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Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins, follows Katniss Everdeen and Peeta after they won last year's Hunger Games. The setting of the novel is the future, a time after the government has taken complete control of the world and people eat or starve, live or die, at the whim of that government. It is a bleak world filled with little hope.
At the end of the previous novel, Hunger Games, Kat and Peeta have done something no one has done in such a public way: they defied the government and the government relented. This gives everyone hope and inspires a spirit of rebellion among the hopeless people.
While it is true that the United States government is not oppressive in the way it is in this fictional world, there are many places around the world today where this kind of thing routinely happens. In an oppressive regime, when someone is able to defy the government so openly and live, the rest of the people have hope.
Unfortunately, when this happens, the government quickly finds a way to stifle hope and regain control. In Catching Fire, the government changes the rules (something quite common for authoritarian governments to do) to squash the hopes of the people. It does so by forcing all previous winners of the Hunger Games to compete again this year. The role of an oppressive government, the ways it destroys lives, and the futility people feel when they need and want change is certainly a recognizable modern element in this novel.
Another element in this novel which is applicable to the modern world is the interdependence of the competitors in this year's Hunger Games. Many of them, especially Katniss and Peeta, decide to work together with the goal of surviving, of course, but also of thwarting the government's plan to kill Kat, who has become the symbol of the rebellion. (Plutarch even says to her, "While you live, the revolution lives.”) This happens any time people are oppressed and fighting for their lives, but this needing one another and working together for a common cause is familiar all over the world today. (Perhaps a less dramatic example is firefighters gathering from all over the country to combat a common enemy--an out-of-control conflagration.)
Finally, of course, are the complex relationships and emotions in the novel; love, hate, revenge, need, want, and fear are all common to people today. Death and dying, struggling to live, sacrificing for another--these are recognizable to all of us.
Though it is set in an unfamiliar time and place, Catching Fire certainly contains recognizable elements for our modern world.
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