Many people think The Hunger Games is a gruesome, violent, disturbing series that’s only about kids killing each other for sport. I know many people who either aren’t allowed or have no desire to read it, simply because its a YA dystopian book full of violence and “bad stuff.” However, I first read this series when I was 13, and I’ve come to believe it’s one of the most important and impactful stories of our generation. Here’s why.
Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12 of Panem, the oppressive and futuristic country that was once the United States of America. Every year, Panem hosts the annual Hunger Games: a fight to the death broadcasted live as a form of entertainment for all to see. Each of the 12 Districts must randomly select 2 contestants – one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 – to participate in the competition. The 24 teens are then thrown into an arena to kill each other until only one remains alive. The winner is then rewarded with food, clothing, and money – things that the majority of the country envies.
When Katniss Everdeen volunteers to participate in the games to save her sister, she must use the skills she has to survive. Can she manipulate, out-smart, and change not only the players in the game, but also the authorities controlling it? From beginning to end, this series focuses on power that leads to oppression, and oppression that leads to revolution. It’s eye-opening in regards to what could happen in the future of our world, and how scary power really is.
Power. That’s the key word here. When someone or something gains too much power, things begin to go terribly wrong. That’s exactly what happened to the country of Panem in ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy. When the book first opens, we are entering into the 74th Annual Hunger Games, which also marks the 74th year of the government’s ultimate control of the nation. The citizens in the Districts are poor, starving, and slaves to the government. The people of Panem have practically no freedom, and their only purpose in life is to fulfill and satisfy the needs of the Capitol – the largest and richest city in the country. The people in the Capitol live lavish and luxurious lives, and they have more than they could ever need or want. They eat only the finest food, wear only the best clothes, and sleep only in the most comfortable beds. They are completely blind to what’s happening in the Districts, and eagerly anticipate the Hunger Games each year. The Capitol people view the Hunger Games as simply a show – a spectacle put on for their ultimate enjoyment. But is that real purpose of the Hunger Games?
We learn throughout the series that there was once a District 13. Notice the past tense. Over 75 years ago, before the first Hunger Games, the Districts rebelled against the Capitol’s oppressive rule. As a result, the Capitol bombed and destroyed District 13, the leader of the rebellion, annihilating everyone and everything in it. The Capitol made an example of District 13, and sent an obvious message to the other Districts – if you continue to rebel, this will happen to you, too. The Capitol re-gained control over the Districts, and the Treaty of Treason was signed, instigating the annual Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games were put in place in order to instill fear into the citizens of Panem, and to keep them from uprising again. However, you may be wondering why the Capitol doesn’t just execute random people. Why do they go to all this fuss to put on the Hunger Games? Random executions would be a lot faster and much less trouble. The answer is hope. “Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous,” says President Snow. “A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.” That’s why the Hunger Games has a winner. Only one of the 24 teens will come out alive, and it gives the Districts just enough hope to keep going, but the fear is what keeps them in line.
So where am I going with this? Why is this such an important story? The Hunger Games is a warning. A warning of what could happen in the future if we don’t keep our eyes open to the world around us. We must make good decisions regarding the future of our country and our world. That can range from electing leaders into office, to simply talking to our children about current events. We need to think for ourselves, to make decisions based on our thoughts and opinions rather than someone else’s. We need to thank God every single day for the freedoms we have in this country – the freedom of speech, press, religion, and much more. So many opportunities are available to us because we have the freedom to chase our dreams and pursue our interests. We need to hold on to those freedoms, and we can’t let them be taken away. If our freedom is gradually imposed upon, little by little, year by year, we could soon be living in an oppressive society like Panem. Do we want that? Of course not! So we must make sure to hold on to our rights and freedoms as citizens of this great nation. That’s the real message of The Hunger Games – to guard our freedom. Because if that’s taken away, we lose everything.
Have you read The Hunger Games? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!