Hunger Games is an exciting and informative young adult story that is written by Suzanne Collins, a novelist and American television writer. The initial publishing of the book (hardcover) was done in 2008 by Scholastic Press. The story is written from the point of view of Katniss Everdeen; a 16-year old girl who resides within a post-apocalyptic North American version in the county of Panem (Collins 8). Each year, the Capitol, which is an extremely advanced metropolis, organizes The Hunger Games, which is an event involving the random selection of twenty four teenagers (twelve girls and twelve boys) between the ages of 12 and 18 from the oppressed twelve districts neighboring the Capitol. The chosen teenagers compete in a bloody fight-until-death battle till the final person is left. The event is broadcasted live on national television as a form of entertainment for the citizens of Capitol; an indication of the ultimate power of the Capitol’s totalitarian government.
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Throughout the novel, the author brings to focus several key issues such as politics, identity, power, poverty, oppression and celebrity among others, which touch not only on the risks of a dictatorial government, but also, the perils of residing in a culture that is celebrity-obsessed and reality shows form part of everyday entertainment. Katniss Everdeen is the protagonist in the story. She is an experienced hunter from District 12 who is exceptionally good with bows and arrows. Peeta Mellark is another character from District 12, who is soft-spoken young man who is obsessed with Katniss, and is talented in decorating cakes (Collins 28). Peeta and Katniss display a romantic relationship on camera in order to gain sponsors and win over the viewers who are watching at home. Even though, playing camera lovers proves an efficient and powerful strategy for gaining the people’s confidence and support, it is not easy to tell what is real and what is fake. This paper focuses on key symbols and themes in the Hunger Games.
Prior to leaving for the Games, Katniss is given a mockingjay pin by a friend for luck. All through the novel, the mockingjay pin remains a recurring symbol; a slap on the face to Capitol because it is the product of a mutation attempt that went awry (Collins 1). Every time Katniss wears the mockingjay, it acts as a reminder to the Capitol of its failed experiments. It is also a symbol of the failed revolution which caused the Capitol to launch the Hunger Games several years back.
A recurring theme in the novel is class and society; the “have nots” and the “haves”. There is a variation in the amount of wealth that each district participating in the Hunger Games has, with the Capitol, being the wealthiest district. The wealthy districts are able to prepare their participants well for the Games, and thus, stand a better chance of winning. District 12 (the district where Katniss hails from), on the other hand, is a poor coal mining area that has limited winning chance in the competition. While the rich districts view the competition as a way of gaining fame and glory, the poor ones see it as a punishment that they must endure; something that takes away their children.
The theme of power is also evident throughout the novel. The authoritarian Capital government holds a majority of the wealth of the county of Panem, and consequently, it holds the power to control all persons in every district across Panem. The annual event, The Hunger Games, is a crucial demonstration of the power that the Capitol government has over the people, considering that the event was designed as a warning to the population against rebellion. It is vital to mention that, in the event, the residents of Panem are turned into nothing more than pawns within a complex game of either life or death.
Because the last surviving teenage contestant becomes the winner of the game, there is a lot of violence and killing as every person fight to become the winner. Contestants are compelled to murder one teen from the districts where they come from, and several others from other districts (Collins 48). This game is a symbol of the Capitol’s totalitarian power i.e. the Capitol government is against any person who join forces to challenge it or rebel against it, and that is why it punishes them through killing them. In my opinion, rebellion does not justify the murdering of innocent teenagers. To prevent any possibilities among civilians to join forces to resist the government, Capitol came up with the event to increase division and fighting amongst citizens. The fact that the event is aired live on national television further reinforces the hatred amongst people from the various districts who murder each other.
It is vital to mention the ways in which the people oppose the power exhibited by the Capitol. Even though, these people have no money compared to that of the Capitol, they have other means of fighting back. For example, the instance when residents of District 12 salute Katniss, or when Katniss wraps the dead body of Rue in flowers (Collins 45). These are symbolic gestures that call attention to the reality that there are real human characters in the story, who are fed up with the ill treatment of the government, and are gradually becoming defiant. In general, The Hunger Games is an eye-opening and engaging book that I would not hesitate to recommend to persons with an interest in the American history.
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