The Hunger Games is one of the more popular fiction novel series in recent memory. It took the world by storm when the first book, also titled The Hunger Games, hit stores in 2008. The author, Suzanne Collins, rounded out the trilogy with Catching Fire in 2009 and Mockingjay in 2010. Collins also added a prequel, of sorts, called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, in 2020. The Hunger Games represents the new genre of post-apocalyptic or dystopian books present nearly everywhere in the world’s culture. Below, you will find information regarding The Hunger Games’ setting, notable characters, notable “games” that occurred in the past, information on the author, the general plot, and how well the books were received.
The Hunger Games is set in an unspecified point in the future after many terrible world events have occurred. What these events are, are never explained in depth. The country of Panem, a post-apocalyptic society, set in what used to be North America. Twelve (formerly thirteen) districts and a capital city comprise the dystopian nation.
The Capitol is a place of wealth and opulence. None of its citizens want for food or luxury, and the city itself is incredibly technologically advanced. The districts are, however, largely in a state of poverty. The farther from the Capitol a district is, the deeper it is in poverty. The closest is District 1, and the most distant is District 12.
Each District has a specialty, a resource type it is responsible for providing. Below is a list of each District and what it produces:
District 1: This District is responsible for creating all of the luxury items the Capitol’s populace consumes. It is also the wealthiest District. People who live here live in relative comfort.
District 2: Another favored district, this place’s industry is masonry. It also creates weapons, trains, and produces the nation’s force of Peacekeepers.
District 3: This District’s industry is electronics and specialized mechanical products like cars and guns. Despite its low district number, it is not as wealthy as the other low-numbered districts.
District 4: Responsible for fishing and ocean products, the people of this District are well versed with the ocean, nets, and tridents. District 4 is also held in high favor with the Capitol.
District 5: This District is responsible for producing enough power for the rest of the country.
District 6: This District is responsible for producing transportation methods and machines. Not much else is known about this District.
District 7: This District produces lumber in vast quantities. Their populace is well versed with saws and axes. It is noted that their children begin work at a young age compared to other districts.
District 8: This District grows and manufactures textiles and products derived from them, like clothes. District 8 has an entire factory dedicated to producing Peacekeeper uniforms.
District 9: This District produces grain and not much else. Beyond this, nothing much else is known about this District.
District 10: This District produces livestock and products derived from them like meat. Not much else is known about this District.
District 11: This district industry is agriculture. They have vast orchards and fields of things like cotton. Despite producing so much food, this District is one of the poorest. All of the food produced is sent to the Capitol, leaving little to none for its workers. They are, ironically, almost universally malnourished and starving. District 11 has one of the highest populations of Peacekeepers.
District 12: This District produces coal. It is, along with District 11, tied for the most impoverished region of Panem. It is also home to the protagonist of the series, Katniss Everdeen.
District 13: Once upon a time, there were 13 districts. While it still existed, District 13 was purported to produce graphite. Its real industry was nuclear technology, including weapons of mass destruction. It was destroyed during a rebellion that occurred many years before the events of the story.
Katniss Everdeen: The protagonist and heroine of The Hunger Games. She grew up in District 12 and has a sister, Prim, and a mother, whose first name is unknown. Her father was killed in the mines, a common fate for those of District 12. Her whole life, she grew up hunting in the woods outside her home. She is a crack shot with a bow and well versed in stealth and tracking. Katniss also displays remarkable climbing abilities, supplemented by her small frame and physique.
During the first book, Katniss is malnourished, even for her small frame. This factor places her at a disadvantage compared to her competitors. It is only due to the skills she worked on all her life, and her determination, that she could survive the brutal games.
Katniss is very headstrong and independent. Much of this stems from her upbringing, her mother often having fits rendering her incapable of taking care of Katniss and Prim. Katniss also had to provide extra food for her family through hunting, due to District 12’s general state of poverty.
Peeta Mellark: A fellow tribute to Katniss and also from District 12, Peeta is the main male protagonist of the series. Peeta grew up a little more well-off than the other residents of District 12. Essentially, this means that he only starved occasionally, as opposed to most other people who were almost always starving. His family were bakers, and Peeta grew up frosting cakes and baking bread. He is a talented artist, his hands steady from years of carefully crafting designs on the different products his family produced.
Peeta is also quite strong, especially for someone born in District 12. He uses this to great effect during the games, using his strength to ward off those who harm him. Peeta is also talented with people. He has a way with words that Katniss does not. Peeta is also exceedingly kind and compassionate, especially when compared to Katniss’ brusque manner. He hesitates to use violence as a first resort, even during the games. Peeta is also Katniss’ primary love interest.
President Coriolanus Snow: President Snow is the tyrannical, despotic president of Panem. Before becoming president, Snow mentored a tribute of the 10th Hunger Games. This tribute ended up winning. He also instituted several reforms into how the games were run. One of the main changes he made was the implementation of the Victors’ Village.
President Snow is the main antagonist of The Hunger Games. He and Katniss come head to head, clashing ideologically and face-to-face many times throughout the series. President Snow is a conniving, evil man. He will do anything necessary to either hold on to his power or utterly destroy his opponent.
The Hunger Games were established as a method of reminding the populace of Panem that they will never be free of the Capitol’s rule. Each year, a male and female tribute from each District are randomly chosen to compete in a battle to the death. Some caveats in this process are that people can volunteer. For example, Katniss volunteers to fight in place of her sister, Prim, when Prim’s name was randomly selected. Tributes from Districts 1, 2, and 4 often volunteer as well. These tributes, called Careers, are often trained from birth to compete in the games. They are well versed in combat, survival, and first aid. The whole process for choosing tributes has been dubbed ‘The Reaping.’
Once chosen, all the tributes are transported to the Capitol. Here, they are introduced to the nation and receive training. Based on skills they demonstrate to judges, they are given a score to determine their threat rating, or, how likely they are to win the games. This score serves to tell sponsors whether a tribute is worth supporting. For an excessive amount of money, sponsors can gift a tribute with desperately needed supplies while they are in the games. Gaining sponsors is often the difference between life and death.
The games themselves are horrendous. The Capitol loves violence and drama. Thus, the game masters design an arena to be truly treacherous. They can send waves of fire, or poison, or rabid mutated animals in to hurt or kill the tributes. All tributes start at the Cornucopia, a central area where supplies like water bottles, swords, bows, camping gear, and more are located. They are all evenly spaced out in a circle and can only move when they are signaled. If they move before the signal, they will die. The games continue until only one tribute remains standing. The tribute is crowned the Victor for that year. Their District receives a lot of food, clothing, and medical supplies as a reward.
Suzanne Collins was born in August 1962, in Hartford, Connecticut. Before The Hunger Games, Collins wrote The Underland Chronicles, which saw a good amount of success. Her next series was The Hunger Games, a smashing hit that elevated Colins to celebrity level, almost overnight.
Some of Collins’ inspiration for the hunger games came from Greek mythology, specifically, the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. In the story, the island nation of Minos was forced to pay tribute every year to the Minotaur in the form of seven young men and seven young women. They would be put into the Labyrinth, a treacherous maze where the Minotaur dwelt. The Minotaur would hunt them down and eat them. Theseus, a mighty demigod, eventually slew the Minotaur, freeing Minos from its reign of terror.
Other inspiration stems from the Roman gladiatorial games. Like Rome, Panem had a tyrannical, despotic government that had the power and control to run something like the Colosseum. The Hunger Games were also a massive entertainment source, particularly for those in power, just like the gladiator games.
The Hunger Games’ overarching goal is to achieve freedom for Panem. The first book does not touch on this goal as much. Katniss volunteers in place of her sister to be a tribute in the 74th annual Hunger Games. The story shows her surmounting almost impossible odds. She must beat the Careers, who are older, healthier, bigger, and better trained than Katniss. The horrors of the arena are a huge hurdle. In the games, she is burned, cut, stung, and chased by mutated dogs. She also deals with death, up close and personal. She kills, and a girl she calls friend dies in her arms as well. Despite the odds, she wins her games and manages to convince the Capitol to make her a joint winner with Peeta.
The second and third books go deeper into the rebellion aspects of the plot. Katniss finds herself a symbol of the oppressed. Her actions in the first book inspired many people in the districts and the Capitol that Panem needs to change. Katniss eventually encounters the remnants of District 13, the supposed destroyed place of the nation. This remnant is a rebellion. A civil war begins. The resistance slowly slogs its way towards the Capitol, taking more and more districts. The plot ends with a desperate, pitched battle through the Capitol’s trapped streets, ending with Katniss striking a decisive blow to tyranny and freeing Panem from its cruel fate.
As previously stated, The Hunger Games was, and still is, a worldwide phenomenon. All of the books were New York Times bestsellers. The third book, Mockingjay, topped nearly all the categories of bestsellers as well.
Four movies were made of the trilogy; two for the first two books and two for the last book. These movies were a smash hit. One of the most significant factors of this success was that there was little to no derivation from the source material. The film told the story of The Hunger Games in a succinct, accurate manner.