Two characters I don’t envy, despite their ostensibly cushy little lives, are Effie and Haymitch. In fact, the two of them damn near break my heart. Imagine doing what they do every year, collecting somebody’s son and somebody else’s daughter, trucking them off to the Capitol and giving them a week of luxury, advice, and training, making an effort to get to know them as individuals as well as competitors in the interest of keeping them alive, only to watch as they’re impaled or decapitated or bludgeoned or poisoned on a live television feed. That’s almost—not quite, but a big almost—as brutal as what they do to those poor kids. If I were in Haymitch’s shoes, with the added double whammy of PTSD and getting stabbed in the back for his rule-bending victory, I’d probably be a blistering lush, too. Plus I’m inclined to think that Effie’s Clueless Ditz act is the result of needing most of her brain cells to fend off some kind of psychological breakdown.
Cinna, the stylist, is probably my favourite character, and the one I feel I’d most likely inhabit in this universe. I could see myself being an espionage mastermind through a seemingly superficial and harmless medium of fashion and face paint. In a way, he’s a style geek’s dream come true. Cinna was always welcome on the page and screen, even when all he had to offer was a record-scratch WTF moment. What character doesn’t, or on that note, shouldn’t? (I’ve even taken to giving Cinna some love via my makeup once in a while—his only concession to flamboyant Capitol style is a streak of gold eyeliner, so I ran with the concept, substituting silver because my colouring likes it better.)
I think that Thresh, the ill-fated male tribute from District 10, is the other character I most identify with. He wasn’t in it to win; he was in it to survive, if that makes sense. But he was sane enough to take his chances alone, rather than join a cabal of bloodthirsty maniacs. Apart from Katniss, Peeta and Rue, I don’t think that anyone in the arena had more soul than he did, as further evidenced by his reaction to Clove taunting Katniss about Rue’s murder. I admit, the first time I read the book was at the Westfield (Massachusetts) Athenaeum—library, to all us plebs—and I’m surprised I didn’t get thrown out for barking “Yes!” when Clove got dealt with.
There is a Biblical undertone to the Games themselves, as well as the relationship between the (almighty godlike) Capitol and its (lowly human) surrounding districts. I’m not surprised that the soundtrack opens with a song called “Abraham’s Daughter”, because it really is like the story of Abraham’s test of faith on a nationwide scale: prove your devotion to your ruler by sacrificing your children. Only no one steps in at the last minute to call the whole thing off, because unlike God—whom I merely regard as a narcissistic sadist for coming up with the whole Isaac thing, a dick move for the ages—the Capitol couldn’t define “mercy” via multiple choice question. Panem makes no effort to hide who the real monsters are. If anything, the Capitol flaunts it right up in your face. Because they know that if someone else gets their hands on the throttle they’ve built by siphoning the rest of the nation’s resources, their round-the-clock fancy costume party is over.