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To suffer is to be human

December 25, 2017


A while back I did a short blog series on how I used the characters in my novel, The Raven Dreams, as a guide in my own reality. I also wrote about how others could apply these lessons in their own life to heal, let go, or better understand a situation, or why something happened.


If you’re interested, you can read the blog series here:

Eva Dawn

Isaak Dawn

Simon O’Neal


I bring this up because I felt it was such a powerful blog series and that it would be fun to do again with another novel. One that, hopefully, most of us know and have read. If it’s not one you’ve read, don’t worry. You’ll still get value out of this. However, you’ll get that much more out of it if you’ve read the novel.


I’ve chosen this novel because it’s the one the influenced me enough to start my own writing journey. And the novel is The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.


I realize this is a book series, but we’re just going to focus on the first book and it’s three main characters—Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, and Gale Hawthorne. But before we get into the characters, I want to talk about the theme of the story and how we can use it in our own lives.


That’s our focus today.


Now, everyone will have a different idea of what the theme of the story is. And rightfully so, since we all experience it in a different way, using our own personal thoughts, beliefs and emotions to guide us through the story. But, I think we can all agree that there is one underlying theme which is suffering.


Let’s take a look at some of the ways suffering appears within the book:

  • Panem is ruled by President Snow, a cruel and cold-hearted man.

  • District 12, the lowest class of districts, doesn’t have enough food or supplies to survive on.

  • The games are dreaded each year, where one boy and one girl from each district are picked to fight to the death.

  • Katniss volunteers as tribute for her district, taking her sister’s place, and ultimately choosing her fate.

  • Peeta is selected for the games with Katniss, the one he’s been in love with since they were kids, and struggles with never quite being enough for her.

  • In the games, children are forced to kill each other in the hopes that they will be the sole winner, but not without the imminent nightmares and guilt that they will carry for the rest of their lives.


And these are just some of the moments where the theme of suffering shows up in the book. To get into all of them would fill up ten blog posts alone. But you get the idea, and if you’ve read the book, you know all of the other ways the characters suffer.


The question now is, how can we use this theme of suffering as a guide in our own life?


It will be different for each of us. Which is why I’ve created a worksheet for you to go through if you want to explore this more deeply in your own life. But to speak in more general terms here, we can use the suffering in The Hunger Games in two ways:


1. We can use it as a reminder in our own lives when we feel like everything is going against us. And we can do this by acknowledging that, while things may not be going how we’d like, it’s very likely that it could be a lot worse. Just like in The Hunger Games, our lives could be on the line, or our children’s lives. We could be forced to live without enough food and water, as many people do in other parts of the world. Or, our suffering could be used as a form of entertainment to those who’ve never suffered a day in their lives.


2. The other way we can use this theme in our own lives is by understanding that everyone suffers. We each have our own path and our own struggles, some much more difficult than others. But, it doesn’t change the fact that we all know suffering. This is a good reminder for all of us when we want to play the pity card. Think of Katniss in the games. Did she sit around the tree and feel sorry for herself, or did she come up with a plan and fight?


Suffering isn’t something anyone deserves. But it is something we all go through. And Suzanne Collins hit a soft spot in readers because she knew this. She understood the state of the world and saw it in a way that she could incorporate into a story that millions of people would fall in love with. And one of the reasons The Hunger Games became so popular is because so many of us relate to its underlying theme of suffering. Whether we realize it, or not, this story helped us work through our own suffering in some form.


Which is why I invite you to download the free worksheet I’ve created for you to find out exactly how the theme guided you in your own life. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about yourself by taking the few minutes to fill this out.


I can share that The Hunger Games shook me awake when I was in one of the deepest places of suffering in my own life. I was playing the victim and feeling I had no control over my situation. But the characters in this story reminded me that no matter how bad the suffering gets, I always have a choice: to give in or to fight. And so began my path as a writer, and my path to healing.


So, let me know what you find out about your own story. Download the worksheet now, I can’t wait to hear other perspectives.




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