Set in a dystopian future, we follow Katniss Everdeen who lives in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem in North America. The Capitol exercises political control over the rest of the natons districts in many ways, including the annual sporting events known as The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games are a sporting event created for the viewing pleasure of residents of the Capitol and to remind the people of the distracts of their place in the dystopian capitalist society. One boy and one girl are chosen from each of the 12 districts by lottery to enter the arena and compete in the televised battle to the death. If you are not a fan of spoilers, please look away now and buy your own copy of this incredible novel.
Our Protagonist, Katniss, is a very strong and resourceful character who is forced from the age of 12 to be the soul provider for her family after her fathers death in a mine explosion. She does this through illegally hunting outwith the boundaries of her district for food which she either keeps for her family or trades at a black market for other items her family may need such as her little sisters goat, or material for clothes. Throughout the book Katniss’ character does not fundamentally change but her circumstances do. All of her actions throughout the novel are to protect and support her mother and sister, including volunteering as tribute for The Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose.
We see throughout the novel the theme of inequality and capitalism. The disparity between rich and poor reveals itself in numerous ways throughout the novel. In theory the selection of tributes, known as The Reaping, is at random. In reality, the poor are more likely to be selected as tribute than those who are better off. In exchange for extra rations of food and oil children eligible for the Hunger Games can enter their names into the Reaping additional times, thus increasing their chances of being a tribute. Any wealthy children who do end up in the games are often likely to have had additional training or advantage.
The games themselves are reminiscent of Ancient Rome’s gladiatorial games, where soldiers and/or prisoners fought to the death as a spectator sport. What is also of note is the name of their nation, Panem, which is Latin for ‘bread’. This is a further link to Rome and the Caesars strategy of ‘Panem et circenses’ (Bread and Circus) which aimed to quell discontent by providing food and entertainment for citizens. The media coverage of the event brings the story back to the current day, likening it to reality television we see today. This parallel suggests that reality television, through not as barbaric as gladiatorial games, still offers real life entertainment and in doing so turns real people into commodities. A persons value is then determined by how much entertainment they provide and as such they lose their identity as people, as the tributes in The Hunger Games lose their innocence and childhood.
We at Air3 Bookclub thoroughly recommend you read Suzanne Collin’s trilogy, it is exciting, heart wrenching and exciting all at once. It will quickly become a favourite book with favourite characters who stay with you long after you read it.