In 2008, Suzanne Collins published her thought provoking, science fiction novel, The Hunger Games, which has now become a worldwide sensation. With the film adaption having premier stops all over the world, from London to Rome to Paris. However, is it becoming noticed for the wrong reasons? Are people missing the real importance and messages of these books? I think book critics would agree with me in the assumption that this trilogy is much more than our two “star crossed lovers” falling in love despite the challenges faced. These books contain an important warning for today’s society.
Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.
The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.
When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
Collins successfully mirrors her world of Panem, 100 years into our future, with our current society. The main connection between the two is the way that Collins presents to us the citizens of “The Capitol” and how they are perceived by readers. Being the richest citizens in Panem, they are shallow people who care only for themselves and give nothing to help the poorest of people living in the districts. Obsessing over how they look, what they are wearing, and, of course, reality television. Collins tells us:
“They do surgery in the Capitol, to make people appear younger and thinner. In District 12, looking old is something of an achievement since so many people die early. You see an elder person, you want to congratulate them on their longevity, ask the secret of survival. A plump person is envied because they aren’t scraping by like the majority of us. But here it is different. Wrinkles aren’t desirable. A round belly isn’t a sign of success.” – Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
These are all-too-similar traits found in our society, only on a slightly smaller scale. However, being set in 100 years into the future, who’s to say that this isn’t far from our reach? Collins uses literally imagery that appeals to the creativity of the reader and is able to create a distinct image of the people within the Capitol. She is clearly trying to take these same feelings and draws comparisons between them and the high-class politicians of today.
From the moment our protagonists Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark enter the Hunger Games, the whole of Panem becomes fixated on their love story, even right through to when they leave the arena. This is exactly the same as what our society has done. Fans have become obsessed with Katniss and Peeta’s romance and have spent hours debating over a love triangle that doesn’t exist.
Forgetting that the books are showing the horrors of the deaths of children as young as 12 years of age, our society have been asking for more romance rather than focusing on what really matters. As a result, we are actually turning out exactly like the Capitol. Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta Mellark, actually said in an interview that there isn’t a love triangle, because both his character and Gale both care for Katniss and there isn’t any rivalry. Collins is using the citizens who thrive on love in The Hunger Games to emphasize the the faults in today’s society.
The reactions of some fans of the film prove the timeliness of The Hunger Games‘ critique of our society. Moviegoers have expressed outrage that Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss, is “too big”and that Amandla Stenberg, who plays Rue, is “too black”. Some have even gone so far as to say that Rue’s blackness made her character less sympathetic and harder to relate to. Another example is that people have expressed that Hutcherson’s height it too short. Commenting on pictures and interviews, not about anything to do with the film or it’s success, but complaining about his height. Roy Munson commented on an interview on The Daily Times saying “How short is that kid? Is he like 5 foot?”
Do we need any more proof that Panem has arrived? That we exist in a country divided by arbitrary boundaries; where dissent is repressed and passivity rewarded; a country where violence is a tragedy only so long as the people who suffer it look like us and share our social markings?
Collins doesn’t only match our current society in today’s life; she goes even further back to show how it reflects our past as well. Echoing the ruthless entertainment of the Romanian Empire where gladiators were forced upon one another, The Hunger Games acts as a reminder of our past and also that we are capable of doing it again. Some teens find obvious links between The Hunger Games and events in the present or in history. A senior high school pupil has said she would compare it to the war of the flowers in Tenochtitlan at the time of the Aztecs. She said: “They would choose tributes from the different tribes to compete and it was all intended to make the rest of the tribes follow the Aztecs.”
The Hunger Games acts as a mirror of our current society – reflecting what our culture will be like and warns us of the situation we may find ourselves in 100 years from now if our media continues with difficulty to find the difference between entertaining television shows and reality.
Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy is a powerful collection of books, with a storyline that will have readers feeling desperate, yet hopeful at the same time. But I urge people – the next time you go to read one of these books, try and open your eyes to the message being displayed between the lines. People should wake up to the inevitable messages being screamed out from within. People of this generation hopefully will not accept and embrace the monster that society is slowly turning into. That is one thing we don’t want. That is the one thing Collins is warning us about.