It occurred to me as I was participating in the Hunger Games topic that the discussion (even on my part) seems to assume that literature meant for children or YA (teenagers) is primarily didactic in nature, that it must “send the right message” or at least “avoid sending the wrong message”. Many people evaluating books aimed at children seem to have very high moral standards in terms of seeing good rewarded and evil punished. I myself have railed against Twilight, for example, for sending a number of disturbing messages about romantic relationships. Yet, we don’t make the same requirements for adult literature or even most TV shows and movies – if a moral message is sent, that’s nice, but it seems to be considered completely optional.
Hunger Games Book 3 (Mockingjay) SPOILERS BELOW
But I recently read a website where someone (a middle-aged lady) stated that she thought the final Hunger Games book “sends a horrible message” about relationships because the heroine winds up settling down and having children with a man who, at one point in the story, viciously tries to strangle her to death. This is so even though, in the story itself, the action can be excused away due to the man not being in his right mind at the time.
Yet, I must admit that if any woman I know told me that husband or boyfriend had violently attacked them, I would tell her to run, not walk to the nearest exit and never give him a second chance, even if he was acting, say, under the influence of drugs or had some kind of psychotic break (situations analogous to what happens in the story). No way I would want a woman I know to take the chance this could ever happen again, even if the man was later horrified by his actions and was loving and caring almost 99.9% of the time otherwise (which is pretty much the case in the story). I admit I found it disturbing that the heroine is actually criticized by other characters for NOT being more loving and compassionate towards him.
Yet, I really can’t find it in me to denounce the book because of this one plot point, or say that the author shouldn’t have included it because it sends the wrong message. I’d like to think that most readers can tell the difference between what takes place in a fictional world and what they should do in their own lives, and not think “Well, he did this, but he should be forgiven because he wasn’t in his right mind and he actually loves her, and if my boyfriend did the same thing I should forgive him too”.
But maybe I’m being too naive here and the “poop in the brownies” analogy applies? But if the only good children’s books were those where the heroes did everything right and made no mistakes, I doubt most kids would want to read them. Even Laura from the Little House books often acts recklessly and expresses anger, jealousy, etc.