The deaths of Charles Dickens’s Little Nell and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Little Eva enabled us to binge on pity and purge our fears even as we revelled in our ability to empathize with victims small and meek. Suzanne Collins has complicated this tradition: Rue’s death, too, is a beautiful one, and the process of mourning her is staged, however briefly, with seductive aesthetic effects. But her murder is also a potent little Molotov cocktail, fuelling rebellion rather than funding redemption. It warns us against sentimentalizing the deaths of innocents while also reminding us of the catalytic power of empathy.
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