Zygmunt Bauman, Postmodern Ethics, and Utopia as Process in Suzanne Collins’s <em>The Hunger Games</em>: “It’s the First Gift That’s Always the Hardest to Pay Back”
Beginning with the observation that young adult literature has been the subject of ethical criticism from multiple sides of the ideological spectrum and drawing on Roberta Seelinger Trites’s argument that this body of work is a postmodern phenomenon, this article interrogates whether young adult literature is a morally compromised genre from the start or whether there is not a morally constructive framework through which young adult novels might be viewed productively. Using the first novel of Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy as a case study, this paper proposes a heuristic that borrows from the postmodern (or “liquid modern”) ethics of sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. Bauman, who interprets Emmanuel Levinas’s “ethics of ethics” as a descriptive, phenomenological, existential exercise, rejects absolutes in favour of process and an emphasis on the urge to “be-for” the Other. Through the lens of Bauman’s ethics, this paper analyzes Katniss Everdeen’s journey as a processual one, toward the end of an active moral urge.