The Hunger Games at a Glance


In Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, the Capitol forces each of Panem's 12 districts to choose two teenagers to participate in the Hunger Games, a gruesome, televised fight to the death. In the 12th district, Katniss Everdeen steps in for her little sister and enters the Games, where she is torn between her feelings for her hunting partner, Gale Hawthorne, and the district's other tribute, Peeta Mellark, even as she fights to stay alive. The Hunger Games will change Katniss' life forever, but her acts of humanity and defiance might just change the Games, too.

Written by: Suzanne Collins

Type of Work: novel

Genres: action; science fiction

First Published: 2008

Setting: Panem; post-apocalyptic world

Main Characters: Katniss Everdeen; Peeta Mellark; Gale Hawthorne; Prim; Haymitch Abernathy; Effie Trinket; Cinna; Rue

Major Thematic Topics: masks; deception; identity; manipulation; rebellion; reality versus the Games

Motifs: war

Major Symbols: mockingjay; the poisonous berries

Movie Versions: The Hunger Games (2012)

The three most important aspects of The Hunger Games:

  • The premise of The Hunger Games is heavily influenced by the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. To punish Athens for the death of a son, King Minos of Crete demanded a tribute of seven maidens and seven youths, drawn by lot, every nine years to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. Theseus volunteers to be a tribute and slay the beast. Katniss represents Theseus in a post-apocalyptic world.

  • The Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia called Panem. A dystopia is an imagined world that is far worse than our own, as opposed to a utopia, which is an ideal place or state. Other novels that take place in dystopian worlds include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984.

  • Before leaving for the Games, Katniss receives a mockingjay pin a friend for luck. The mockingjay is a recurring symbol throughout the novel. It is a slap in the face to the Capitol, since the mockingjay is the result of a muttation attempt gone awry.  By wearing this pin, Katniss reminds the Capitol of one of their failed experiments. The mockingjay also symbolizes the failed revolution that caused the Capitol to start the Hunger Games many years ago.