Friday, July 1, 2022

The Anti-Redemption Story of President Snow

We have so many wonderful redemption arcs in fiction: Zuko, Edmund, Regina, etc. We even have lots of stories like this in scripture with Paul, Alma, Zeezrom, and more. What we don’t see a lot of is corruption arcs, like Lex or Anakin (though we did recently read the downfall of King Saul in Come Follow Me). The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes details the story of young Coriolanus Snow, as he becomes a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games and grows to love his District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray Baird. But ultimately it depicts the corruption and downfall of Snow.

I don’t know what I expected when I heard the Hunger Games prequel would be about President Snow and his experience mentoring a girl from District 12. I mean we knew from the Hunger Games trilogy that Coriolanus Snow would grow up to become a ruthless, cold dictator. So I didn’t know how Collins could write his character in a way that I might relate to and root for him, all the time knowing what kind of man he’d become.

At first I almost felt sorry for this pathetic Capitol boy. Growing up during Panem’s civil war, his family lost almost everything; all he had was his status in the Snow family. He didn’t know any better than what his bigoted parents and grandmother had taught him. However, even once he started to learn and feel compassion for Lucy Gray, Sejanus, and the Covey, he still held onto his superior air that kept telling him he was better than any District citizen. Heck, the only reason he fell for Lucy Gray initially was because he convinced himself that she wasn’t really “district”.

As the Hunger Games began, Coriolanus was only concerned with having the winning tribute to promote his family’s status again. But as the Games progressed and his relationships with Sejanus and Lucy Gray became more involved and complex, his demeanor towards the Capitol and the Games seemed to shift and become more humane. He even helped Lucy Gray cheat to win the Hunger Games, because he cared for her so much. 

Honestly, by the time he became a Peacekeeper, I thought somehow his heart was softening. I kept wondering when things were going to go south (because we knew what kind of person he would become for the Hunger Games trilogy). Even after he betrayed friends and killed, I thought there might be a flicker of hope left in him. I kept expecting Lucy Gray to betray him or for someone to double cross him, prompting his downward spiral. But no… it wasn’t a big explosion or betrayal… It was his hubris catching up with him. Even before he knew that Lucy Gray had figured out his misdeeds, he planned on abandoning her for a fancier life of status and prestige. 

In the end, that’s what made this book enjoyable for me… I knew that our protagonist would eventually become a ruthless dictator, but Suzanne Collins still got me wanting him to win and to succeed. It made it all the more heartbreaking when the inevitable happened. Pride overtook young Coryo and his craving for attention and status. Instead of clinging to his love for Lucy Gray, he sought self-interest and comfort. I knew it was coming, but it happened anyway. It makes the whole story even more tragic. A cautionary tale about what pride can do to us. If Coriolanus had embraced his new life and love, maybe he wouldn’t have ended up poisoned and assassinated in Mockingjay

1 comment:

  1. From the title I thought this would be about some black history of President *Lorenzo* Snow. Whew!