Desire and wanting are human nature, and each individual’s existence has desires that are necessary for living; like hungers. In Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, each character represents a form of hunger that every person in modern society experiences. The novel depicts a dystopian world that rises from the devastation of contemporary society. Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist, considers herself a loner who cannot rely on anyone else for help. However, she learns to rely on the help of her friends and allies as she succumbs to her need for solidarity. Her allies assist her and the reader is able to relate to the real and necessary desires of each of the characters. Collins displays humanity’s need for freedom and companionship, as well as the potential for corruption in power, to reflect the forms of hunger everyone faces in the modern world.
One of the only people Katniss allows to help her is Gale, who after losing his father at thirteen wants nothing more than to escape the confines of his community; a desire for freedom that young readers can definitely relate to. Certainly in every society there is classism: a blatant disconnect from affluent and impoverished people, and this reality is one of which Gale is acutely aware. For instance, when Gale is faced with the relative safety of the Merchants children Katniss points out how “…you can see why someone like Madge… can set [Gale] off”; however, he recognizes that her wealth is “Just the way it is.” (12-13). Gale knows that because of his poverty he is at more of a risk of being chosen as a tribute than Madge is, and he resents her for it. Due to this disparity, Gale must sacrifice any chance at personal freedom to supply food for his loved ones after becoming the head of the house. Much like a single parent or a home in which both parents are absent, “Gale… has been either helping or single-handedly feeding a family… for several years…” (13). This emphasizes how Gale loses his childhood and safety to help his family survive, akin to many children who are the main providers in their household when they are the only reliable source of sustenance. Upon his father’s death, the constant strain and pressure of caring for a family of five causes Gale to propose the idea of running away in search of freedom. Despite the obvious consequences of leaving, he still expresses his inclination to “[r]un off” and “[l]ive in the woods”, he even goes as far as to say, “I might [have kids], if I didn’t live here” (9). Since the life Gale already leads is laced with labor and hardship, his dream of better living is strong, and millions of people today crave the same release from their unfortunate situations. For Gale, life is a constant struggle which mirrors the fight of common people in similarly overwhelming circumstances; many find themselves reflected in Gale’s hunger for freedom.
After becoming the head of her family, Katniss tends to bury her feelings below her survival instincts, and her emotional shortcomings illustrate the hunger for companionship that every person experiences. Trauma is a battle many people face, and for Katniss, it causes her to build walls that not even her mother can tear down. In fact, she resents her mother for distancing herself when it came time to support the family: “I’m trying to get past rejecting offers of help from her…” (15). Her mother may as well have been comatose, and Katniss develops a fear of a broken heart, and that the prospect of romantic love could hurt her just as much. However, when she loses her father, Katniss gains a friend in Gale. Upon meeting him, she is hesitant to let him in: “It took a long time for us to even become friends” (43) In spite of that, when she is saying her goodbyes, Katniss realizes how much she has needed him: “His body is so familiar to me… but this is the first time I really feel it…” (9, 39). This realization displays her deeply human need to rely on a friend for survival as well as affection. Up to the games, Katniss has been socially inept, but when she faces the death of her only friend and ally in the arena she has a revelation. After Rue dies, Katniss finally knows what Peeta means by being “more than just a piece in their games” and Gale’s “ravings against the Capitol” that are “no longer pointless.” (142, 236). The death of her friend brings out Katniss’ desire for justice – not only for Rue, but for all citizens of Panem who live under the tyranny of the Capitol. Throughout life people come and go; yet, to flourish all people must realize growth only happens in the companionship of others.
Success and superiority often land in the hands of the wrong people, and the Capitol’s abuse of power reflects the world’s own forms of vituperative authority. In many cases, people of power tend to show a blatant disregard for human rights. For instance, in Panem any family in a state of poverty can “opt to add [their] name more times in exchange for tesserae” (18). Basic rights such as food and freedom are used against districts, and they must give up their children to the Capitol’s desire for absolute power. Another way to assert their corrupted power is through the Hunger Games which are manipulated in the Capitol’s favour. In the arena, Gamemakers can insert pods like the firewall, or change the rules on a whim: “both tributes from the same district will be declared winners…” (244). When the game becomes boring, the Gamemakers release fabricated dangers to influence events or deliberately harm tributes, much like votes in modern corrupt societies are paid for, creating a conflict of interest. Despite having all the power, the Capitol greedily clings to the desire for more and will do anything to keep its power. Although the districts are relatively harmless, Katniss manages to outsmart the Capitol with their own tools, and Haymitch warns her that “the Capitol’s furious about you showing them up in the arena…” (356). Not only does she use the berries against the Capitol, but the cameras and flowers are too; similar to the current presidential election in America, one side is terrified of being beat at their own game. Continuing in the vein of mishandled power, the Capitol abuses their authority throughout the novel, which highlights how shameless higher powers can be and the lengths they will go to, perfectly showcasing the danger of one’s own hunger for power.
Throughout the novel, characters are portrayed like everyday people to depict real hungers such as the desire for liberty, amity, and superiority. Gale, Katniss, and the dreaded Capitol express needs that they either long for, or neglect to acknowledge. They resemble people of modern society who disregard their true wishes for the sake of societal expectation, or general denial of their circumstances. The result of suppression in both the fictional lives of these characters, and the very real existence of humanity, is a truly unhappy state of living. Collins proves the importance of admitting hunger through the story’s fictitious misery.
Collins, S. (2009). The Hunger Games. London: Scholastic.