In a future with unsettling parallels to our present, the nation of Panem consists of an all-powerful Capitol, surrounded by 12 oppressed Districts that provide all its needs. Just as the Romans gave their population “panem et circenses” —bread and circuses—to control them by keeping them entertained, so has the Capitol devised the Hunger Games, a survival contest on live TV in which teenagers fight to the death.
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games begins with 16-year-old Katniss and her friend Gale hunting in the woods around their impoverished District 12. When her younger sister Prim is chosen to be a “tribute” in the annual “reaping,” Katniss volunteers to go to the Games in her place, along with Peeta, the baker’s son. Once in the Games, Katniss must marshal all her skills to stay alive. In the end she outwits the Capitol by attempting a double suicide, which forces Capitol leaders to allow both her and Peeta to live.
The Hunger Games
1. Why are the “tributes” given stylists and dressed so elaborately for the opening ceremony? Does this remind you of ceremonies in our world?
2. When Peeta declares his love for Katniss, does he really mean it, or did Haymitch create the “star-crossed lovers” story for the show?
3. Peeta tells Katniss, “…I want to die as myself…I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.” What does this tell you about Peeta? Is he able to stay true to himself during the Games?
4. What skills help Katniss stay alive? Her knowledge of nature? Her trapping ability? What personality traits keep her going? Her intelligence? Her self-control?
5. Why do Katniss and Rue become partners? What does Katniss gain from this friendship? How does this partnership differ from the other groups?
6. In what ways do the Gamemakers control the “entertainment” value of the Games? How does it affect the tributes to know they are being manipulated to make the Games more exciting for sponsors and viewers?
7. When does Katniss first realize that Peeta really does care for her? When does she realize her own feelings for him? Did Haymitch plan all along to keep them alive by stressing the love story? Are they actually in love?
8. Discuss other cultures in history that have staged fights-to-the-death as entertainment. How are they similar to aspects of our popular culture today that are reflected in the story?
You can have interesting discussions comparing the themes in The Hunger Games to those in the following books.
Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic Press/Scholastic, 1988). About teenage soldiers in Vietnam.
Sunrise Over Fallujah, by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic Press/Scholastic, 2008). Young soldiers in Iraq face many dilemmas.
Feed, by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick, 2004). A “feed” is embedded in the brain of every citizen.
GemX, by Nicky Singer (Holiday House, 2008). A future society is divided into the “Enhanced” and the “Natural Born.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2007). Harry confronts the forces of good and evil.
King of the Middle March, by Kevin Crossley-Holland (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2004). A young man in the Crusades faces moral choices.
Private Peaceful, by Michael Morpurgo (Scholastic Press/Scholastic, 2003). Two brothers face harsh army discipline in World War I.
The Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse, 2005). In a future society, there is a compulsory operation at the age of 16 to create a uniform standard of “beauty.”
Unwind, by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster, 2007). In a future world, teens selected for “unwinding” have their body parts harvested.
Beyond the Myth: The Story of Joan of Arc, by Polly Schoyer Brooks (Sandpiper, 1999). A young girl becomes the symbol of a rebellion.
About the Author
Author Suzanne Collins remembers in third grade reading the story of Theseus, in which King Minos of Crete demanded that Athens periodically send seven boys and seven girls to be thrown in the Labyrinth and sacrificed to the Minotaur. “Even as a third grader,” she says, “I could appreciate the ruthlessness of this message. Mess with us and we’ll do something worse than kill you. We’ll kill your children.” Suzanne was also fascinated by gladiator movies. The idea for The Hunger Games came to Suzanne when she was channel surfing between reality TV shows and actual war coverage.
Suzanne Collins has had a prolific career writing for children’s television. She first made her mark in children’s literature with the New York Times bestselling series The Underland Chronicles. In The Hunger Games, Collins continues to explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly described the final book in the trilogy, Mockingjay, as “a beautifully orchestrated and intelligent novel that succeeds on every level.” Collins lives with her family in Connecticut.
The Hunger Games
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