Earlier this year, I was talking to someone about The Hunger Games books. Okay, mostly about the end of Mockingjay.
(By the way, this post has spoilers, if you couldn’t tell by the title
of it.) This person remarked how awful it was that Suzanne Collins
killed off Prim.
She then went on to say, “The author just did it for shock value!”
“No, she didn’t,” I said. (I mean, yeah, it was shocking, but she didn’t do it just for shock value.)
“As a writer, you must know what she did was just for shock value!”
This person was pretty adamant. So I just said, “As a writer, I know
what she did wasn’t just for shock value. We’ll have to agree to
I would have liked to explain why I thought that, but I could tell this
person actually didn’t want to hear my reasoning. They just wanted to
hear their own opinion.
She’s not the first person who has told me that Prim’s death was only
there for shock. But today I’m going to say what I’ve been wanted to say
every time I hear that. Primrose Everdeen needed to die.
One is “Absolute Truth”–eternal, transcendental truths that uplift and
encourages others, such as “never give up,” “love conquers all,” and
“be true to yourself.” The other kind is what I call “wordly truths.”
Not because they’re wicked, but because they’re “of the world.” Wordly
truths illuminate one’s understanding of the world. They leave the audience sadder but wiser and more aware of serious issues. Absolute Truths are about how the world should be and worldly truths are about how the world is.
Feed and entertain people so they lose political power, human beings are
entertained by violence and bloodshed, sometimes the oppressed grow
more ruthless than the oppressors–these are all worldly truths.
The Hunger Games has never been a story about Absolute Truths. There isn’t even an Absolute Truth I learned from the series that jumps to mind.The Hunger Games is about our world, and not just our world today; it’s our past, present, and future. The Hunger Games is about worldly truths. It’s supposed to be hard to swallow. It’s supposed to make us feel uncomfortable.
What I see from a lot of people who didn’t like Mockingjay (a lot, not all) is that they were looking for on Absolute ending, not a worldly one, which is weird because the entire series was
Absolute-scarce. All I can think of is that it’s usually the Absolute
stories that are loved widely and the worldly stories that are respected
and praised by the educated and high brow people.
The Hunger Games was so widely loved, that likely the average reader was used to, and expected, Absolute endings.
And that would have not included Prim dying. But here’s why, when you
understand the worldly truths of series, it makes perfect sense that she
needed to die.
Why She Needed to Die
All the way from book one in the series, it’s clear that Panem is
a world where the wicked, ruthless, or at the very least, tough,
survive, while the people who are kind and gentle and everything good
don’t. Katniss says this herself about Peeta. It’s not the goodhearted
people like Peeta who win The Hunger Games. In fact, it’s usually the
Careers–those most trained to be heartless and unfeeling. The
goodhearted, gentle, and kind people, the best humankind has to offer–are the ones who get killed.
Like Katniss says, “No one decent ever wins the Games.”
And that’s exactly why she volunteered to take Prim’s place. Prim is
softhearted and kind. It’s noted in the very starting of the series that
if Prim sees Katniss upset, she cries before she even knows what’s
wrong. Prim’s THAT empathetic. In a world that is so cold toward other
human beings that they watch them kill each other in a reality t.v.
show, Prim is a rarity.
Think about it. In Mockingjay Prim risks her own life to save a
cat. When Katniss questions her about it, Prim says SHE COULDN’T LIVE
WITH HERSELF if anything happened to Buttercup.