My 10th graders and I had a discussion on symbolism the other day, specifically symbolism in The Hunger Games. When asked what symbol they would use to represent different characters in the novel, I was met with answers such as this:
“Peeta is a snake because he’s fast.”
“Haymitch is alcohol because he drinks a lot.”
Not quite the profound thinking I was looking for, though I should have been prepared for it when they used the same examples to represent themselves.
A: “I’m a bear because I’m big, dumb, and slow.”
Me: “Bears are actually pretty bright, A. And they can be extremely fast when they need to be.”
A: “Oh. Then I’m a sleeping bear.”
I chose a cat because I’m lazy and like to sleep, but will lash out with my claws if you make me mad. I’m also hard to love and win the love of.
The best response to the character symbolism, however, was from one of my female students:
Awesome that I am, I turned this into a legitimate symbol for Peeta, discussing how a zebra cake is a bakery item, and Peeta is the son of a baker. His skill at painting the cakes (therefore camoflage) is represented in the decorative icing. The black and white stripes represent the mystery the reader has regarding Peeta’s feelings and allegiances (is it black or is it white!?). Finally, both zebra cakes and Peeta are “delicious.”