Society is never portrayed well in literature. From Dickens to Oscar Wilde to today’s more recent authors such as Ian McEwan, society is the cause of all sorts of problems. However, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games series shows a much more intense take on the future society of the decimated leftovers of America, now called the country of Panem. At first, I was reluctant to read Ms. Collins’s novels, unsure if I could face the harsh and grim future of her post-apocalyptic world. The idea of the Hunger Games itself repulsed me, yet I couldn’t put it down. The stories behind the Hunger Games were so enticing, I kept reading to know the stories of the revolution (known in the story as “the Dark Days”). The protagonist, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen, however, was the most intriguing element of the entire series. Her stubborn nature, her dependency only on herself and her best friend Gale, and her love for her little sister endeared her to me.
The Bare Bones:
In a country of constant terror, the ruling Capitol forces each District (12 in all; District 13 is all but nonexistent) to contribute two contestants for the Hunger Games – a girl and a boy, between the ages of 12-18. These contestants, called tributes, are shipped to the Capitol to be trained and released into the arena to fight for their lives. In District 12, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister, Prim’s, place as tribute. Now all she has to do is kill the 23 other tributes to return home alive.
- Man vs Man – On the surface, this novel is full of man vs man. The Capitol ruling over the Districts, the Peacekeepers (Panem’s national police) versus the people, the tributes against each other, especially the Career tributes against those from lesser districts, and Katniss against her mother. Man versus man is one of the most prominent themes in the novel.
- Man vs Nature – Katniss is not unfamiliar with nature – in fact, she spent most of her life running around the wild forest that lies next to the Seam, her home region of District 12. However, the arena in which the Hunger Games take place is not exactly the nature Katniss knows. Poisonous bees, dangerous and quick wildfires are among the dangers Katniss and the other tributes have to face.
- Man vs Himself – Katniss’s biggest enemy is herself. Well, okay, maybe not her biggest, but the war within herself does present a lot of problems. Katniss can’t forgive her mother. When her father died, her mother withdrew into herself and into her grief, letting Katniss and her little sister, Prim, to find their own way through their own sadness. During their goodbye session before Katniss is shipped to the Capitol, she and her mother have an argument that leaves Katniss sad and sets the mood for the trip. Katniss also has to deal with her instinctive distrust of people. It continually hinders her throughout the novel.
- And finally, society! Society is shown in two different ways in the novel – how District 12 and its people are portrayed, and then how the world of the Capitol runs. Thinking on this very topic brought up a few questions:
- Why do the districts allow their children to essentially be hauled off and slaughtered, all in the name of ‘fun’? (hence the use of “Hunger Games“)
- Why does the Capitol see this as entertainment? Surely a society as progressive and advanced as this wouldn’t allow such a tragedy to occur annually? Why do they enjoy such barbaric entertainment?
- Within Katniss’s own district, there is a line between the ruling class and the lower class; yet, when faced with the Capitol or Peacekeepers, the line becomes a little more blurred, and the district ruling class blends in with the lower class. Is this a parody of society today? Or a warning of what we might become?
- Mockingjay: a creation of the Capitol’s comes back to haunt them. Foreshadowing?
- President Snow: snow = white –> white = innocence –> but President Snow does not = innocence.
- Why does Katniss’s mother and father remain nameless?
- Cinna: why does he pick District 12? He obviously has the skills to choose any district he chooses.
- The fashions in the Capitol only serve to set the ruling class farther above those living in the Districts – the ‘lower’ class, if you will.