The Hunger Games is a young adult novel written by American television writer and novelist Suzanne Collins. It was first published on September 14, 2008, by Scholastic, in hardcover. It is written in the voice of sixteen-year-oldKatniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem where the countries of North Americaonce existed. The Capitol, a highly advanced metropolis, holds hegemony over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive.
The book has been released as a paperback and also as an audiobook and e-book. The Hunger Games had an initial print of 200,000 – twice doubled from the original 50,000. Since its initial release, the novel has been translated into 26 languages and rights of production have been sold in 38 countries. The book received mostly positive reviews from major reviewers and authors. The Hunger Games is the first novel in The Hunger Games trilogy, followed by Catching Fire, published on September 1, 2009, and Mockingjay, published on August 24, 2010.
A film adaptation, co-written and co-produced by Collins herself and directed by Gary Ross, was released worldwide on March 23, 2012. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, and Liam Hemsworth as Gale. It brought in $152.5 million (USD) on its opening weekend in North America.
Collins says that the inspiration to write The Hunger Games came from channel surfing on television. On one channel she observed people competing on a reality show and on another she saw footage of the invasion of Iraq. The two “began to blur in this very unsettling way” and the idea for the book was formed. The Greek myth of Theseus served as the basis for the story, with Collins describing Katniss as a futuristic Theseus, and that Roman gladiatorial games formed the framework. The sense of loss that Collins developed through her father’s service in the Vietnam War also affected the story, whose heroine lost her father at age eleven, five years before the story begins. Collins stated that the deaths of the young characters and other “dark passages” were the hardest parts of the book to write, but she had accepted she would be writing such scenes. She considered the moments where Katniss reflects on happier moments in her past to be the more enjoyable passages to write.Inspiration and origins
The Hunger Games takes place in a nation known as Panem after the destruction of North America by some unknown apocalyptic event. Panem consists of a wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts under the Capitol’s hegemony. District 12, where the book begins, is located in the coal-rich region that was formerly Appalachia.
As punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol in which a 13th district was destroyed, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, an event in which the participants (or “tributes”) must fight in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol, until only one remains. The story is narrated by 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for the 74th annual Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose. Also selected from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a baker’s son whom Katniss knows from school, and who once gave her bread when her family was starving.
Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol where their drunken mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, victor of the 50th Hunger Games, instructs them to watch and learn the talents of the other tributes. They are then publicly displayed to the Capitol audience in a televised session with interviewer Caesar Flickerman. During this time, Peeta reveals on-air his long-time unrequited love for Katniss. Katniss believes this to be a ploy to gain audience support for the Games, which can be crucial for survival, as audience members are encouraged to send gifts like food, medicine, and tools to favored tributes during the Games. The Games begin with 11 of the 24 tributes killed in the first day, while Katniss relies on her well-practiced hunting and outdoor skills to survive. As the games continue, the tribute death toll increases. A few days later, Katniss develops an alliance with Rue, a 12-year-old girl from the agricultural District 11 who reminds Katniss of her sister Prim. The alliance is short-lived: Rue is killed by another tribute. At Rue’s request Katniss sings to her, then spreads flowers over her body as a sign of respect—and of disgust towards the Capitol.
Supposedly due to Katniss and Peeta’s beloved image in the minds of the audience as “star-crossed lovers”, a rule change is announced midway through the Games, stating that two tributes from the same district can win the Hunger Games as a pair. Upon hearing this, Katniss searches for Peeta and eventually finds him wounded. As she nurses him back to health, she acts the part of a young girl falling in love to gain more favor with the audience and, consequently, gifts from her sponsors. When the couple is finally the last two tributes, the Gamemakers reverse the rule change in an attempt to force them into a dramatic finale, where one must kill the other to win. Katniss, knowing that the Gamemakers would rather have two victors than none, retrieves highly poisonous berries known as “nightlock” from her pouch and offers some to Peeta. Upon realizing that Katniss and Peeta intend to commit suicide, the Gamemakers announce that both will be the victors of the 74th Hunger Games.
Although she survives the ordeal in the arena and is treated to a hero’s welcome in the Capitol, Katniss is warned by Haymitch that she has now become a political target after defying her society’s authoritarian leaders so publicly. Afterwards, Peeta is heartbroken when he learns that Katniss’s actions in the arena were part of a calculated ploy to earn sympathy from the audience. However, Katniss is unsure of her own feelings, and realizes that she is dreading the moment when she and Peeta will go their separate ways.
In an interview with Collins, it was noted that the books “[tackle] issues like severe poverty, starvation, oppression, and the effects of war among others”. The book deals with the struggle for self-preservation that the people of Panem face in their districts and the Hunger Games in which they must participate. The starvation and need for resources that the citizens encounter both in and outside of the arena create an atmosphere of helplessness that the main characters try to overcome in their fight for survival. Katniss’s proficiency with the bow and arrow stems from her need to hunt in order to provide food for her family—this necessity results in the development of skills that are useful to her in the Games, and represents her rejection of the Capitol’s rules in the face of life-threatening situations.
The choices the characters make and the strategies they use are often morally complex. The tributes build a personality they want the audience to see throughout the Games. Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) names the major themes of The Hunger Games as “government control, ‘big brother’, and personal independence”. The Capitol makes watching the games required viewing. The theme of power and downfall, similar to that of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, was pointed out by Scholastic.
Donald Brake from The Washington Times, as well as Jessica Groover from the Independent Tribune, states that the story has Christian themes, such as that of self-sacrifice, which is found in Katniss’ substitution for her younger sister, analogous to the sacrifice of Jesus as a substitute for the atonement of sins. Brake, as well as another reviewer, Amy Simpson, both find that the story also revolves around the theme of hope, which is exemplified in the “incorruptible goodness of Katniss’ sister, Primrose.” She also states that Peeta Mellark is “a Christ figure” in the story. Similar to the events in Passion of Jesus, in the Games, Peeta is stabbed and left for dead after saving Katniss’ life—taking the wound that was initially meant for her—and is then buried in the ground and placed in a cave for three days before emerging with a new lease on life. Moreover, the Christian image of the Bread of Life is used throughout The Hunger Games; in the story Peeta shows up “bearing a warm loaf of bread,” and Katniss slowly comes “back to life.” A news video starring Jonathan Morris aired onFox News discussed the religious themes in the story further. In addition, many pastors have written Bible studies discussing the Christian allegories in the story.
- The Hunger Games: Review (cloudvibes.wordpress.com)
- The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins (literatureobsessed.wordpress.com)