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Transcendentalism and the Hunger Games Essay

Transcendentalism is a lifestyle in which one strives to rise above and reach a level of perfection. Transcendentalists believe in self-reliance, non-conformity, individualism, simplicity, the greatness of nature, and God being within oneself. Transcendentalism is often represented in modern day pop-culture; a strong example of this is The Hunger Games. The book depicts the life of Katniss Everdeen, a character who possesses many transcendental qualities. The Hunger Games displays many transcendental values and shows that living a transcendental life is positive and will improve one’s quality of life.

Nature is a major transcendental value which both Emerson and Thoreau thrive off of. Emerson said in “Nature”, “In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows” (Emerson 182). This quote exemplifies the transcendental belief that nature is fulfilling, despite outside stress and troubles. In The Hunger Games, Katniss finds comfort and happiness in nature. She uses nature as an escape from reality and the difficulty of her life. She spends as much time as she can in the woods and values every moment that she is given the chance to embrace the tranquil qualities of nature. In the book, Katniss displays her appreciation of nature often. For example she says, “Being in the woods is rejuvenating. I’m glad for the solitude” (Collins 107). She is most comfortable and happy in the woods. Katniss is positively influenced by nature throughout the book and it helps keep her sane during the competition. Although nature is what kept Katniss sane, the government, which she hates with a passion, is what stresses her out the most in her life.

Henry David Thoreau was a major leader of the transcendental movement who wrote many essays and books displaying his beliefs and opinions. One of Thoreau’s most well-known transcendental qualities is his hatred of the government, which he writes about in “Civil Disobedience”. Thoreau presents his belief that the government is worthless by saying, “Government is best which governs not at all” (Thoreau 212). Katniss Everdeen shares in Thoreau’s beliefs and has a strong hatred towards the government in which she lives under.

The government she lives under, led by the Capitol, is a totalitarian government. They are very cruel and they attempt to control every aspect of the people’s lives. Katniss says, “Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch–this is the Capitol’s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy” (Collins 17). This shows just how controlling and intimidating the government of her society is. Katniss expresses her hate for the Capitol when she says, “It’s the Capitol I hate, for doing this to all of us” (Collins 166). Katniss hates the government and how they operate, just as Thoreau and other transcendentalists do.

Another major transcendental value that Thoreau stresses and follows is simplicity. He discusses simplicity several times in Walden, saying “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail” (Thoreau 196). Thoreau believed that you need to live simply in order to transcend. Katniss demonstrates simplicity by living her life with minimal resources. She also looks down upon the lavish lifestyle of those who live in the Capitol. Living simply benefits Katniss because it makes her realize and appreciate the things that really matter in her life, especially her family. Also, Katniss’ lifestyle of living simply is a major factor in her personality and strongly represents non-conformity and individualism.

Two transcendental values that go hand in hand are non-conformity and individualism. Transcendentalists believe in being one’s own person and not caring about what anyone else thinks or does. Thoreau says, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away” (Thoreau 204). Thoreau is encouraging each individual person to be his or her own individual self, and not follow in the footsteps of anyone else. Transcendentalists also think that people should not do something or believe in something just because the rest of society does.

Katniss displays non-conformity and individualism because when she arrives in the Capitol and throughout the book she stays true to who she is and does not let the people of the Capitol or the other tributes get to her. During the time in which she is in the arena Katniss never changes the reason she wants to win the hunger games, for the benefit of her family. This is unlike most of the other tributes, who only want to win for the title of victor. Katniss’ life style of non-conformity and individualism benefits her because throughout the hunger games she never loses track of who she is, and in the end this resulted in her winning the hunger games and surviving.

The last transcendental value that Katniss possesses is self-reliance. The transcendentalists believed that being self-reliant and doing work for oneself will bring happiness to one’s life. In The Hunger Games Katniss is extremely self-reliant. At her home in District 12 Katniss hunts her own food for herself and her family. Katniss was especially forced to become self-reliant when her father died in the mines, her family’s main source of income was gone. Katniss says, “I took over as head of the family.

There was no choice” (Collins 23). Also, in the hunger games Katniss is alone for most of the competition and therefore is reliant on herself for surviving in the wilderness. Katniss lives her life trusting no one and doing everything for herself, which is all she has ever known. If Katniss was not self-reliant, she would not have been able to survive the hunger games because she would not know how to hunt food or defend herself against threats. Being self-reliant benefits Katniss because she can fend for herself and she is not dependent on anyone else for anything.

The Hunger Games is a prime of example of transcendentalism in modern pop-culture. Katniss Everdeen possesses many transcendental qualities, which have a positive effect on her life and ultimately result in her survival of the hunger games. The Hunger Games displays many transcendental values and shows that living a transcendental life is positive and will improve one’s quality of life.


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