A couple of months ago I read the book “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. At the time I wrote a short section for my book “Thoughts of An Average Catholic” regarding this book, and my thoughts on the personality differences between the main characters, Peeta and Katniss. I thought I would share my reflections on here as well.
In reading “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, something began to dawn on me about the characters. In Katniss’ quest to stay alive during training and during the actual Hunger Games contest, her fellow Tribute from District 12, Peeta, is constantly watching out for her, being kind to her, trying to take care of her. And yet, Katniss, aware that there can only be one winner of the Hunger Games always assumes that Peeta is putting on some kind of act, that he wants to win the Hunger Games and will willingly kill Katniss when the time comes.
Peeta’s kindness is always returned with Katniss’ suspicion and distrust. This is until the Game Makers of the Hunger Games declare that participants from the same district (there are always two – one boy and one girl), if they are the last ones alive, can win the Hunger Games together, without trying to kill each other.
While reading the Hunger Games a thought began to grow on me. To Katniss, being kind and being a nice person is not something someone “is”, it is something someone “does”. It is an angle to be played, a strategy, but is not something that can be actually part of a person.
To Peeta, being kind, being nice, is just something that is in the core of his being. His kind acts flow from who he is. It is not a strategy. Rather, taking care of people is something that is done because it is something that always should be done.
Peeta loves others.
Peeta will die for his beliefs.
With the exception of her love for her sister, Katniss’ life is the highest good.
Katniss “does” something. Peeta “is” something.
As a young man, 21 years old, I knew a girl from Mid Michigan Community College. I will call her “Heather” in this book. Heather lived with her parents, and a couple of times I went over to her house. One of the things that really defined Heather was her birds. She had something like a dozen birds whom she loved to spend time with. She would show them off, and talk about them. She would describe taking care of the birds to me, and to be honest it sounded like way too much work. As birds were perched all over her, she talked about other birds that she wanted to buy, and I couldn’t help thinking that all this was way too much effort.
I figured that I might want to buy a bird someday, but in doing so it would just be something I did, to enjoy the bird. Looking back, Heather’s love of birds is not something she “did”, it was something she “was”.
I could be a person with a pet bird.
She was a bird lover. It was part of her.
Reading the Hunger Games and reflecting on Heather brought me to thinking about marriage. Society today treats marriage as nothing more than a contract, a contract that people enter into and can freely leave. Marriage, under this secular, atheistic view, is just something someone “does”. It does not change what someone “is”.
The Christian view of marriage, especially that of the Catholic Church, is radically different, and it is something that the secular world we live in doesn’t even understand, much less accept.
In the Catholic view of marriage, entering the married state fundamentally transforms who a person “is”. Before marriage, the man is someone fundamentally different than after he becomes married. And this is the same for the woman. Before a woman enters the married state she is one person. After her marriage vows and the consummation of the marriage, she has been fundamentally changed at the core of her being.
Both the man and the woman become a new creation. They are changed. There is no going back. Breaking the “marriage contract” through the evil act of divorce cannot cancel out this fundamental shift they have gone through. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9)
Upon the death of a spouse, the marriage itself ends, but the surviving spouse will always have been married, been a married woman or man. It is now part of who she or he is.
Motherhood and Fatherhood
The same is true for motherhood and fatherhood. Our modern atheistic world treats motherhood and fatherhood as something that someone “does”, not something that someone “is”. Yet the conception of a child changes us at the core of our being. We start out as one thing, and become something completely and totally different. A mother. A father.
There is no backing out of this radical change. Even if the life of the child is lost due to a miscarriage, or through the monstrous act of abortion, the mother will have forever been changed. She will have conceived new life within her womb, and that baby is now in the presence of God. The same goes for the father. His inner being will have changed. He is a father, even if his child is now in the presence of the Lord.
This is very different from how our atheistic society treats children. Since having children is something one “does”, rather than motherhood and fatherhood changing “who we are”, we no longer treat a child like a blessing from heaven, but as a “thing” we own. And just like marriage is “reversable” in our modern society, being a parent is also reversable, at least before birth. And if certain intellectuals have their way, the child will be reversable after birth as well.
Our world suffers from a complete misunderstanding of marriage and parenthood. This misunderstanding has devestated our culture, causing widespread divorce, widespread abortion, and had a ripple effect throughout our culture. The plagues of pornography and contraception can be traced to this lack of understanding of ourselves, about who we are and what we mean. We have lost a sense of what entering a marriage means, the lifelong commitment of man and woman.
We have lost the sense of what being a mother or father is, that we have begotten new immortal life, and that, all throughout eternity, that child will be ours, forever, after the stars die and wink out, and the heavens cease to exist. Marriage and parenthood leave indelible marks upon our soul. And until we recover this sense of meaning, this sense of self, our culture will continue to collapse.