I decided to write this article when my mother referred to The Hunger Games as a “series book”. The term is used by my family of voracious readers to describe a book with a plot that mainly revolves around running, fighting and kissing e.g The Twilight Saga. And I thought The Hunger Games shouldn’t be compared to such books. Technically it does have all the given components (running, fighting and kissing) but I feel there’s more to the trilogy than that; so here’s to The Hunger Games and why I think it shouldn’t fall under my family’s terrible category.
The basic plot of The Hunger Games is this: Panem — the future dystopian nation of North America, is divided into 12 districts and the Capitol. The people in these districts work to provide food and resources for the people in the Capitol to live in luxury. Additionally, every year two teenage tributes from each district are selected by lottery to participate in the Hunger Games where the 24 participants are forced to fight to death until only one survives. The games are broadcast throughout Panem and the citizens forced to watch.
If you have read The Hunger Games then you probably know that it is full of politics. There is politics in the fights, in the conversations and quite a bit even in the romance. That’s what I enjoyed in the trilogy, it took away the simple “this guy is good, that guy is bad” logic and brought in something more complicated.
Speaking of bad guys, the villain is well sketched out and I find that a plot with a good villain is bound to be an interesting one. A good example of this is Batman. When I was younger I used to think Batman comics were so awesome because they had batman in them, but after I read more comics and started paying attention to their plots, I found that what actually makes Batman comics awesome is Joker. Joker’s psychotic character makes the whole plot interesting, without him there would just be a millionaire dressed as a flying rodent (no disrespect intended). The reason I brought up Joker is because the stark contrast between him and Snow (the Hunger Games villain). Snow has reasons to justify his cruelty. Joker has no motive, in one of the comics he describes himself: “I’m like a dog chasing cars, if I ever caught one I’d have no idea what to do with it”. Joker’s evilness is untainted, it’s what makes him a good villain despite being “just a bad guy”.
Coming to Snow, Coriolanus Snow, a cunning old man who is the president of Panem. What I like is the way the author, Suzanne Collins, brings out Snow’s character. While reading the book I understood Snow’s frustration with the heroine and how she repeatedly refuses to die. Though Snow is blatantly cruel, putting kids in an arena to kill each other, he doesn’t come out as simply sadistic but someone who foresees trouble and rebellion and acts quickly to suppress it. Technically Snow could just put all the tributes in a room and blow it up, it would be simpler, so why create a massive arena filled with explosive traps, man-eating hounds and countless other dangers? To show his power. It’s the dark logic behind Snow’s cruelty. He broadcasts the games so that the citizens watch it and fear his power, simultaneously keeping the people of the Capitol entertained. It’s what he calls killing two birds with one stone. Of course this doesn’t work perfectly, there eventually being a rebellion; which brings us to the one who started it all, Katniss Everdeen.
Katniss Everdeen, who bravely volunteers to go to the Capitol and participate in the Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Prim, who was chosen. Throughout the book Katniss is portrayed as this brave girl who will do anything to survive, including switching boyfriends at momentary notice. This is where the politics comes in. She has to choose between two boys, Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne, but there’s more to it than that, considering that she also intends to stay alive. Which wouldn’t be possible if she stuck to one of them. Due to this, from an outsider’s point of view she seems to be forever leading both of them on.
Despite the extremely complicated romance going on, it’s not what rules the plot, there being a lot more to Katniss’s unusual character. One such example is while most of the tributes say “the buildings”, “the roads” and “the fountains” when asked what they like about the Capitol, Katniss says “the lamb stew”. What Suzanne Collins neatly brings out is the fascination the tributes have in the capitol, after living under thatched roofs their entire lives.
I repeatedly get asked who my favourite character is in The Hunger Games. Though I don’t get what it is with people and their favourite every things, I would probably settle for Haymitch (Katniss’s mentor). Despite being perpetually drunk, Haymitch is ceaselessly witty, even when his life is at stake; calling Katniss sweetheart after she tries to stab him. Haymitch’s character is undoubtedly the most bizarre and brings in some humour to the otherwise serious books.
I also wanted to make a point about the movies and how all the actors suited their respective roles like Jennifer Lawrence who played Katniss, Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne and last but not least Josh Hutcherson who generally hung around and looked constipated as Peeta Mellark.
The first book in The Hunger Games trilogy was written in 2008, before The Maze Runner, The Mortal Instruments, and Divergent. I think it started the “dystopic world” trend or at least contributed to it. The Hunger Games trilogy is fun, action packed and stupefyingly complicated… A good read.
This article is written by Ishaan Ramakrishnan, a 13-year old homeschooler who enjoys reading and writing, among other things.
It was first published on his blog: https://medium.com/@ishaanrk