Thursday, May 14, 2009

"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

It's hard to conceive the inhumanity of which humans are capable. I don't claim to be an especially nice person, but I still can't imagine maiming someone else. I'm not even sure I could do so if my life depended on it. I wonder if only some or all people are capable of really terrible things. I often think of my rector's (from my church in St. Louis) answer when asked why bad things happen to seemingly innocent people. He said we live in a fallen world and we're all just kind of spreading the sin around.

I'm pondering this because of two stories I recently completed. One was the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus by Art Spiegelman. The other is Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Maus (I & II) is a graphic novel and is a brilliant example of the genre. Spiegelman's layered narrative shows his interactions with his aging father, who in turn tells of his experiences in WWII Poland. Spiegelman depicts the Jews as mice, the Germans as cats, the Poles as pigs, the French as frogs, etc. They have human bodies with these animal heads. The animal caricatures work well although I can't explain exactly why. There are many stories about the holocaust, but this one is unique in contrasting the resourceful young man surviving a concentration camp with the aging, neurotic father, as seen through the eyes of his son. Spiegelman struggles to get along with his difficult father, understand his past, and conceive of how it has impacted his own life. Ickie and I both found the last panel moving.

Hunger Games is a young adult novel Jackamo described as a cross between The Running Man and The Lord of the Flies. The main character is a teenage girl who supports her impoverished family. The story is set in a dystopia with a government-mandated annual lottery that pits teens in an arena where they fight to the death. The death match is broadcast like a season of Survivor. It's bizarre and frightening. It's also really hard to put down (I read it in less than two days). As in her Underland Chronicles, Collins' protagonist is a poor teen (who has lost a parent) forced to fight in a violent, evil world. The whole book is one big ethical headache--my head is swimming just trying to write down my thoughts and emotions during and after reading it. It's the first in a series, which is good because there's a lot more story to tell, but the ending was strong enough for this first story to stand alone.


Felix Grant said...

Maus I know well ... that you bracket it with Hunger Games (especially under that Julius C├Žsar quotation) led me to immediately order the HG trilogy.

A very thoughtful and thought provoking post, for which thank you.

Jenny said...

I bet you could do it now that you're a Momma tigress.

I never thought I was capable of hurting anything until I had a few of my own.

grrrrrr (snarl, hiss).......

Felix Grant said...

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