The Struggle Between Socialization and Individualism in The Hunger Games

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“Remember, they already love you,” he says gently. “Just be yourself” (Collins 123). The Hunger Games, a novel written by Suzanne Collins, narrate the story of a 16-year-old girl called Katniss Everdeen who steps in for her younger sister in a barbaric tradition called the Hunger Games where citizens are forced to fight to the death. The Hunger Game is a yearly event organized by the in Capitol as a punishment for the surrounding 12 districts. Each district is supposed to choose a girl and a boy between the ages of 12 to 18 to fight in the game. They are supposed to fight until only one tribute remains. The last person would be the winner and given gifts. The Hunger Games are the ultimate showdown between the wants of the group and the wants of the individual. Society deems that the children from 11 of the 12 districts must die for one to survive and the public support for this exercise satirizes the extremes that a group dynamic can drive society to. Within this extremely compliant populace that supports and celebrates children killing each other is the propagandist, Katniss, who is a rule breaking individual. The tension of the story is the Katniss’ fight with socialism in order to not just survive the hunger games, but to remain true to herself and not lose individuality by blindly killing others in the game.

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Socialization is the learning process of the values, norms, beliefs, and attitudes of the society. Socialization process is critical because it ensures there is the social order in the organization (Dahlstrom 337). There is need to have social law because people are in constant interaction. John Locke said that everybody is born a tabula rasa with few involuntary flexes like sucking and crying. The person is shaped by experience and education through the society to be human. Social learning enables people able to know how to talk, walk, and understand their roles in the community. Culture punishes the folks who don’t comply with the social values and beliefs through ridicule (Dahlstrom 339). This is the 12 districts depicted in the book The Hunger Games, they citizens are so shaped by the Capital that parents have accepted the most unnatural thing imaginable, they are asked to give up there children and to watch them fight to the death. On the other hand, individualization is the process of treating every situation uniquely and not accepting the societal norms just because everyone else does.

Soren Kierkegaard came up with the concept of existentialism, where she posited that every person can choose the fate of his or her own life (Dahlstrom 340). A person is supposed to create his /her values and not depend on the society or external codes of morality. Therefore there is a need for people to think critically before taking the society’s beliefs. People have a right to question the social order and the societies’ expectations. Katniss and Gale most demonstrate Kierkegaard’s’ philosophy in the book. Both are natural rule breakers, they are, as Dostoevsky terms it, “Superman.” They make their own rules because they are strong and capable. They will go into the forbidden forest to hunt and trade in the black-market for the things their families need because they do not think the rules apply to them. This rejection of societal norms is what individualism is at its core. An individual is her or his own master, and instead of being guided by rules, is instead guided by risks and rewards for one’s self and one’s loved ones. Katniss is an individual in a world that is shaped by a collective acceptance of grim living conditions and barbaric traditions.

Through individuаlism, Katniss recоgnizes that people and situаtions аre uniquе, and that rules should not be blindly followed, but instead considered and decided upon based on the reward or punishment that one can expect from following or ignoring. Katniss does not ignore all rules, she ignores the rules that meet the following conditions: 1) low risk of punishment and 2) high potential for reward. We see examples of this way of thinking by looking at her decisions. She chooses to hunt for food, but to hide her weapons and activities to keep from being discovered by the guards; when her sister is chosen for the hunger games, she does not make a doomed attack on the capital police to prevent it, she instead follows the societal endorsed pathway for saving her by volunteering as tribute. Katniss may not respect the rules, but she will follow them, or at least pretend to follow them, when they are the best available pathway for getting the things that she wants or for avoiding punishment.

Unlike socialization where one has no choice but to learn and act according to the set rules, individualism places a high value on people (Dahlstrom 330). Katniss is not devoid of any collectivist tendencies; she just is more selective with the group that she is sworn to. Katniss does not put the well being of just any group before her self, she chooses the people in her group. Katniss does everything; she does for the love of her mother and her younger sister Prim. They are her collective and where her responsibilities lay. She feels that she is in charge of protecting them now because their father passed away. Katniss loves her sister more than anyone she has ever known. In addition, she offers to go to the Hunger Games, and finds the strength to win the Hunger Games, because of her love for her sister Prim. If Katniss was a true Individualist, she would have taken Gale, the other strong individual in the story, up on his offer to run away and live away from societal and Capital control. This conflict between the individualism and socialization is shown both in how Katniss relates to society, but also within Katniss herself. This conflict between a person’s selfish nature and need to feel connected and supported is shown in this story in an exaggerated manner, but it speaks to a universal truth. While most of us will never have to offer ourselves as tribute and near certain death to protect those that we love, we must constantly be making similar decisions on a smaller scale and weighing which rules to follow and deciding when to sacrifice and when to be selfish. The greater battle between Individualism and Socialization is not ever fought in the black and white manner in which it is in The Hunger Games, instead it is fought inside each person whenever we make a selfish or selfless decision, and whether a decision is right or wrong is never as clear as it is in fiction.

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