Out of the Past, Into the Future

A fair warning, this is going to be a really bizarre post that probably won’t seem to make much sense, at least not at first glance. How bizarre? Well, it deals with two series of books written by American women that depict the lives of girls around the age of sixteen. One of the series begins when the leading character is that age, the other basically ends at that point; one of these series looks forward, the other looks back; one is autobiographical (or something like it), the other one is not… and time-wise the distance between the publication date for the last book in the first of these series and the release of the first book of the second one is less than seventy years. These similarities and differences make for an interesting chance to analyze how we see ourselves, how we see the world around us, where we come from and where we are going. So what are these two series? Well, the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, of course.

Okay, pick your jaw up from the floor and read that over again to make sure it actually says what you think it says (it does), I’ll wait for you here.

As I said, at first glance this seems like a good candidate for the title of the most absurd comparison ever, but I do believe that there are enough commonalities between these books to make it work. In fact it is precisely because their differences are so extreme that this is an interesting comparison, one that seems to depict our journey from an idyllic past into a dreadful future, and to exemplify how our hopes and dreams were replaced by something more akin to nightmares somewhere along the way.

To begin with, let me start by pointing out that this is based on the Little House books, not on the TV show, and while those books are tinged with nostalgia, they do depict a rather bleak time, where starvation was never far away, racism wasn’t even questioned, and even though the books were written by a woman, her subordinate position with regards to the men in her life is never called into question.

In The Hunger Games, on the other hand, ‘submissive’ is not a word one would be inclined to use to describe Katniss, and in spite of all the horrors she experiences (and the fact that the very real threat of starvation is another point of commonality between both worlds), I suspect that quite a few of us would feel more comfortable in her world –or at least in its aftermath– than in the one Laura inhabits.

That may also have to do with the fact that, no matter how bleak The Hunger Games is at times, the ending leaves the door open to something remotely resembling hope for the future, while in the Little House series… well, in that case we actually know what that future will look like. In fact we are stuck living in it.

So can these two series be described as twisted mirror images of the same realities? I don’t know, but at times I can’t help but to think so.

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