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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: staying on the right side of evil

“I think there’s a natural goodness built into human beings. You know when you’ve stepped across the line into evil, and it’s your life’s challenge to try and stay on the right side of that line.”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

As a dystopian author, it felt only right to read The Hunger Games prequel, as well as taking a trip to the cinema to see the film. The story is set over sixty years before the first Hunger Games book and follows a young President Snow as he becomes a mentor for a tribute in the tenth Hunger Games. Collins does a wonderful job of world-building in setting up an older version of the Capitol that hasn't yet established The Hunger Games as the popular, nation-shaking phenomenon it became by the time Katniss Evergreen steps into the arena. I'm an absolute sucker for highly-detailed worlds in literature and this didn't disappoint. Collins' approach to world-building in her nuanced considerations of how such a dystopian society would operate was a great inspiration for my own novels in The Merit-Hunters Series. However, by far the most captivating aspect of this prequel is the protagonist, Coriolanus Snow.

Throughout the entire novel, he plays with that line between good and evil. His tribute, Lucy Gray, becomes the object of his affection and he battles with where his true loyalty lies. Is it with the Capitol, where he was born and where he could get everything he's ever desired, or is it with someone he loves? I won't say much more but the quote above did speak to me about my own life...

This is why we love dystopian fiction - a life application

Most of us are unlikely to find ourselves choosing between murderous endeavours or otherwise, but we do make choices everyday. It can be the smallest thing, such as the decision to donate a book to a raffle. Yes, this is a real life example. My brain went a bit frantic thinking 'what a waste. The winner might not even read it and I haven't made any money from that book', but I'd obviously missed the point. I could have made the choice to ask for the book back or not donate one at all but my why for doing that would have been inherently selfish. Now I'm not saying we have to give everything away and can't make a living, but we have to watch our motives in every decision we make. Are we staying on the right side of evil? That might seem harsh but if we're all honest with ourselves, we're not all good. We have bad traits, habits and thoughts. I'm not saying it's evil not to donate to everything (please don't misunderstand me - I merely use that as an example) but we would do well to make sure we are always considering others, not only ourselves.

Coriolanus Snow couldn't fight the power of his own selfish ambition and fell face first into evil. Lucy Gray believed there was a 'natural goodness' in everyone and it's our choice everyday to choose to feed that goodness. That's in the small things and the big things, because it all adds up to who you are in your heart. From my experience, when we consider others as better than ourselves, we become more open, approachable and live with a higher sense of purpose. All of which adds up to improved well-being, mental health and happiness.

So my tip for this next week? Always check your why and lean towards the good in you, not the bad.

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