Real or Not Real: Fragmentation, Fabrication, and Composite Identity in The Hunger Games and the Mass Effect Trilogy

Tessanna Curtis

Document Type Article


As one glance at box office ratings from the past decade can attest to, twenty-first century Western society seems particularly fixated on coming-of-age stories. These stories reflect the quintessential search for identity, as explained by developmental psychologist Erik Erikson. As Erikson argues throughout his works, the fundamental task of the individual on his journey to becoming a healthy, mature adult is the formation of a personal identity and sense of self that is both unified and whole. What seems particularly ironic, however, is that these coming-of-age stories are released into a culture that is largely dismissive of Erikson’s theory of identity. Instead, theorists such as Jason Zingsheim insist on the mutability of human beings, arguing that identity is plural rather than singular and that contemporary society has made it impossible for the individual to develop an integrated sense of self. Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and BioWare’s Mass Effect trilogy, however, reveal that the gulf between Erikson’s theory of the self and postmodern theories of identity may not be as large as typically thought. Both narratives highlight the complexity of human beings, maintaining that individuals do not remain static over time, but rather change as they grow and mature. Individuals may take on different roles throughout their lifetime, and various aspects of their personalities may often seem at odds with each other, but they make sense of their identity by piecing together the different elements of their inner self to form one unified and intelligible whole.