What's Left to Fight For?

Today we have a guest post from debut author Jessica Souders, whose book RENEGADE launches this November from Tor Teen. Please give her a warm League welcome!

At a recent conference I was on a panel about dystopian literature and someone asked a question that pretty much stopped me in my tracks. I had no idea how to answer it.

The question? What’s left to fight for when there’s nothing left?

I’m fairly certain that I looked like a fish with my mouth opening and closing, and no sound coming out, but finally I settled on an answer. Love. However, the minute I said it, I had to backtrack, because even when love is gone there’s something left.


Hope to find love. Hope to conquer whatever task we’re trying to beat. Hope that things will get better. Even when everything else is taken, there’s hope. Hope is the most dangerous weapon a person, group, or society has. Because where there’s hope, there’s strength to accomplish anything. When we lose hope, we lose the ability to fight.

That’s why so many countries make sure the morale is up for their troops. With high morale comes high hope. With high hope, a higher chance of winning.

In the Hunger Games movie, President Snow makes a very enlightening comment about hope that illustrates my point clearly. In a conversation with the head gamemaker, Seneca Crane, he’s talking about why they have the Hunger Games. He asks Seneca why they don’t just line up the 12 children and shoot them instead. It’s certainly faster. When Seneca can’t answer, he says, “Hope: It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective; a lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it’s contained. So, contain it.”

Seems a bit diabolical, right? Yes, but he’s right and he knew that if Katniss won the Hunger Games, she’d give hope to the people he didn’t want to give too much hope. Because by controlling their amount of it, he was able to control them. By doling it out in slow amounts, he made the citizens dependent on him. But too much would make them realize they didn’t need him at all. Thus starting an uprising. Of course, if they didn’t have any hope at all, he wouldn’t be able to control them either, because they wouldn’t care enough to do what he needed them to do. Make clothes, make their electronics, dig for coal, etc.

And like in life, hope is, in my opinion, the most important part of every story. Not to mention the one of the common denominators between every book, but most specifically in dystopian books. It’s what not only fuels our characters to keep going through their darkest ordeals, but it’s part of what keeps us reading. If we care about the characters, we’re hoping they’ll come out unharmed from whatever it is they’re dealing with and that they’ll have their (somewhat) happy ending.

So…do you agree? What’s left to fight for when there’s nothing left?

J.A. Souders is the author of RENEGADE, the thrilling YA underwater dystopian coming
November 13, 2012 from Tor Teen. Visit her at http://www.jasouders.com/ or @jasouders on twitter.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I have read a lot of Holocaust books and often wondered what separated those who survived from those who didn't. After I read Night by Elie Wiesel, I realized it was hope. It wasn't strength, money, or wit. None of those things were left; hope was all they had. Again, excellent post. :)

Brenda Drake said...

This is such a great post! Thank you for sharing this. At the beginning of the post I was scratching my head too. Great answer. I never think of hope, but it's so important. Love this!

Liz Czukas said...

Ooh, I remember that panel. You gave everybody chills. You're so right. Love without hope leads to Romeo & Juliet. Hope...that leads to revolution, or at least the will to see what's next. That it might be better than today.

Awesome post.

- Liz

J.A. Souders said...

Thanks, everyone!

Linda, yes! I agree with that completely. When I was working as a nurse, I had a lady who'd been in a concentration camp. I can't remember which one, but she said the only thing that got her through that awfulness was hope. When she'd lost everything else, she kept her hope and it helped her through. I can't imagine having that strength. To keep hoping for a miracle, but she had it.

Thanks, Brenda! And yep, it seems like such a small thing, but it's so important.

And, LOL, Liz. Poor, Romeo and Juliet. If only they'd had hope instead of poison and daggers, right? :P