The Hunger Games Historical Context

‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins is one of the most popular young adult novels in the contemporary period. It was published in 2008 to great critical acclaim.

The novel has been inspired by both popular cultures as well as ancient history. It reflects the harsh realities of war, autocratic rule, and social inequalities – some of which have been inspired by the author’s own life. 

The Hunger Games Historical Context

Publication History

Suzanne Collins closed a 6 figure deal for The Hunger Games series with Scholastic after writing the first novel. The Hunger Games was published in the United States on September 14, 2008, with an initial printing of 50,000 copies. This was a hardcover issue that was increased to 800,000 copies by February 2010. During the same year, the rights of the novel were sold in 38 territories across the world. 

The book was released in paperback in July 2010, and is the first in the Hunger Games series, with the sequels being Catching Fire and Mockingjay respectively. It has been released as an audiobook (in December 2008) and has been converted into a hugely successful film as well.

By 2020, the books in the trilogy had sold more than 100 million copies across the world, and had been translated into 54 languages.

Suzanne Collins Personal Context

Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games sometime after she began writing a series of books for children called The Underland Chronicles. She was flipping through the channels on her television and felt unsettled when the images from the coverage of the Afghanistan and Iraq war began to blend with a reality show. This is when she first had the idea of a televised battle royale to the death. 

Collins was also inspired by her father’s career in the Air Force, which gave her an insight into the impact of war as well as the disastrous effects of poverty and starvation. She has noted how it was especially difficult for her to write the dark passages, but that she enjoyed writing Katniss’s happy past. 

Collins has also had an active role in the film adaptation of the novel. She adapted The Hunger Games for film herself and wanted a slightly older actress to play the role of Katniss Everdeen. This is because she felt that the role called for “a certain maturity and power” which was found in the form of 20-year-old Jennifer Lawrence. 

In an interview with the Vice President of Scholastic, David Levithan, Suzanne Collins has mentioned that she wanted to find a project to continue her explorations of the “just-war” theory, which she had begun with The Underland Chronicles. She says,

In The Hunger Games Trilogy, the districts rebel against their own government because of its corruption. The citizens of the districts have no basic human rights, are treated as slave labor, and are subjected to the Hunger Games annually. I believe the majority of today’s audience would define that as grounds for revolution. They have just cause but the nature of the conflict raises a lot of questions. Do the districts have the authority to wage war? What is their chance of success? How does the re-emergence of District 13 alter the situation? When we enter the story, Panem is a powder keg and Katniss the spark.

Collins conducted extensive research on survival training and edible plants for The Hunger Games

Greek and Roman Influences 

Features of Greek and Roman mythology enter Suzanne Collins’ works in some form of the other, and they form the very foundation of The Hunger Games.

Collins admits that she was able to connect the idea behind the Hunger Games to the myth of Theseus instantly. 

The connection to the myth of Theseus happened immediately. As a young prince of Athens, he participated in a lottery that required seven girls and seven boys to be taken to Crete and thrown into a labyrinth to be destroyed by the Minotaur. In one version of the myth, this excessively cruel punishment resulted from the Athenians opposing Crete in a war. Sometimes the labyrinth’s a maze, sometimes it’s an arena.

Collins was further inspired by Mary Renault’s The King Must Die, which outlines the tale of Theseus. In this novel, the tributes from the tale are trained for the arena where they face a wild bull for the entertainment of the elite. The “show” ended only when the tributes were dead or the bull was exhausted.

Collins thus took the idea for the “arena” as well as the battle royale to the death from the Greek myth of Theseus. However, she modified the story to include the Roman gladiatorial games. As a child, she recalls how she was a big fan of the Spartacus movies, features of which can be seen prominently in The Hunger Games. Collins also drew inspiration from Plutarch’s Lives, more specifically, passages from “Life of Crassus.”

FAQs

Why did Peeta kill Katniss?

Peeta does not kill Katniss in The Hunger Games. Although it is announced that there can only be one victor in the end, Peeta and Katniss decide to consume poisonous diaries and commit suicide together – an act that is stopped by the Gamemakers. 

How many Hunger Games books are there?

There are three novels in The Hunger Games series. The first one, The Hunger Games, was released in 2008, while the next two, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, were released in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Is The Hunger Games based on a true story?

No, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is not based on a true story. It is a dystopian fiction that is set in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem. However, parallels can be drawn between The Hunger Games and Nazi Germany as well as fascist Italy for their totalitarian regimes.

Why should I read The Hunger Games book 1?

The Hunger Games book 1 sets the foundation for The Hunger Games series. It is thrilling and adventurous, capturing various mature themes deftly and adroitly. It also portrays the dangers of an all-powerful government, as well as the effects of a society that is ruled by inequality and injustice.

About Neesha Thunga K
Neesha graduated in 2020 with a degree in MA English. Before that, she has spent several years teaching English and writing for various organizations. As a lover of English literature, she truly believes that crafting stories through words is the greatest achievement of mankind. She is now pursuing her passion for literature as an Expert on the Book Analysis team.
Send this to a friend