The Hunger Games and Dystopian Fiction
Dystopian societies may be described as a society in which many aspects are unpleasant, commonly seen when a centralized government rules the country. Collins, the author of The Hunger Games Trilogy, attempts to create a dystopian society through her books in order to give the reader examples of true life examples of poor treatment of the citizens when a government is solely in control. In "Dystopia With A Difference," Henthorne states "By presenting Katniss' dystopia on a personal level rather than a political one, Collins is able to help the readers imagine what living in a radically degraded environment may be like" (Henthorne 112). The readers are informed of the cruelty that the people of Panem face through the life of Katniss Everdeen.
Similar to a totalitarian government, The Hunger Games trilogy is a great example in which the Capitol (government) is in complete control of the Districts, in an attempt to create a dystopia. The Capitol is a place where only individuals of the highest class reside, and they are provided with food, necessities, and all types material goods that are produced and imported from the Districts. The people in the Districts, especially District 12 which is Katniss' home, usually live a very poor lifestyle. Many of these people are starving and are in the Capitol's complete control, which is enforced by the Peacemakers. According to Henthorne, the districts are left to starve as a way to maintain control by the Capitol. Since food is so scarce in the Districts, the Capitol may use this as a means of control considering they are the ones who control food supplies.
Dystopian societies value stability above all else. This statement simply means that the people of this type society will often lose their rights and freedom due to ultimate control by the government. These individuals will also be expected to sacrifice for the government. For example, Katniss' father was killed in a mining accident, in which he was working long and arduous days to provide coal for the Capitol's use. The people of the Districts are not allowed to talk badly of the Capitol, and when the beginning talks of the revolution spouted the rebels had to make sure to be careful of when and where they had these conversation. If the Capitol found out what the rebels were planning, they would surely be captured and turned into Avox's, or even killed. Propaganda is a major way of justifying all in the name of stability, and it plays a large part in all three books, especially Mockingjay. The games play a major role in the media and are considered to be a part of every day life in Panem, in which the people in the Districts are forced to watch them each year. Once Katniss is in the games herself, she sees them as what they really are and goes from passive to active by controlling the narrative and rewriting it (Henthorne 113). We see this in both Hunger Games and Catching Fire when Katniss threatens to eat the berries, as well as when she uses the arrow to destroy the arena at the Quarter Quell. This may be considered an act of defiance and may lead to a revolution due to its broadcast on live television throughout Panem.
Reading is strongly looked down upon and forbidden in dystopian societies. Dystopians HATE reading, especially fictional stories, because reading evokes imagination, questioning and emotions. Of course a totalitarian government would not want their citizens getting ideas to rebel from a book. Citizens of a dystopia are taught strictly what the government plans to teach them, and reading would only give them new hope and ideas. The Capitol would certainly not want the citizens of Panem to get any ideas of a revolution, which is why the people in the Districts go to school to learn specific jobs based on which District they live in. They are also reminded of why the games exist, which is to prove that nobody can rebel against the Capitol.
Dystopian societies serve the interest of a particular group, and in The Hunger Games, that group would clearly be the Capitol. The Capitol receives all of their food and material good from the Districts, while the people in the Districts are starving and barely have anything to live off of. Clearly these people do not agree with the type of society they are living in and would ultimately like to revolt against the Capitol, which is the main plot of Mockingjay. The people in the Capitol who reap the benefits of the poor citizens' hard work in the districts do not even realize what life is like for people without these benefits. They have no idea what it is like to live in the districts and be deprived of food, live in tiny old homes, and spend all day working to provide for the citizens of the Capitol. Henthorne makes a remarkable point that "in order for some to live in luxury, others have to suffer" (Henthorne 118).
One may notice that The Hunger Games reflects contemporary cultural issues such as material excess of goods in high class societies, class disparity and the role of mass media in manipulating the citizens of a society. In society today all of these things exist and affect people in many different ways. Henthorne takes a different approach in his belief that District 13 may actually be a more frightening dystopia than Panem, and it seems to strongly represent what happened in the United States following the September 11th attacks. Certain rights such as habeas corpus were ignored, people were tortured in order to gain information and authorized bombings killed innocent civilians. Some may also say that this comparison may also be applied to the Boston Marathon bombing in which people's houses were searched without warrants, in search of the men who were behind the bombing. Also, in The Hunger Games the citizens are often desensitized due to the violence of the games which is shown on live television. Young children are getting slaughtered and killed, and the people in the Capitol enjoy watching these terrible acts without realizing how violent they actually are. Violence becomes part of the lifestyle in Panem, especially in the Districts where people get murdered or torture for breaking simple rules.
Finally, the use of propaganda in order to manipulate the citizens of Panem plays a major role in The Hunger Games trilogy. In Mockingjay Collins uses propaganda as one of the most powerful tactics for beginning and maintaining a revolution among the people of the Districts. Katniss is seen as the "Mockingjay" and the leader of the rebellion as she is shown on almost every piece that is created. Beetee uses his technological skills to hack into the main system and override the messages from the Captiol and replace them with the pieces created by District 13 which advertise rebellion. The media seems to be the main trigger of the Districts all coming together to take action against the Capitol and its unfair and cruel treatment of the people of Panem. Henthorne describes how Collins believes that the problem with media taking over our lives is that the people become viewers instead of taking action for themselves. This may be true because everyone expects other people to take action, and nobody ultimately steps up to be a leader. In Catching Fire Katniss realizes that she was chosen by the people to be the leader of the rebellion and that she has a huge responsibility on her shoulders; she is the ultimate figure of the rebellion.