The Hunger Games Themes and Analysis

As a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel, ‘The Hunger Games’ captures several intriguing themes including oppression and societal inequality.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has risen in popularity ever since its release in 2008. Part of the reason for its fame is the riveting themes that it captures, all of which are central to the post-apocalyptic and dystopian nature of the novel. Some of the themes that can be gleaned from the novel include the theme of oppression, inequality, appearances, and celebrity culture, as well as violence.

The Hunger Games Themes and Analysis


The Hunger Games Themes

Oppression and Inequality

The authorities in the Capitol maintain their positions of power through wealth, fear, and rivalry. All districts in the totalitarian nation of Panem are kept under varying degrees of poverty and are routinely pitted against each other in the form of the Hunger Games. The wealthier districts have a distinct advantage over the poorer ones in the Games. For instance, the tributes from Districts 1, 2, and 4 make it their mission to train specifically for the Games – and are even known as “Career tributes.”

The status quo is maintained by “Peacemakers,” who, hypocritically, ensure that the control remains in the hands of the capital by any means necessary, including violence. Those who rebel are either obliterated or silenced to become Avox, i.e., people who have had their tongues cut off and are now acting as servants at the Capitol.

The censorship of the media is another way to maintain control. The districts are not allowed to contact one another, and they have no access to information other than what is provided to them by the authorities. 

Appearances and Celebrity Culture

Appearances are extremely important in Panem. Those who live at the Capitol show off their wealth and power through their appearances. They wear gaudy clothes, ostentatious accessories, and bright colors to demonstrate their money, power, and influence at the Capitol.

Appearances are vital in the Hunger Games. To gain sponsors for life-saving gifts during the Games, each tribute must make himself/herself appealing to the public. Thus, the tributes are all provided with a bevy of stylists and advisors who dress them up in fashionable costumes and teach them the ways of the wealthy. The better the appearances of the tribute, the larger the chances of sponsors. This is similar to celebrity culture in real life – who need to keep up appearances for the sake of lucrative deals and sponsors. 

Katniss understands the importance of appearances and decides to play the part of a star-crossed lover for the cameras. Peeta complies, having always been perceptive about the significance of appearances and making lasting impressions. Although Peeta genuinely harbored feelings for Katniss, he decides to reveal his feelings at a strategic moment – only to gain sympathy and affection from the public.

Violence 

Violence is a recurring theme in The Hunger Games. The authorities of the Capitol are not averse to using violence to maintain the illusion of “peace” in the nation. The Peacemakers routinely punish those who rebel and do not hesitate to exert their power over the people from the 12 districts.

Moreover, the very notion of the Hunger Games is violent. Children are dehumanized from an extremely young age – and are taught to maim and kill other children to survive.

Analysis of Key Moments in The Hunger Games

  1. Katniss’s sister, Primrose Everdeen is picked as the female tribute from District 12 for the Hunger Games. 
  2. Katniss volunteers herself instead and is joined by the male tribute, Peeta Mellark as they head to the Capitol.
  3. Katniss and Peeta convince their drunk mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, to take his duties seriously.
  4. The duo wins the affections of the public during the opening ceremony, with the help of the flaming costumes designed by Cinna.
  5. Peeta reveals that he is in love with Katniss during the pre-Games interview.
  6. The Games begin, and Katniss flees the Cornucopia. She finds out that Peeta has teamed up with the “Career” tributes.
  7. An artificial fire is created to push Katniss towards the Careers. She hides from them in a tree.
  8. Katniss and Rue drop a nest of tracker jackers to escape from the Careers. Peeta comes back to help Katniss escape.
  9. Katniss and Rue blow up the supplies of the Career tributes. Rue is killed by another tribute.
  10. A rule change is announced, allowing two tributes from the same district to emerge as victors. Katniss and Peeta team up.
  11. The duo becomes romantically attached, and emerge as the two remaining survivors.
  12. Another rule change is announced, stating that there can only be one victor for the Games.
  13. Katniss and Peeta decide to kill themselves together when the Games are hurriedly ended and they both emerge victorious.
  14. Katniss recuperates for days at the Training Centre, after which she is informed by Haymitch that she’s in danger for her acts of rebellion.


Writing Style and Tone

The writing style employed by the author is simple and precise – easy for young adults to comprehend. The tone is blunt, dark, and often horrifying, reflecting the seriousness of the novel. The novel is written from the point of view of the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, who acts as an unreliable narrator.

I can’t win. Prim must know that in her heart. The competition will be far beyond my abilities. Kids from wealthier districts, where winning is a huge honor, who’ve been trained their whole lives for this.


Symbols, Motifs, and Allegory

Tesserae

Families are given tesserae (food rations) each year by the Capitol. This is one of the most important ways in which the Capitol maintains control over the districts. Families are also given extra tesserae for entering the names of their children more than once in the annual reaping for the Hunger Games – an act that increases their chances of being picked for the Hunger Games.

The Mockingjay Pin

The Mockingjay Pin symbolizes Katniss’s individuality and free spirit. The pin captures the Mockingjay bird, i.e., a hybrid between a Jabberjay (a bird that was genetically modified to act as spies for the government) and a Mockingbird. The symbol of the Mockingjay is used to represent rebellion and assertion of identity by several people, including Katniss, Madge, and Rue.

Entertainment and Reality Television

The novel showcases an extremely twisted form of mass entertainment – which comes in the form of suffering. Parallels can be drawn to the reality television of this world, where people are pitted against each other for the entertainment of viewers. Just like the people in reality television are required to appeal to the public to gain votes, the tributes in the Hunger Games are also required to appeal to gain sponsors. 

This kind of entertainment is voyeuristic, and the people from the Capitol revel in the violent nature of the Games. It is highly sadistic, and it does not matter whether the suffering is physical or psychological. For instance, there is a huge fascination behind the romance between Katniss and Peeta. The main appeal for this romance is the fact that it is doomed no matter what, because of the tragic ending that awaits the lovers.

The Hunger Games also resembles reality television in the fact that it is widely televised and constantly talked about in the media at Panem. It objectifies the tributes much like reality television objectifies contestants. 

FAQs

Is rebellion a theme in The Hunger Games?

Yes, rebellion is a theme in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. There are several instances in the novel when Katniss, and sometimes even Peeta, rebel against the oppressive Capitol. However, this theme is not as prevalent in the first novel as it is in the next two novels in the trilogy, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

What skill is Gale better at than Katniss?

Gale and Katniss are both highly skilled at survival. While Katniss is exceptionally skilled with a bow and arrow (routinely using it for hunting and killing animals), Gale is better at setting snares for prey.

How is Katniss a rebel?

Katniss’s rebellion starts from the very beginning when she volunteers herself as a tribute in the Hunger Games. Instead of willingly going through every oppressive act that the capital makes her do, she defies the authorities and rebels whenever she can. Her ultimate act of rebellion, however, is seen at the end of the novel when she decides to poison herself along with Peeta – to leave the Games without a victor.

What is Katniss’s sister’s full name?

Katniss’s sister’s full name in The Hunger Games is Primrose Everdeen. Her name is often shortened to Prim. She is a 12-year-old girl whose name is drawn at the reaping of the 74th edition of the Hunger Games. However, she is saved from participating in the game by her sister Katniss, who volunteers herself instead.

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.
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