?Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are both well known for their role in the transcendentalist movement in the 1800s. The transcendentalist movement is based on four key elements: the importance of nature, self-reliance, civil disobedience, and nonconformity- discovery of oneself (Andrew). Transcendentalism is still embodied in modern day literature; an example of this is The Hunger Games trilogy. The Hunger Games trilogy limns the life of Katniss Everdeen, who is endowed with many transcendental qualities. Throughout the trilogy, Katniss shows her love and appreciation of nature frequently, but she also shows her abhorrence for the government as well. Despite not living in the 1800s, Collins exemplifies transcendental thought in The Hunger Games trilogy.
?Emerson states in “Nature,” “In the presence of Nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows” This quote by Emerson further exemplifies the transcendental belief that anyone can find peace and comfort in nature. Katniss says, “Being in the woods is rejuvenating. I’m glad for this solitude.” (The Hunger Games ###). It is evident that Katniss is most comfortable and tranquil in the woods. This is proven throughout the trilogy, because despite all the complications and obstacles in her life, Katniss always went to the woods to clear her head.
In “Self-Reliance,” Emerson states, “The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct.” Katniss says, “No deaths, perhaps no fights at all. The audience in the Capitol will be getting bored” (The Hunger Games ###). With Katniss having to watch the Hunger Games growing up, she knew that the game makers would create havoc soon, so she decided to give the viewers what they all want to see- her kiss Peeta, her fellow tribute from District 12 (Hamre 20). She knew to do this by trusting her instincts. Katniss’s instincts also tell her that it was always the game makers’ plan to have her and Peeta to be the last two tributes alive in the games, but they did not intend for both of them to make it out of the games alive; after all, there can only be one victor of the Hunger Games (Hamre 20). Katniss says, “They never intended to let us both live” and she comes to this conclusion by using her intuition about the game makers (The Hunger Games ###). Katniss Everdeen has to rely on herself to take care of her mother and her sister, Primrose, after her father died in a mining explosion when she was a young girl (The Hunger Games ###). Katniss says, “It was slow going at first, but I was determined to feed us. I stole eggs from nests, caught fish in nets, sometimes managed to shoot a squirrel or rabbit for stew, and gathered the various plants that sprung beneath my feet. Plants are tricky. Many are edible, but one false mouthful and you’re dead” (The Hunger Games ###). This quote shows how Katniss relied on herself to step up and make sure her family had food on the table every night in the absence of her mother, who had become unfit after her husband was killed. Katniss Everdeen uses her instincts during the Hunger Games, whether it is using a bow an arrow, using a knife, trapping, tracking, or just simply being smart about who she chooses as her allies. Katniss knew that she had to be smart in order to make it out of the games alive, so she chose the youngest tribute in the games, Rue; she was only 12 years old. Many watching in the Capitol believed this to be an unwise move, but Katniss trusted her instincts and her instincts did not let her down. Rue actually saved Katniss’s life after she had been attacked by a swarm of tracker jackers. Emerson once said, “Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason.” Katniss relates to this quote not only because she trusts her instincts, but because she acts upon them as well.
?Henry David Thoreau was most known for his hatred of government, which is discussed in his book Civil Disobedience. In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau says, “Government is best which governs not at all.” Katniss also embodies the transcendental quality of civil disobedience. Katniss Everdeen shares the same belief; she hates the government she lives under in District 12. The government in which she lives under, the Capitol, attempts to control every aspect of one’s life. 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” (The Hunger Games ###). This quote exemplifies just how much fear the Capitol instills in each individual within the 12 districts. Katniss illustrates her hatred for the Capitol when she says, “It’s the Capitol I hate, for doing this to all of us” (The Hunger Games ###). This further proves how much she despises the government, just as Thoreau did. Katniss disputes the rules set forth by the game makers, who are controlled by the Capitol, by coming up with the plan that she and Peeta will both pretend to eat poisonous berries to prove to the game makers that she can ruin their plan. Katniss turns the tables, and for once, instills fear into the lives’ of the game makers. As a result of Katniss and Peeta pretending to eat the poisonous berries, they are not only challenging the rules of the Hunger Games, but they are also defying the Capitol and the system that has been in place for 74 years.
In “Self-Reliance,” Emerson says, “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” Katniss Everdeen is not the only character who embodies transcendental qualities in The Hunger Games trilogy, this quote relates to Peeta Mellark’s character. Peeta says, “I want to die as myself. (…) I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not. (…) I keep wishing I could think of a way to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their games” (The Hunger Games ###). This quote from Peeta shows just how strongly he feels about not conforming to the Capitol’s ways, if he is going to die, he wants to die as himself, not who the Capitol wants him to be.
? “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, -that is genius” (Emerson ###). It is quite evident that the way of life in the Capitol is quite different than the way of life in the other districts (Hamre 15-16). Collins describes the Hunger Games as, “In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing, wins” (The Hunger Games ###). At the start of the trilogy, the Hunger Games have been on air for 74 years, which means that very few, if any, people who remember the dark days and the rebellion, are still alive (Hamre 15-16). With this being said, the people who were truly affected by that period in time are not even around to continue the hunger games, but because the people of the capitol were raised to believe that the games were a necessity of life, the games are still held every year (Hamre 15-16). Throughout the trilogy, Katniss has grown to love her prep team; they have been with her through two hunger games. Katniss mentions to Gale, her childhood best friend, how her prep team does not know any better than to believe that the games are normal (Hamre 15-16). Gale’s response was, “They don’t know what, Katniss? That tributes- who are the actual children involved here, not your trio of freaks- are forced to fight to the death? That you were going into that arena for people’s amusements? Was that a big secret in the Capitol?” (Mockingjay ###). Gale believes that as a human being, one has the ability to change the fact that the Hunger Games are still being held each year, just because one was raised with the Hunger Games being held, does not necessarily mean that one has to believe that it is the right way to reconcile the dark days and the rebellion.
?Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark personify modern day transcendentalists. Katniss finds peace in nature, portrays self-reliance, defies the government, and she most definitely does not conform to society. Peeta’s main transcendental quality is nonconformity; his identity is most important to him. Above all, The Hunger Games trilogy, as a whole, displays many transcendental thoughts. Emerson and Thoreau led the transcendentalist movement in the 1800s, but their thoughts are still being used today. Collins brings transcendental thought into The Hunger Games trilogy predominately through the characters of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. Although Emerson and Thoreau are deceased, their beliefs are still exemplified today.