I also finished reading The Road (by Cormac McCarthy) which is more apocalyptic than dystopian and presents a bleaker future for humanity than The Hunger Games. The Road is brilliant in that it studies humans trying to survive in a state of total loss. It provides a dark alternate view of the post apocalypse than is the dramatic usual.
These stories represent a growing body of works that seem only able to speculate about a future that is politically totalitarian and enviromentally destroyed. I think we're seeing so many such stories because thoughtful people are seeing little hope for the future. I know that when I try to do a serious depiction of the future, I find I can only extrapolate oppression from our rulers and a great degradation of the natural environment. Anything else really is fantasy.
But despite their pessimistic thesis, there is hope in both of these stories. The Hunger Games protagonist and her friends see the evil of the ruling powers and even contemplate rebellion. Even thinking about opposing evil is hope. Indeed, promoting, controlling, and suppressing hope for a better life is a major theme of the story. A large part of our cheering for Catniss in her struggles is our hope of her people opposing and overcoming the totalitarian "Capitol."
The hope in The Road is more subtle. The man and the boy are going south to escape the evil and death that is all around them. Their hope is based only on their desire to get away from their present dangers, rather than any concrete knowledge that the dangers are truly less elsewhere. But the man and boy are together, which is their only consolation, and they act out of love for each other, which is the foundation of their hope. They hang on in the face of near-certain death. Their hope for better in the south is a faith in things not seen.
Which story represents a more likely vision of the future? Well, I expect the truth will fall somewhere in between. I think The Hunger Games is a fair representation of our present, and The Road is a more likely representation of our future.
Both stories are considerations of our futures, though for different dramatic purposes. Both are bleak but with different ideas of where hope lies. The Hunger Games sees hope for our future as being determined by our actions, especially our collective actions. The Road sees hope as limited and based a lot on luck since our supporting environment is destroyed.
What can we learn about hope, or its lack, from these stories? Perhaps we should view them in the context of the season. Today is Easter and I attended an early Mass. The church was full and the service was amply expressive of the Christian hope, which includes faith in a spirituallity that can fill in the gaps left by luck and by the inadequacies of our own actions.
Our hope for facing an uncertain, even threatening, future may well rest on our own resolve, the ability of nature to continue to support us, luck, and faith. I think all will be needed to get humanity through the next century. I hope to express that in drama eventually.
So let's carry on, my friend, into the unknown future. With faith in a sympathetic spiritual realm to guide us, hope for breaks that our human smarts can exploit, and love for one another to sustain us, we'll make our way and reach whatever the other side turns out to be.
You can read my review of The Road in Good Reads here: www.goodreads.com/review/show/288309797.
A really good review of The Hunger Games is here: socialistworker.org/2012/04/05/resisting-the-rule-of-capitol.