I got The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on DVD on Friday and watched it this afternoon. If I were to do a review, I’d say it was a very good adaptation of a book I absolutely hated for a number of reasons. However, I’m not writing this post as a review for Catching Fire. I’m writing this post because, after I took the DVD out and went to make my dinner, I thought to myself, “There is such a difference between Katniss Everdeen and Zahara.”

And indeed, there is a great difference between the two characters. And I’m not just talking about upbringing, religious identification, and their experiences. I think the biggest differences between Katniss and Zahara is their access to choices in their lives. (Okay, there’s also major differences in character development, but since all three books of The Hunger Games are out and only one book of the Reborn City series is out, I won’t go into that lest I spoil something).

In THG, Katniss rarely has any sort of choice in what she can or can’t do. Except for certain memorable instances, Katniss follows a script that someone else wrote, whether that be the Capitol or someone associated with the Capitol, or District 13 and someone in the rebellion. Sure, the moments when she gets a chance to make her own choices are pretty momentous. She volunteered for the Hunger Games, she nearly committed suicide using poison berries, and she killed President Coin in an act of revenge. But other than those moments, she’s mostly dancing to the tune of someone else’s fiddle. And she’s either unaware of it or she’s aware of it and so pissed off about it.

Zahara, on the other hand, has a little more leeway. When I wrote Reborn City and started planning its sequels, I obviously wasn’t planning on writing about Zahara’s choices. But after she’s forced to join the Hydras, she does find that she has a bit of choice in the events that occur later on in the story. And those choices do end up affecting the Hydras in several ways, whether  it involve a gang war about to go wrong, or by a simple encouragement that changes the way someone thinks. And as the series goes on, Zahara will get to make more choices, some of which will have greater effects than the previous ones she’s made.

Why the difference? Well, I guess you’d have to ask the authors. In addition to wanting to create a story that was a commentary on both our addictions to violence and reality TV, Suzanne Collins also wanted (I’m assuming) to allow readers to relate to the feeling that our lives are not our own. We’ve all been there, had those moments when we felt our lives weren’t our own, where we felt like our lives are being directed by someone else. Maybe our parents, our employers, our teachers, our government, our spouses, etc. Basically we have to subordinate our lives to the needs or whims of others. This speaks to plenty of people, particularly teenagers and young adults who are constantly pressured to fulfill the wishes and pressures of the adults around them. I can only guess as to why Mrs. Collins wanted to weave that theme into her trilogy, or if she even realized what she was weaving in until it was already there. What is obvious that Katniss exemplifies that theme of lack of control over one’s life, and it’s part of why people identify with her.

With Zahara and RC on the other hand, the intentions were very different. I realized early on in writing a novel about street gangs that people in gangs or in slums or broken families or several other similar situations that they feel like they can’t leave the situations they’re in. This attitude, which seems to perpetuate itself over generations in a terrible self-fulfilling prophecy, horrified me. Imagine people who didn’t try to change their horrible lives because they felt that trying was impossible, that it would only lead to pain and regret. Where they were was where they belonged. Throughout the trilogy I try to fight that belief through the travails of Zahara and the Hydras, making choices and fighting for not only their lives, but also to live their lives as they wish.

So I guess this difference in opportunity and choice for Katniss Everdeen and Zahara Bakur really just boils own to the intentions of the authors when we were writing our stories. I strove to write about teens fighting against a world that oppresses them and tries to control them, while Mrs. Collins seems to have written a story about a world where, among other things, the lives of others are maddeningly not their own.

It’s interesting what the intentions of the autor can do for a single story, isn’t it?

That’s all for now. Tomorrow school starts up again, so I’m heading to bed to get ready for the big day. Goodnight, Followers of Fear, and have a great week.

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