Poverty, or extreme deficiency in normal levels of goods or resources is a common issue within the world of the Hunger Games and the districts of Panem. The problem is never more apparent then it is for the people living within District 12 where Katniss makes mention of the respect those who survive to old age are given. Because of the prominence of poverty within District 12, many of the potential tributes agree to receive tesserae, increasing their odds to be selected for the Hunger Games for meager amounts of oil and grain.
Similar Themes: Economic Hardship
Much like poverty, starvation is among the greatest problems plaguing the citizens of Panem, especially in District 12 where “you can starve to death in safety.” Due to the lack of proper food supplies given to the citizens, young boys and girls often receive tesserae in order to feed their families for a short period of time. For some, the tesserae may not have even been enough to live on. Katniss Everdeen and Gale Hawthorne, and a good number of the citizens in District 12 relied on their hunting to keep themselves fed. Despite this, starvation remained the greatest reason of death in District 12 and most of Panem.
Similar Themes: Extreme Deprivation
It is apparent quite early within the Hunger Games that the Capitol restricted the permissions and abilities of its citizens, going as far as to institute the Hunger Games as a way to keep their power over the other districts. The Capitol goes as far as forcing its citizens to watch the Hunger Games on giant televisions around the districts. Peacekeepers as they are ironically named are assigned around Panem, enforcing their cruel laws and restrictions. Public beatings are a common sight throughout Panem for those brave enough to question these laws.
Similar Themes: Oppression, Big Brother, Power
Effects of War
The country of Panem came into being after natural disasters destroyed much of the landmass it calls home. After the districts of Panem rose against the Capitol unsuccessfully they were punished with the Hunger Games. Forced to battle to the death, the mental burdens acquired by the districts and tributes show no limits. War in Panem, whether it be actual war or brutal psychological stress, has caused the poor standard of living and the deterioration of previously respected individuals. A prime example of such deterioration being former Hunger Games winner Haymitch Abernathy who had turned to drinking to drown the memories.
Similar Themes: War
The Hunger Games often forces a once kind individual to drastically evolve in a relentless murderer in order to survive. Refusing these temptations is a scary alternative, and one that may ultimately cost a tribute their life. The idea of remaining true to oneself is an idea first presented by Peeta Mellark who made mention of not wanting to die as anyone besides himself within the Games. What he meant is that he didn’t want to become the aforementioned relentless murderer, that he would rather die true to himself rather than survive a different person. It’s a noble wish in an otherwise un-noble world.
Similar Themes: Self-Preservation, Personal Independence, Identity
Real or not real, love is very prominent within the Hunger Games. Love has a strong effect on people, and it is no different here. Katniss Everdeen is forced to illegally hunt in order to feed and protect her family after the death of her father, a death that shatters the soul of her mother. Later we are introduced to Peeta Mellark, who unbeknownst to Katniss is in love with her. The resulting ‘star-crossed lovers’ facade ultimately plays a major role with the two winning the Games. The idea of love may be elusive to some, but within the Hunger Games you would be hard-pressed to find a more important theme.
Similar Themes: Community, Family
The willingness to lose everything is often considered an heroic trait, rightfully so. Putting the needs of yourself on the back-burner is rare within Panem, and a way of thinking that could kill you. Katniss Everdeen is often sacrificing her own protection and life for those she loves and holds dear. Her desire to protect others started well before she volunteered in her sister’s place within the games, way back when she knowingly hunted outside the district 12 walls, a crime which could have gotten her publicly beaten on a daily basis. Her willingness to sacrifice herself comes to fruition again towards the end of the story when she is more willing to let herself die than kill the person would do the very same for her.
Similar Themes: Heroism
If you were to pick the main theme of the Hunger Games series, the ability and desire to survive would rightfully come first and foremost. They are stories of survival, physically and mentally. Due to the poverty and starvation issues within Panem, survival is no sure thing. More apparent is the obvious fight for one’s life within the actual Hunger Games where teenagers literally must kill to simply preserve their own lives for one more night. For some free-thinking tributes, survival also includes keeping yourself in the face of utmost fear and danger. Being able to survive, something that should be a given to anyone, is often a scare commodity within Panem.
Making the way one looks as a top priority the way the citizens living within the Capitol do is a superficial way of living. Possibly more important than an entertaining Hunger Games, is the latest fashion within Panem, no matter how crazy or absurd they may be. Before the Games even begin, the tributes are assigned to a unique team of makeover specialists who assure they will be beautiful beyond recognition if necessary. Effie Trinket, the official escort for district 12 is often spotted wearing larger than life, eccentrically colored clothing and wigs. Even so, there are much worse games to play than fashion roulette.
Similar Themes: Identity
Rebellion, or defying the socially accepted normalities plays a very important role in the plot of the Hunger Games. Early on we learn about the initial rebellion which ultimately led to the creation of the Hunger Games as a punishment. Unknown to Katniss Everdeen, she quietly defies the Capitol multiple times throughout the story, beginning as early as the first few pages where she begins to hunt outside the fences of district 12. In addition to wearing her mockingjay pin, Katniss rebels against the cruel Capitol with the way she respects Rue after her death, and later by her plan to consume the Nightlock berries. It may be more of an undertone, but it is fair to say that rebellion is the main contributor to the current way of life within Panem.
Similar Themes: War
The Capitol often puts a quick end to ideas and actions they oppose. Katniss notices during the after-Games segment while they watch highlights of the Hunger Games that the Capitol purposely left out her decorating Rue’s body before it was retrieved. Showing this would have been a bonding moment for the district’s, something the Capitol could not allow in order to continuously cease full control. The districts are regularly denied information from other districts in an effort to keep them separate. The time citizens are allowed to speak to one another about their districts are within the Games when such stories don’t really matter. Even then, Katniss assumes these conversations are private between each other, as the Capitol would prevent this information from being heard throughout the entire nation of Panem.
Similar Themes: Big Brother, Government Control
Katniss routinely masks her own emotions in an attempt to remain calm and strong in the face of uncertainty and danger. Intentional or not, Katniss is perceived as quite the stoic, which ultimately end up being one of her greatest strengths as she is often able to survive and live in situations that would prove difficult to others. Throughout the course of the story, Katniss does eventually become more in tune with herself, but after years of having to be the sole provider for a family of five (if you include Lady and Buttercup as mouths to feed; Katniss does), her own emotions are often put on the back-shelf. A good example of this being her consciously trying to remain emotionless during the chariot rides and pre-Games interview.
Tragedy and Loss
Tragedy and loss within Panem is quite common. The first tragedy we learn about is the mine explosion that killed Katniss’ father and countless others. In district 12, citizens are known to perish from malnutrition quite regularly. Tragedy in a greater sense of the word occurs very frequently within the Hunger Games themselves with the passing of each tribute. Katniss is forced to deal with loss throughout the story quite often, most noticeably with the way she handled Rue’s death and the subsequent tribute she pays her. Tragedy, as bad as it is acts a true guiding force, driving the focus of the tributes to survive. The loss of life puts into perspective the real value of your own, which is something most of the tributes don’t take lightly.
Similar Themes: Death