Friday, March 2, 2012

More High School Reading

So, today in English class we were supposed to be reading Pride and Prejudice, but it turned into a whole-class discussion of The Hunger Games (which, by the way, I would like a lot better if all the characters' sufferings were worth it -- not necessarily leading to rainbows and unicorns, but worth it. Whatever. To each author his/her own.) Anyway, there were a few guys in my class who said they'd never even heard of the Hunger Games. To describe it for them, I said it was something like Gladiator meets The Pearl. One guy in my class, who plans to join the Marines, said, "You do realize you just combined two totally awesome things, right?" I couldn't believe it, and I asked, "We are talking about the same Pearl, right? The Steinbeck one?" To my great surprise, he said, "Yes! That book was epic!"

I could not believe my ears! To clarify it even more, I pressed, "The one where the kid dies and they end up living in poverty?" He said, "Yes! The kid dying was such a surprise -- I never saw that coming!"

Well, what the heck? I could not believe it! I mean, really? The message in that book struck me as something like, "There's no hope, the world's going down in a handbasket, and you'll never be able to do anything to change what's wrong in the world." Nihilism in the extreme! A little bit like Romeo and Juliet - in the end, everybody dies, nothing is accomplished. Or Julius Caesar - everybody dies, nothing is accomplished. Maybe even Macbeth (although I do give Macbeth a little credit for being unique in Shakespeare and not killing himself.)

One of the reasons I love Gladiator so much, aside from Russel Crowe just being a BEAST, is that the hero died a heroic death, but it ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING! He didn't die in vain, he killed the bad guy with him. Another example would be the Alamo, where they didn't have much hope of defeating the Mexican armies but they still bought Sam Houston precious time and it made a difference. Again, nobody at the Alamo died in vain. Rocky would be another good one: although I've never seen the movie, as I understand it, he could have just lost early to make the other guy look good, but instead he did his absolute best. He still didn't win, and he didn't change the world, but he lost with dignity and honor. Or, for another Russel Crowe movie, Robin Hood. Even though King John Softsword didn't sign the Magna Carta, Robin Hood didn't give up, didn't stop fighting. He didn't even die in that one!

I think to wrap up this post, a quote from my favorite character in my favorite of all movies says it all:
"There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo! And it's worth fighting for."
For anyone who doesn't know, that's Sam Gamgee, The Two Towers.

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