The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is a well-known story about romance, revolution, and resilience. The books and movies follow Katniss Everdeen as she is thrown into a fight to the death against twenty-three other teenagers for the entertainment of the Capitol and her subsequent involvement in a revolution to overthrow the Capitol’s rule over the general population.
Recently, I decided to reread The Hunger Games to compare the book world to the real world.
The country Panem occupies a large part of former North America, the landform of which has been severely altered due to the rise of sea levels. Surrounding the Rocky Mountains are thirteen Districts which have been subjugated by the Capitol located within the mountains. The Capitol uses force via Peacekeepers (armoured soldiers similar to the Stormtroopers in Star Wars), to keep order and ensure that each District produces enough resources to meet the Capitol’s demand. Seventy-four years before the books begin, there was a revolution to overthrow the Capitol which ended in failure. Following the failed revolution, the thirteenth District was supposedly destroyed. At the same time, the governing body in the Capitol instituted the Hunger Games in order to pit the Districts against each other to ensure division and to instill enough fear to quell the thought of any further revolts. For a time, this method worked and peaceful submission was maintained.
In terms of technology, people, for the most part, have access to much of the same items we do. However, there are several instances where technology is more or sometimes less advanced than the world we know. In the Districts, people tend to live slightly more primitively due to their poverty. However, every household, no matter how rich or poor, has Capitol-issued televisions for the sole purpose of disseminating propaganda. In the Capitol, the majority of people tend to have the standard of living close to middle class Americans although there are citizens that live on the two extremes of being either extraordinarily rich or devastatingly poor.
For clothing and fashion, there is both similarity and stark contrast to Western civilization. In District 12, the poorest people who live in the Seam wear plain clothes that often are infused with coal dust while the richer merchants, whose clothes are also relatively simple, tend to be cleaner and have more variety. This is not unlike today. In contrast, among citizens of the Capitol, wild fashion, including “aesthetic” over-the-top body modifications, is common. The people dye their hair unnatural colors or wear wigs in order to stand out. Both men and women wear heavy, extravagant makeup. This is more dissimilar to today, where while some people dye their hair bright colors and men sometimes use makeup, most do not go to the extremes seen in the book.
The books focus mainly on the relationship between the government and its citizens, especially the citizens in the Districts. Both the Capitol overall and President Snow specifically subjugate the Districts. The annual Hunger Games are meant to remind the Districts of their failed revolt and the Capitol’s power over them. The level of control that the government has in the books is greater than that seen in the United States today, however, our government is taking more and more power over citizens. In some countries of the world, there have been governments that control or have controlled their citizens with methods similar to the Capitol. The examples that most closely match Panem are Communist dictatorships of the past and present, or even religious groups that are better termed cults.
Although the state of Panem seems a little absurd at the moment, the US government is gradually becoming increasingly controlling and oppressive. One cannot help but see some parallels between Panem and our own society. Perhaps it is not so far fetched to believe that our own society could one day dissolve into post apocalyptic chaos.
What comparisons or contrasts have you noticed between the real world and Panem? Let us know in the comments!