neither are they equally poor within a district. This creates an inequality as names are entered in a lottery (called a reaping the day of the drawing) The rules are starting at age twelve your name is entered once the first year, twice the second, and a year is added for each year up to 18. Another rule is you may trade for what is called a "tessra". This "tessra" is a years supply of grain and oil for a single person. Each person in the family can trade for this. Each entry is added to the total. This obviously puts the odds in the favor of those families that are richer to start with.
Characters: Katniss is the narrator and heroin of the movie, Peeta a boy whose family were bakers intentionally burnt a loaf of bread and threw it outside one day when he knew Katniss was outside and starving. He was also the other tribute to the hunger games.
A few ideas led to the development of the story. One was the Greek myth Theseus and the Minotaur. The story goes, Androgeus, who was the son of king Minos of Crete was killed by the
Athenians at the Pan-Athenian games in Athens. As a result King Minos sailed to Athens and demanded his son's assassins from King Aegeus. King Aegeus did not know who killed Androgeus so he sacrificed the whole town. The agreement was to send seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls as tribute to Crete to be eaten by the Minotaur living in a Labyrinth. The
time frame every year, seven years or nine years is not clear. Theseus volunteers to go in place of one of the boy tributes to slay the minotaur. The comparison to The Hunger Games is the districts are forced to send two tributes to the games as punishment for rebellion against the capital. Another comparison is when Katliss volunteers to go in place of her sister when she is selected at the reaping.
The Romans formed conquered areas into provinces which were controlled by governors and had troops to maintain control over the enslaved population. This compares with the conquered districts in The Hunger Games which were policed by "peacekeepers". Another reference to Roman times is in relation to the Roman phrase panem et circenses (bread and circuses) coined by a roman satirist named Juvenal. It related to how the Roman rulers used grain and the colosium (gladiators) mass events to draw crowds to appease the conquered people's subserviency. This compares with the capital city in The Hunger Games being named Panem and the circuses relating to the games held in an outdoor arena. Also large crowds of people watched and were captived by the killing and blood in both the roman colleseum and The Hunger Games.
Both the hunger games and Roman gladiator games show the inurement that can result from the broadcasting or viewing of this gore over and over. A feeling of separation from reality may overcome those viewers not involved in the games. I would postulate that within the districts feelings were not mutual.
Many of the characters names have also come from Roman times.
Katniss Everdeen: The heroine of the trilogy has what seems, at first, like a not-so-heroic moniker. (Her best friend, Gale, calls her Catnip.) But her name is one of the few that gets an explanation: In a flashback, her father-who is already dead when the book begins-tells her that "as long as you can find yourself, you'll never starve." The katniss plant has nourishing roots, and is also known as "arrowhead." It belongs to the genus Sagittaria, and the constellation of the same name, Sagittarius, is also known as the archer-a fitting ode to her impressive bow-and-arrow skills.
Gale Hawthorne: Katniss' best friend's shares his name with a strong wind-but some fansites suggest that it's actually derived from the Old English word gaile, meaning jovial. This seems unlikely; Gale isn't really the jovial type. Like a strong wind, however, the mostly absent, brooding Gale is barely visible, though his presence can have dramatic effects.
Peeta Mellark: I haven't seen any convincing interpretations for Katniss' fellow District tribute. Given that he comes from a family of bread bakers, however, Peeta may simply be an
alternate-dystopic, if you will-spelling of pita. (The humble Peeta also stands in contrast to the grandiose Panem, which, as noted above, is Latin for bread.)
Haymitch Abernathy: Ralph Abernathy was a leader in the Civil Rights movement, and is a fitting namesake for the revolutionary Haymitch. But what about that crazy first name? I have no idea.
Effie Trinket: The escort for the District 12 tributes has one of the few names currently circulating (if minimally) in the baby-name pool. Effie is short for the Greek name Euphemia, meaning well-spoken, which fits well enough-though the Greek for well-dressed might suit her better. Her last name does nod to her attire: It describes a small/cheap ornament, something Elizabeth Banks' costume designer has down to a T.
Rue: The most beloved of the non-District 12 tributes also has a plant-based name: The rue is known as the herb-of-grace and is often used for its medicinal properties. But you probably know it better as meaning pity or regret (as in "you will rue the day"), something the people who kill her will surely feel, once Katniss is done with them.
Seneca Crane: In addition to possessing the world's best facial hair, Seneca Crane has the distinguished title of Head Game Master. While he shares his name with a Native American tribe now living in New York and Ontario, Collins was likely referring to the Roman philosopher, who was forced to commit suicide when accused of conspiracy. The philosopher's fate hints at Crane's own.
Cinna: Katniss's stylist doesn't have a last name, but he shares his first name with a fellow artist: the poet in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar-who was mistaken for another Cinna, a
politician who helped kill Caesar. The poet Cinna was subsequently killed by a mob, which foreshadows what happens to Katniss's stylist. Sorry, Lenny Kravitz fans.
Claudius Templesmith: The games announcer shares his name with the Roman emperor Claudius, whose own name comes from the Latin claudus, meaning lame. In the Roman's case,
it's a reference to his physical deformity, but the modern, colloquial meaning of "lame" seems more fitting for Mr. Templesmith.
Coriolanus Snow: The evil president is named for another Roman, one who was immortalized in the Shakespeare play with the same name. Shakespeare's Coriolanus supported the power of aristocrats over the common people. Sounds familiar.
In conclusion I would state The Hunger Games is only one example of ancient Greek and/or Roman myths or truths that have inspired writers to come up with a modern version in their own interpretation. I would also state as with any form of art many different interpretations may arise after the fact. Only the writer really knows what inspired them. It is strange however that many different ideas can seem to fit or can logically explain a decision whether or not it was originally conceived.