Monday, 30 April 2012

Diary of an Honours Student Week 11

In which we will think about UNIVERSE SHIFTING MOMENTS IN RESEARCH.... for Jo, the ever-helpful Murdoch University Twitterer.  (Tweeter?  Twitter-operator?)

What does it take to shift the universe?

If we think of ourselves as essentially selfish beings who suffer from extreme bouts of solipsism* (or perhaps it is the people around us who suffer?) then the universe is the world through our eyes.  Our ideology.  Our understanding of good, evil, beautiful, ugly, right, wrong, intelligent, stupid, academic, a waste of time, of having value and of being worthless.  For me, this is constantly changing.  So constant I think I barely notice it.  I think of my expanding world view as being like my hair growing.  Every morning I wake up and at some point find myself in front of a mirror, think AAAAH there is a Cousin It like creature trying to scalp me and realise that I do in fact still have hair.  I don't however think "My hair has grown precisely 3.5 milimetres over night on the right side and the left side appears to have anti-grown."  I continue to have faith in the fact that my hair will grow, barring extremely stressful and possibly radioactive circumstances, and therefore I pay it no mind. My hair growing is my outlook changing.

I think, however, that the moment I am being asked to refer to is not so much a gradual one.  I think we're chasing an anecdote about a moment in which my world view shifted very far and very fast.

And on this, sadly, I am going to have to disappoint you.  I cannot think of a moment like this happening to me since starting honours.  Now that I have been assured they exist, I live in hope that I may have one someday.

I also live in hope that one day I might own a Unicorn.  It would be nice if it happened, but I know better than to hold my breath.


There have been a few intellectual bonuses of doing a higher research degree.  First of all, I have had the opportunity to take something that I enjoy doing in my spare time (reading, writing and just generally living in this beautiful/occasionally boring State) and to turn it into something recognisably academic.  I know get to say to people "Oh yes, I am spending this year researching the significance of historical fiction to the literary imagination that exists in Western Australia."  And people will nod and smile, and may think I am just putting pointless words together and I am actually not.  I have theoretical sources to back what I am saying up.  And what's more, I enjoyed reading most of these sources.

Second, I've found that within my topic, my research often involves the discovery of names for things that I already sort of identify when I read.  Something that I can just grasp at but cannot explain because I don't know what it's called.  For example, this thing called the Flattery of Realism, whereby the thrill of being written about (you, your state, your ancestor) is overpowering in the face of actually analysing something for literary merit.  I got this when I read Rhubarb by Craig Silvey for the first time and he described the giant chessboards outside the Town Hall in Fremantle.  To quote that wonderful movie, The History Boys it is that moment in literature where a giant hand seems to come out of the text and take yours.

Third, I can take more books out of the library for longer periods of time.  This is good.  This is a bookworm's delight.

When I do eventually have the big realisation, I'll let you know what it was, but for now I am just happy to enjoy (or, you know, stress my way through) the journey.  It's kind of like being on a bus ride to an unknown destination, but man is that sunset pretty.  And if I'm lucky, maybe there will be unicorns.

*Don't try and tell me you are not a solipsist,  by the way because I know that you are.  Solipsism is a great word which I learned in second year from Professor Frodsham- it means an inability to see a world outside of ourselves.  We are all solipsists.  For some reason this always makes me think of Clarissa Explains it All.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Diary of an Honours Student: Week 10

This week, I asked readers on Twitter and Facebook suggest topics for my diary entry.  I wanted to know what you wanted to know.  I got two fabulous responses.  Which means, (hopefully) two fabulous posts.

Lucy asked me for Meltdown Management Strategies.  I'm going to call these:

Mmmm.  Delicious, delicious stress.

I have never ever had to pull an all nighter.  Never at university.  Never in high school.  Touch wood I will never have to.

I don't always think that this works in my favour.  As a creative person, I feel that perhaps my work would be better some how if it were fueled by pure stress and adrenaline.  The literary theorist and historian in me think this is absurd.

The reason that I have never had to do this is that I am super efficient and organised.  At the beginning of every semester, I read all my unit guides.  I write down the due dates of all my assignments on fun shaped post it notes and I stick them on the wall above my work space in chronological order.  When I hand something in, down comes the post it.  (I used to stick them in my journal, but found them less inspiring than other things that I could put in there instead).  I was told by my supervisor earlier in the semester that one of the side effects of this is a sense of ownership in my work.  In a sense, my essay becomes my child.  I care about what comes out of it not just because it will be a good mark or a bad one, but because I recognise how much time and hard work I put into it.  If you're like this too, maybe you should do Honours.  Don't quote me, I still haven't made up my mind.

That's not to say that the only way to get a good mark is to do this.  I know you can get a good mark starting the morning it's due because I've seen people do it.  I am awed by these people, and I also hate them a little because they just seem to have such fun lives.  Still, I can't help but think that all that stress isn't good for you.  Especially if something else were to be dropped on your plate at the same time.

So that's tip number one.

1. Be prepared.  Be organised.  The best solution is PREVENTION.

Sometimes, you really honestly can't help it.  Take yesterday for example.  There are four weeks to go until the end of semester, and I catch up with my creative writing supervisor after a lecture she's just given to a class I'm in.  The conversation turns to the assignments I have been doing.  The supervisor drops a knowledge bomb on me- the assignment I have been doing is not the one I am supposed to have been doing.

Cue tears.

Cue lots of tears.  And I apologise to Luke, Carol, Christine and my family for the tears.  It's been a stressful week.

In all honesty I was so tired and confused and angry that I actually cried for a large part of the day.  And I snoozed.  And drank tea.  And generally acted like an invalid.  We'll just call yesterday a write off.

But today?  Today was better.  Which brings me to two.

2. Give yourself time to 'grieve'

If you're organised and you've been following tip one, you have the room to wiggle.  You can watch Bones in your pyjamas with Dad.  You can cuddle the dog until you fall asleep.  You can read the entire fourth Mortal Instruments book in one sitting.  All this without feeling guilty.  Excellent.

Okay, so the meltdown has passed.

There is radioactive fall out everywhere and the townspeople are screaming at you to do something.  So what do you do?

3. Take a panadol

Because you will have a headache.  Make sure you drink heaps of water and eat something healthy and filling.  Crying, screaming and pulling your hair out is exhausting.

4.  Reassess, and get on with it

What do you need?  What does the situation need?  Make a list (I love lists).

5. Ask for help

That's what your supervisor is for.  And believe it or not, they care if you're freaking out.  (Or at least they should)

It wasn't necessarily what I wanted to hear yesterday, but the Creative Writing supervisor told me I needed to get a thicker skin.  I know she's right because my Mum tells me the same thing all the time.  This process is going to help me do that, but I have to know where my allies are and know my own strengths and weaknesses.

I hope this has helped.  And if it hasn't?  Bake something.

Don't have a sad, have a cupcake.


Western Australian Writing Review: Straightshooter by T.A.G. Hungerford

If reading this book is anything to go by, Tom Hungerford was a larrikin with a heart of gold.  The Western Australian literary imagination (and the topic of my thesis) owes much to this man.  This three collection set of short stories follows three periods in Hungerford's life; his boyhood in the semi-rural paradise of South Perth, his coming of age at war and his growing political cynicism in the time after.  He wrote it all down, chronicled it if you will, I guess to make sense of it all.

It is a best loved book.

So why couldn't I love it?

I read the first section, Stories from Suburban Road with enough interest.  Hungerford's descriptions of familiar places and feelings hit home for me, and I found myself delighting in the self realisations that reading the work brought.  In one story, 'Professor Murdoch and the Old White Road', I was excited to learn that the setting was in my own suburb!  And I laughed as Hungerford wrote of himself as a young writer "What I'd actually wanted was not so much advice as just someone to tell me I was as good as I thought I was- like most writers."  This stripped back humour is a feature of the entire work.  The adult writer makes good natured fun of himself.

But the other two collections, Knockabout with a Slouch Hat and Red Rover all Over smell of historical documents.  I found myself losing interest, not only in the subject matter but in the insights. One moment, Hungerford is talking about working with Charles Court, the next he is in Russia all in one story!  The lack of narrative structure made the stories somewhat hard to follow and the tendency to use telling language rather than showing language affected the flow.  This book took me weeks to get through, simply through lack of interest.  I see the influence of Hungerford's journalistic background increasing throughout the pages of Straightshooter.  Had I read the novel as a historical text or as non fiction, perhaps I would have enjoyed it more.  As it was, while I knew that what I was reading was autobiography, I expected more literary flair from Hungerford, who has a reputation as being the state's beloved word-smith.

That being said, Stories from Suburban Road if you can get it on it's own is a charming read, and full of insightful descriptions of Perth in the earlier part of the last century.  That collection I give four out of five "pieces" of bread with jam and butter.

Straightshooter as a collection I give two magpies.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Why Doing an Honours Thesis Makes You Pretty Much Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I'm a bit late to the party, seeing as I only started watching Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer late last year.  In the 1990s, when it was on, I was aware of it only because I was friends with a girl who once sang the entire score to "Once More With Feeling" to me in the bathroom of my house.  That being said, I doubt I would have appreciated the show so much back then as I do now.  One disc out from the finale, I bring to you this revelation.

Doing Honours Makes you Pretty Much A Vampire Slayer.  True story.

And here is why.

1.  You are tackling a very specific problem in your thesis.  Only you have the necessary 'tools' to tackle this problem.  Sometimes it feels like this thesis topic vampire really does want to suck your blood.

2.  You have a Watcher.  He or she calls themselves a Supervisor.  Sometimes they may even be British.

3.  Your library card is like your stake.  From now on, you should refer to it as Mr. Swipey.

4.  At regular intervals you are required to defeat evil assignments.  Sometimes these may seem bad but you always beat them, even if you come off worse for wear.  Soon, you will have to defeat the First evil... your dissertation... the evil which made all the other evils exist.

5. You have a lovable group of friends who help you in your fight against this evil.  Each one has their own special skill set.  But only you can truly tackle your special problem, your "vampire" or "thesis topic".

6. Every major battle begins with research- after all, how else are you to know what you are dealing with, and how others have dealt with it before?- and your home base is a library.

7. You were 'called' to do this job.  As an undergrad, you were blissfully unaware of the trials awaiting you.  Then, you were invited to do Honours.  Some turned their backs on the responsibility but you faced it.

8. Unfortunately, your special calling does not come with a pay check and you are forced to work a day job.

9. A lot of your best work is done at night.

10. Every little thing seems like the end of the world....

Convinced?  No?  Fine.  Here's Anya singing about bunnies.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Diary of An Honours Student, Week Eight and Nine

The Ethics of Skipping a Class.

Let's think about it this way.  We are all adults.  We have adult lives.  We have jobs, houses to clean, families to spend time with (or ignore, that's up to you), relationships to maintain.  There is fun to be had, and it must be had because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

But a balance must be struck.  It's so easy, especially on a day like today, the first Monday back after the extra long Easter study break to stay in bed for an hour after your alarm goes off.  Just like being on school holidays, right?  Nothing to do but eat cereals that will rot your teeth and watch cartoons.  Except that when the University says Study Break, they don't mean they're giving you a break from Study.  They mean they're giving you a break TOO study.

This break is a gift.  Use it.  Catch up on things.  Because getting to week fourteen where everything is due is not fun, and pulling all your hair out from stress and lack of sleep is not a good look.

One of my best friends has a series of post it notes stuck up on the wall behind her computer.  They say "ATTEND.  YOU'RE PAYING FOR IT."  (Well, actually sometimes they say TTEND because the A keeps falling down.  First time I saw it, I asked her what TTEND stood for.)  She's right.  You're paying to do the course you're doing.  You're paying with money, and like it or not, you're paying with your time.  Even if you're not attending classes, you're still spending 3+ years of your life being a university student.  Why bother with that if you'd rather do something else.  Find a career you're passionate about and you'll never have to work a day in your life.  Or something like that.

That being said, there are legitimate reasons to not attend your classes.  Having money is pretty important, you know, to eat and stuff.  Sometimes you have other commitments.  Sometimes your car is out of action.  Sometimes that time is better spent finishing an assignment.  Sometimes (and I hate to sound like a brat here) the class just doesn't seem like a good use of your time.

The keywords there, did you see them?  A good use of your time.

What is a good use of that time then?  It's certainly not television.  And sadly, it's not a good novel either, unless you're studying that novel.  Sleep only qualifies if you haven't had any in a while... too much sleep isn't good for you either.  Do you remember what I said about timetabling, and making lists?  Start with one of those.  Write this sentence at the top:  In the time I would usually be in class, I want to accomplish:  Then finish that sentence.  For me, today, the answer was : I want to read Inga Clendinnen's The History Question in full.  (Obviously I had to look at how much time I had and compare it to how many pages I had to read- 72- and decide if this was possible.  Setting unreachable goals just makes me feel like a loser.)

I notice that as the semester wears on at my uni, it gets easier and easier to find a parking space.  So many people who just stop turning up.  Whereas I've always been the opposite, arriving at my class way to early so that I have time to return library books, get coffee, find someone to sit with etc. etc. etc.  When it comes down to it, really committing yourself to a higher degree is all about time, and not wasting it.  And if you can't bring yourself to make time, asking yourself what that means.  You don't have to love every minute of it.  I know I don't.

Best of luck to you.

Don't forget to vote for me in the Best Blogs 2012 award.  Just click the button and follow the clicks to the page with T for The Incredible Rambling Elimy.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Please Vote for Me

If you have ever enjoyed this blog.

If you have ever read this blog and thought it wasn't all that lame.

If you have ever read this blog because we are friends and you felt obliged to.

If you have ever read this blog because you are my family, and therefore awesome.

If you have ever read this blog because you think that you and I are alike.

If you have ever read this blog and got a book recommendation or some advice.

If you have ever read this blog and realised Honours is hard but not scary.

If you have ever read this blog and felt hungry.  (Cupcakes.  Duh.)

Then please, pretty please, take five minutes out of your day to click the Vote for Me badge above my profile there in the right hand column and continue clicking NEXT until you reach the page with the T's- there you will find The Incredible Rambling Elimy.  Click the box next to it.  Continue clicking next until you reach the last page, and click Vote.

And I will love you forever.

xx Elimy xx

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Review: Picnic at Hanging Rock

I remember distinctly the first time I read Picnic at Hanging Rock. It was in year 10, Mrs. Griffiths' class.  In my mind, she is an amalgam of all my favourite teachers at once.  Each term we were required to read at least one book.  Romeo and Juliet.  Then something from a box of classics she had stored under her board- I chose Mansfield Park, my first Austen.  Some other book that didn't stay with me.  And in there, either second or third term, I don't remember- Picnic at Hanging Rock.  

Reading it that first time, I remember thinking that it was rather quaint and silly.

The year is 1900.  A group of girls set out from Appleyard College in Victoria to have a picnic at the Hanging Rock in Mount Macedon, accompanied by the lovely Mademoiselle du Poitiers and the acerbic Greta McCraw. Three senior girls, Irma Leopold (an heiress), Marion Quade (a mathematics whizz) and the ethereal Miranda go to measure the base of the rock, with detestable Edith Horton in tow.  But while Edith returns, hysterical, none of the other three come back, and it transpires that Miss McCraw is also missing.

Drawn into the search for the girls are the Hon. Michael Fitzhubert and Albert Crundall, his coachman.  Michael is drawn to the mystery by something he cannot explain, and transfixed by the image of lovely Miranda.   He goes to the rock to search for them...

Back then, I could not appreciate the subtle metaphors peppered throughout the novel- European watches being useless in the bush when they all stop; stockings and boots being removed and lost; the lasting image of the girl in white lost amongst the bushland trees.  It frustrated me far too much that the mystery was not solved. But as I read the novel a second, and now a third time, I have realised that the solution was never the point of the novel, although there was one written and removed by the publisher.  The point is the lines of fracture which radiate out from the incident, touching the lives of everyone who knew someone on that rock during that day.

Lindsay's characters are well drawn, if not a little derivative of stereotypes (Albert and Michael in particular).  Her depiction of the menacing Mrs. Appleyard with pompadour and cameo is reminiscent of the rock itself.

It is a story of bushland Australia, and of the incongruousness of European attempts to dominate it.  An unlimited number of possibilities to interpret this book exist and as a research student I am now learning to anticipate books such as this one with a childish glee.  This work of Australian Gothic is a compulsary read for any Australian Literature enthusiast, and (at the risk of sounding like a broken record), an interesting reading companion to Jasper Jones. 

I give this book five out of five missing corsets.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Happy Easter!

We had some beautiful weather here in Perth to celebrate!  

I hope you got lots of reading done, and lots of chocolate from the Easter Bunny.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Western Australian Writing Review: Bye, Beautiful by Julia Lawrinson

Sisters.  The relationship between them can be so... complicated.  I've often tried and failed to describe that mixture of love, hurt, jealousy and idolatry that accompanies having a sister.  But Julia Lawrinson has not failed.  Her book, Bye, Beautiful does this as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

Image Source

Sandy Lansing is the middle child.  Her older sister Marianne is the golden child- beautiful, trendy, popular and desirable.  Her younger brother Laurence can do no wrong.  Wedged between them, Sandy feels invisible.  When her police officer father moves to a small country town to be the new Sargeant, Sandy must start over.  But compared to her siblings Sandy does a rotten job of fitting in.  And then there is Billy- Sandy's first crush.  Of course, Billy is immediately attracted to Marianne, whose engagement to a boy in Perth seems to be of little consequence, much the same way that Billy's mixed blood doesn't bother Marianne the way it bothers everyone else...

The book is set in 1966, in a small country town.  Immediately to me this made me think of my favourite book ever, Craig Silvey's Jasper Jones.  There were other similarities.  A relationship between a white girl with a powerful father and a mixed race boy.  Small town bigotry.  A horrifying crime at the beginning of the novel (read it and see, because I'll never tell.)  But tonally, the two books are extremely different.  Jasper Jones is a novel which looks at the world with a bleak sense of humour, largely due to the cynical yet intelligent voice of the narrator Charlie.  But Bye, Beautiful is written in the third person.  It is usually focussed on Sandy, occasionally shifting to another character when it seems cogent to view Sandy from the outside.  At first this perspective is isolating.  Then I realised that this was the point.  Sandy's awkwardness and her despair are so potent that she is even excluded from the reader.  She seems to exist in a soundless bubble.  And I know I've certainly felt that way.

Plot-wise, this book could be said to be wise beyond its years.  Themes of sexuality, race and religion blend beautifully without being too explicit and the reader is allowed to make up their own mind nine times out of ten. Lawrinson creates a world where the sexuality which surrounds Marianne is palpable.  When Bill Read or Constable Bates look at Marianne, their eyes wandering, your skin crawls.  You read with open mouthed horror as the truth about Frank Lansing's violent control of his family is revealed layer by layer.

Minor characters like Peter, the fiance in Perth leave something to be desired.  He is as absent on the page as he is off, and his role in the plot has about the emotional impact of characters eating breakfast.

Read this book if you loved Jasper Jones or Lawrinson's earlier work.  (My favourite was Skating the Edge.)

I give this book four out of five mini skirts.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Diary of an Honours Student, Week 7

Today, I broke my bag.

This is probably why:

I had at least four more of those in my bag today.  Plus a travel coffee mug.  Plus a notebook.  Plus a pencil case.  Plus an elephant.  This photo was actually taken a few weeks ago and there has since been a new pile of books added which actually sits in front of this lot.

The strap on my bag completely split.  There was a red fibre in the centre of the strap that resembled a pipe cleaner.  Who knew?

I go to a chiropractor regularly, so I know how bad this must be for my back.  I don't LIKE walking around with most of my weight balanced on one hip and I don't like having to play tetris every hour to fit new things into my bag, so I should probably get more organised.  More about that in a minute.

There are two things I wanted to tell you all (that's right, all three of you :P) today.

The first is about how my topic has changed.  Do you remember this?  Well, since I wrote that, my topic has changed somewhat.  Topics do that.  Depending on the source material available to you etc etc, inevitably you find that your initial assumptions are slightly off, and you discover new threads of things that you would like to pursue.  So.  My new topic is: What is the significance of historical fiction to the Western Australian literary imagination.  Do with that what you will, just don't fight me about it coz I can be feisty.

The second is probably a little more fun. Or not, depending on how stressed you are.


1) Honours is a self directed learning project.  Your supervisor might tell you what you are expected to have done by a certain point but they will largely leave that sort of stuff up to you.  They most certainly will not tell you how many books you are supposed to have read by a certain point.  If you start to feel a little like you're behind (make a judgement call), then sit down and work out what point you believe you need to be up to.  Make a list of all the parts of your project.  Make a timeline.  Set a goal.  Making a list and dividing your project into chunks not only helps you progress, it helps you feel like you're making progress.

2) Cut out unnecessary activities.  No you may not pick sleeping or eating.  Maybe you don't watch the latest episode of New Girl on Sunday night.  Maybe you put off reading an unrelated book.  Maybe you make a raincheck on seeing your friends.  When you have caught up again, you will enjoy these things more because you will be able to focus.  Treat something you really enjoy as a reward and reschedule it for after.  

3) Schedule your time.  Don't procrastinate.  Know that you will have time to work on the things you need to each day, and when you have to work, be in class etc.  Do not underestimate the value of a diary.

4) Get some perspective.  Feel like you're behind?  Talk to other students about where they're at.  Remember, it's not a competition, but everyone is struggling just as much as you are.  Ask for tips and tricks, ask for feedback, ask for someone to listen.  And realise that you're doing okay.

5) Relax.  Stress doesn't help.  You can't force good writing and you can't make yourself understand something you're too tired or too upset to read.  Make sure you take long walks by the river, or bubble baths or have a glass of wine barefoot on the balcony.  If you feel good, so will your thesis.

I hope this helps.  I have to go and do step one now myself.

Before I go, just wanted to give a quick thanks to everyone who is reading this blog and supporting it.  I was really chuffed to receive a message the other day from an ex-teacher offering support in response to something he'd read here.  If you are reading this blog, just leave me a comment on this post to say hi, so I can know you're there.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Why The Hunger Games is More Academic Than It Seems: A Review of the First Two Books As Illuminated by Zygmunt Bauman's "Happiness in a Society of Individuals"

I made reference in an earlier blog post which I did about the first Hunger Games book to the fact that I like these books because of the comment that they make on the reality television phenomena.  This point was articulated particularly well by Mark Naglazas in his review of the film, which I have since seen.  At the time of writing that review, I was beginning to grasp an idea of how to interpret the books, the idea being that these books make some sort of comment on the way we live now while seemingly being completely disconnected with reality.  This is a feat which many books, particularly Young Adult books strive for and don't always achieve.  The reader is also an important part in this making of meaning, because while the writer may intend to say one thing, a reader is responsible for taking what they will out of it.  And I am a reader like everyone else.

So, on the one hand, you could say that in the first two Hunger Games books, a character named Katniss Everdeen is selected to participate in an annual event known as The Hunger Games in which she and 23 other "tributes" must fight to be the last competitor left alive.  The Hunger Games exist as an annual reminder of the Capitol's strength after an uprising that took place 74 years before.  Katniss wins, but defies the Capitol in allowing a second tribute from her district to win alongside her by faking love for him and devising a suicide pact.  In the second book, Katniss struggles to convince the Capitol that her love for Peeta was genuine and accidentally becomes a figurehead for a partisan movement.  As punishment, she is placed in The Games again as part of a competition between prior champions.

On the other hand, what we have is a demonstration of Zygmunt Bauman's theory (alongside others... I'm sure Foucaultian ideas are in there, because Foucault's ideas always come up.) of Happiness in a Society of Individuals.  This is a really fascinating article and I recommend Hunger Games fans try to read it if they can get their hands on it. 

Bauman says that reality television is presented as a simulation of real life- that is, the audience is supposed to believe that what they are seeing is exactly the same as what would happen were the cameras to stop rolling.  However, each person on the show is competing for 'survival'.  In Bauman's example of Big Brother, the competitors work to stay on the show, but in the Hunger Games this is taken to its logical extreme as competitors must physically kill one another to survive.  This exclusion principle works on the premise that "someone must be excluded each week: not because, by some curious coincidence, regularly, every week, one person shows themselves as being inadequate, but because it has been written into the rules of 'reality' as seen on TV." (Bauman, 21)  Each person competing, then, selfishly pursues their own interests alone.  They are rewarded with recognition.  The alternative to this is humiliation, defined by Bauman as being "brutally shown, by words, actions or events, that they cannot be what they think they are." (Bauman, 22)  The consequence of this is resentment.

And resentment is exactly what Katniss Everdeen experiences as she tours the districts in book 2 of the trilogy, somewhat enigmatically named Catching Fire for those who don't know what to expect.  As she tours the districts, she becomes aware of unrest.  The Capitol have humiliated the districts for 74 years and Katniss's actions have given rise to an opportunity to react.  

Another similarity is that the Capitol is a classic example of the pursuit of happiness in a society of individuals.  Their fashion choices and love of ridiculous and inhumane entertainment is illustrative of the one-upmanship which is so necessary for consumerist happiness.  "Consumption leafs not to surety and satiety but to escalating anxiety.  Enough can never be enough... In a world in which 'everyone' can afford a luxury car, those who really aim high' have no option but to go one better." (Bauman, 25). 

I think that it would be boring an unnecessary for me to talk more at length about how this article applies to the books, but I will say this- if you are searching for deeper meaning from your YA dystopian fiction, this is a great place to begin your search.