The Odds Aren’t Ever In Their Favor–Children and the Gov’t

“May the odds be ever in your favor.” But what are the odds? Life? Death? Rather, those selected in the draw aren’t your children, letting them live another day. This is the premise of Susanne Collins’ 2008 dystopian novel, and later film adaption, The Hunger Games, a work that follows teenager Katniss Everdeen and her coming-of-age story while fighting for her life in the Capital’s games, which exist only to prove the power of their institution over the rest of Panem after an uprising. Besides having gone through a Hunger Games phase ten years ago (sorry, Twilight), I feel that this series could have an interesting relation to one of the poems we read in class, specifically Caroline Norton’s A Voice from the Factories. Norton’s piece focuses on the pain and terror associated with selecting a child to “labour life away…to the receptable for dreary woe,/The Factory Mill” (l. 343, 346-347). While the children in Collins’ novel aren’t working their lives away in a factory, these two pieces of literature have similar concerns and comments on the role children played in the government and production industries by mere selection and the death of their innocence.

I think it’s important that these two works are in conversation because, although they cover fundamentally different concepts, the role of children and the destruction of their innocence by government policies is shared between the two women. These children in each literary work have little to zero autonomy in their life due to government institutions and cultural ideals. In The Hunger Games, the children are subject to being reaped for the Hunger Games. This government-sanctioned killing spree pools from children to show the Capital’s power over its subjects and safeguard the future from another uprising against the government’s power. All but one child dies, and the lone victor walks away with riches for their home district, however, these victors are then pawns of the Capital. They are servants who maintain the nationally recognized narrative that the Capital is a generous being, not a villain; subsequently, these victors are never free from their past and the violence they committed for the government.

Similarly, the children in A Voice from the Factories detail the lack of control these children have in their selection to work in the factories to benefit the production industry. Having small hands and bodies, these children are commodities in factories; they can fit into crevasses that men cannot, for one, leading them to be more susceptible to injury and death. However, Norton doesn’t take this route immediately, she instead details each child’s personality and appearance to the reader, then asks them to choose which should go, labour, and suffer, which matches Collins’ process in her novel. These children described are like those in the reaping—the decision as to whom will be working in the factory is something the parent has to make, instead of a government agent. But just like those kids that are reaped and are subject to the Capital in The Hunger Games, they exist and serve at the beck and call of the “Taskmaster’s commands” within the factory (l. 414).

In both works of literature, the role of government institutions heavily plays in children’s lives to promote the advancements of the government by virtually taking the innocent lives of children. Collins and Norton prioritize the lives of children by demonstrating the ease at which they can be disposed of within the governmental system chosen, whether in the Victorian era or in Panem in the near future.


4 thoughts on “The Odds Aren’t Ever In Their Favor–Children and the Gov’t”

  1. I find your comparison between The Hunger Games and Norton’s poem to be both fascinating and accurate. Reading your blog post has made me wonder whether Norton is similar to Katniss within the narrative of children being exploited by the government. Like Katniss, Norton directly and publicly opposes the action of sending children off to enrich the government through dangerous labor. Although Norton is not a child trapped within the system like Katniss, I think her attempt to critique the system by writing this poem does make her a hero of sorts as she is moving against the government.

  2. I absolutely love this comparison! The view on children in literature is so fascinating and I think you drew from two really strong sources on this point. I also think comparing your sources with Elizabeth Barret Browning’s “The Cry of the Children” might also be helpful. This poem emphasizes the innocence of these children being taken advantage of through child labor, and I think this branches into the government’s control over children as well (capitalism).

  3. I just recently re-read The Hunger Games! I like how you connected the book to Norton’s poem and how the role of children is controlled by the government. This unfortunate event of factories and child labor is still something continuing today. I wonder how both texts are still used to push back against this as literature is a way of pushing social change. I liked how you included that the victors are never free from their past, this is the same for children in factories because the labor they had to do hurt them mentally and physically.

  4. This is an interesting comparison! I recently started reading “A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” which poses the question: Why are children subjected to the games instead of adults? The answer to this question is that children’s innocence makes their deaths more painful. Norton similarly draws upon the innocence of children, but to a different effect. Arguably, no one should work in the extreme conditions of the factories, regardless of their age. However, Norton specifically focuses on children to contrast their innocence to the grueling conditions of factory work. Both texts demonstrate how the “blank slate” of children can be used to project political sentiments and promote change.

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