I started MOCKINGJAY yesterday, and I don’t think I’ll be giving too much away when I say Katniss finds out rather quickly that rebel life isn’t everything she--or, more precisely, Gale--thought it would be. The rebel leaders aren’t a bunch of squeaky-clean Luke-Skywalker types, and the fabled District 13 imposes almost as many rules as their old friend, the Capitol. This moral ambiguity is what has driven the plot (so far), and even now, more than a hundred pages in, I, like Katniss, still don’t know whose side I’m really on.
I’ve been thinking about revolutions for a while now, since Bob features one of sorts, and the point my brain always seems to circle back to is how much someone’s culture influences his or her opinion on a concept like rebellion. In American film and literature, the rebels in a given story are almost always the good guys. Their leaders are usually dashing and charismatic, and their cause is always just.
And why is that? Because in the history of the United States, the revolutionaries have generally been just that. In fact, this nation owes its very existence to a rebellion.
Now consider a country like Cambodia. I must admit, up until a few years ago, when my brother-in-law went to live there for a couple of years, I knew next to nothing about this Asian nation, but now I know just enough to shudder at the mere mention of Pol Pot. I don’t know what touched off Pol Pot’s revolution beyond the pervasive friction between the better-educated haves and the less-than-educated have-nots (or if an inciting incident even happened), but I do know that it obliterated hundreds of thousands of French-speaking Cambodians and just about everyone else who had any kind of formal education. I also know that, more than thirty years after the fact, Cambodia is still struggling to recover from the repercussions of Pol Pot’s rebellion.
What does a Cambodian think about revolution, then? I have no idea, but I’m willing to bet that word conjures up a starkly different picture for a Cambodian than it does for me. And so it is with all of us. We are all products of our societies, so our society has a strong impact on how we read, how we write, and how we interpret life in general.
What about you? Where are you from, and when you hear a word like revolution, what words or images come to mind?
I’ll start. I’m from Mesquite, Nevada (originally Kaysville, Utah), and when I hear the word revolution, I see smoking ruins; a war council in a Federal-style room, usually with one of those old-fashioned writing desks; and a square-shouldered man on a white horse (who, admittedly, is probably George Washington).