Suzanne Collins’, The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel in which the world is divided into twelve districts. Each year, two people from each district compete in a brutal game, meant to test physical and mental endurance - The Hunger Games - in which there can only be one victor and 23 losers who will perish in the process. The main characters, Katniss and Peeta, make history by sharing the title as victors of the Hunger Games.
This work is dystopian because the society is centered around a few elite individuals who soak up all the luxuries, while the rest of society is impoverished and suffering. Another reason why this work is dystopian is because of the conflicting ideas present in this novel. The setting of the novel is meant to be futuristic because of the significance of technology. The hunger games is a series of virtual games. The environment the players are in are manipulated with on a holographic screen by the few elite individuals. With this in mind, the citizens behave as hunter gatherers, a term synonymous during the Neanderthal period in history. With this technologically advanced society, the standard of living should be higher, but instead, the standard of living is atrocious, which is another example of how this society is dystopian. All of the individuals dress in very dainty and drab clothes, meant to symbolize poverty and lack of individuality while the select few elites wear beautiful bright and expensive clothes. This distinction is very important. The elite few are able to enjoy themselves while the rest of society crumbles. This is a very dystopian idea as well. This also draws a parallel to Communism. The leaders of Communism were living grand, while the citizens were suffering from famine. All of these instances serve as good comparisons for the Democratic society we live in today. People can complain about America, but it really is considered a utopia in the eyes of the immigrants who come here. In The Hunger Games, the citizens starve if they aren’t equipped enough to hunt and gather for themselves. People always live in fear for if they can’t provide for tomorrow. In America, food stamps are provided for those who can’t provide sustenance for themselves.
In addition to the clothes, the idea of the hunger games is very sadistic. In this way, humans are compared to ferocious beasts because they willingly destroy each other in the hopes of becoming victors and achieving fame. Suzanne Collins’ father was part of the navy and he witnessed the atrocities present in war. During The Hunger Games, all of the representatives of each of the districts are waging wars against each other in order to be the victor. This can be paralleled to atrocities during wartime. A perfect example of this would be the dropping of the atomic bombs during World War II. USA did whatever it took to win, despite the innocent civilians and the damage these bombs caused. Similar to The Hunger Games, the participants performed any atrocities need be in order to be the victors in The Hunger Games.
The themes present in this novel can be compared to the themes in “Harrison Bergeron” In this novel, the citizens are meant to live in a world under the intention that “ignorance is bliss” because they are only accustomed to this mundane and dreary lifestyle. This way, there won’t ever be any conflicts between anyone because nobody knows any better. The mental “weight” of the Hunger Games on the citizens in this society can be correlated to the physical weights the citizens in “Harrison Bergeron” bear. Two individuals from each district are selected randomly to participate in the Hunger Games. Everyone is bearing the possibility of being drafted. The citizens in “Harrison Bergeron” must wear handicaps, specific to each person, depending on their strengths. This is done so nobody outshines each other. This will prevent all issues from happening, in theory. Ignorance is also illustrated in “Harrison Bergeron”. Since everybody has specific handicaps, nobody is at a higher advantage and citizens don’t know what else is out in society. For example, the ballerinas in this short story wear masks and weights so nobody will be stronger than each other and no one will be more beautiful than one another. This way, nobody is aware of the words “stronger” or “beautiful” because they don’t exist.
The idea of rationing in The Hunger Games can be seen in another dystopian short story, “Welcome to the Monkey House”. In the latter short story, birth control pills are forced upon women to take in order to prevent over population. In The Hunger Games, all of the citizens are impoverished in one way or another. This is also done to prevent over population by the idea of “survival of the fittest”. The way this society is set up is meant to, in theory, benefit the society as a whole. However, by doing so, a dystopia is created in which citizens are constantly living in fear. The author is trying to show us that in trying to eliminate ideas that lead to discontent and potential war, human rights are eliminated as well and that in attempting to create a utopia, a dystopia is essentially the end result.
Another important theme that is present in The Hunger Games and in the episode, “15 million merits” from the Netflix series, “Black Mirror” is overcoming the system. In the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta are able to simultaneously overcome and not overcome the system. They change the course of history of the Hunger Games by both becoming the victors. However, they still partook in the Hunger Games and they were still responsible for the deaths of other players. Although they are both ardently opposed to these games, there was no way around it. This can be seen in “15 million merits” with the main character, Bing. Although he expresses himself vocally about the issues inherent in society, he can’t turn down the judges when they offer him the chance to have his own television show. Katniss, Peeta, and Bing are both stuck in the system.
The point of this work is to encourage the young crowd to be active in politics. This work is meant to show us the dangers inherent in a government that is non-Democratic. The people’s voices in the Hunger Games are irrelevant. Therefore, the people can be easily manipulated in order to please the select few leaders. In America, presidential candidates travel around and speak in order to let the public know about their aims for society. The Hunger Games is meant to show us the importance of democracy. We need to be attentive in politics and we need to make our voices heard because we mold society into what it is. Another important aspect of democracy that can be contrasted with The Hunger Games is the idea of “majority rules”. In this novel, a select number of elite individuals control the whole population. If the whole population would stand up and fight together, they could possibly overthrow the system. In a democracy, people’s voices are heard when it comes to controversial topics. The legalization of gay marriage is one example. After years of fighting, it was finally legalized. There is progress in society when the voices of the people can be heard. In The Hunger Games, progress is hindered because the people are always oppressed.
The author’s life is very important when evaluating this work. Suzanne Collins’ father was an Air Force officer. Her father liked to educate her about history and results of waging wars. In this novel, citizens fight against each other, but their fighting serves as entertainment for the other citizens who aren’t partaking in the Hunger Games. By equating the Hunger Games as a form of entertainment, the author is meant to show us the atrocities present in wars throughout the span of history.