What’s the Message in The Hunger Games?

I realize that everyone and their brother is posting about The Hunger Games right now, but I just wanted to say a few things…


First of all, this series sucked me right in. Collins’ writing is tight and moves right along. Katniss is a character that we immediately sympathize with. It’s not hard to visualize the world Collins describes, a post-Apocalyptic world where the few rule the many.

I loved that Katniss was protective and knew how to survive in the woods. But what I didn’t love was that every time Collins let us grow close to a character, she killed him/her off. 

Yes, there are times when many people die senseless deaths, like the Holocaust, Gulags or the Pol Pot massacres. We wonder at how these dictators take power.

Yet I would argue that even during these horrific times, with horrific atrocities, a surprising number of people SURVIVE. So I think Collins wound up over-killing.

And this over-kill (quite literally) serves to effectively communicate her worldview. Life can be senseless, and then you die.

Are there glimmers of hope? Barely. But Katniss’ mentor is drunk throughout all but the very tacked-on ending of the series. Are MG-ers supposed to look up to this guy?

Maybe the very palpable fear of death is what draws some to the series. But some of us aren’t going to feel that same fear of death (Christians), nor see the motivations to use others to get ahead as something necessary.

The funniest thing I ever saw was on FB, where you could sign up to get a Panem ID card. To which I say, what person in their right minds would want to PRETEND to live in such an abominable, fake place?

It’s like signing up for a Gulag, peeps!

I’m not saying I don’t see the draw. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the series. But I am saying that we need to read every book (especially ones we’re willing to put into our MG-ers or YAs hands!), keeping the Worldview of the author in mind.

Because all authors have a worldview, and it informs everything we do to our main characters. Even if we pretend that we don’t.

I’m not saying don’t read the books! But read them, and when you get to the end of the series, put the books away and think, “Hmmm…now how do I feel about that ending? What was that trying to say?”

It’s what we need to do with anything we watch or read. Otherwise, we’re just as bad as any district citizen who blindly believes the propaganda.

12 thoughts on “What’s the Message in The Hunger Games?

  1. I'm with you. We need to be aware of the author's worldview. Otherwise the stuff slips in unnoticed and we pick it up and start believing it. The pen, truly is more powerful than the sword.

  2. Despite all the up-roar, I haven't read these books and am not sure I will. Normally I would be drawn to this type of book so it's strange that I'm not dying to read these and watch the movie.

  3. TC, I would recommend reading them, as they are well-written on the whole, though I felt the last book didn't tie things up right. And Sarah, I truly wondered if Collins was a closet "emo" with all the morbidity (think that's the right term…not so sure on my teen jargon there). But what can I say, I can be quasi-morbid at times myself!

  4. I think this is a classic example of a book(s) that breaks the mold. Nice people die, bad guys seem to win, the message about the Panem society is a grim one that they let children fight their battles; though of course the good guy and gal do win in the end (of the first book).But there is a ton of good in this book: Love obviously, Katniss' willingness to sacrifice herself for her little sister, Pete's determination that even at the very end, Katniss should win, and take his life. Roo represents the young, innocent hope in all of us, and even the other District 11 opponent is willing to grant Katniss a pardon because of her loving, caring deeds.I admire the author's brave stance in killing characters we love in the name of the greater message. It wouldn't be anywhere as powerful without that. Innocent's die needlessly every day. We should remember and mourn them, like Katniss does Roo. I think this is a story of prevailing even against unassailable stacked odds.Finally, with respect, I don't buy the argument about not fearing death, Heather. No one wants to end their days in such horrific and unnatural circumstances, despite their faith.This is a great post though. Good for you.

  5. Thanks, Graeme, good points there! Yes, there are some sacrificial and sweet high points in the series. I know that in the best books, some characters die. I just thought it was a few too many people…kind of like a Thomas Hardy novel (and not one of his cheerier ones, like Far from the Madding Crowd). Just one of those things where you're a little or a lot depressed @ the end. Of course I don't want to end my days in a horrific way like some of those Hunger Games characters. But there are plenty of martyr stories where their pain is miraculously lessened toward the end (or even people in our own families that we've watched in the death process), since they see what's to come and it buoys them up. I do think at times like that, God steps in. Maybe not EVERY time, and I don't know why it's not every time, but I'm not God.Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think we can both agree that it's a series worth reading, which provokes some deeper thoughts on Collins' worldview. And I'm glad to hear that the movie is a good rendition of the book!

  6. This post is a great conversation starter about authors and the worldview they write from. I'm pretty darn certain that Suzanne Collins and I do not share the same worldview, however I would recommend this book for almost any middle grader, young adult, and adult. While Haymitch is a complete and utter mess, he's real. I know people like Haymitch in my own life (very sad, but true), and although I try to shelter my kids from people who aren't great role models, I can't keep my kids from experiencing that type of person. The key is to make sure they understand that writers aren't always going to share our worldview, but to keep the lines of discussion open for when we're faced with these things we might not agree with.I think what's bothering me the most since all the "hype" started about the movie, are the many people who have said things like, "OH, Hunger Games? No, I'm not reading those books. I just don't get into all that Twilight stuff." I find that so interesting that people will discount a set of books and label the books before they've read the first word.I think these posts, like this one, and like the article in Christianity Today are wonderful conversation starters. It helps us discern exactly how we feel about certain subjects. I like that we can discuss, disagree, agree, agree to disagree, etc. And I love it when we encourage our middle graders and high schoolers to do the same.Awesome post, Heather!! Thanks for linking to it from my blog.

  7. No problem, I love discussing this stuff, too, Heather! And I agree, I know there are real people like this. And it's true that Katniss didn't hold Haymitch in the highest regard, though she felt dependent on him at times (probably a realistic view). I do love book series that make you think.

  8. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for commenting on my blog…this is the wittier version of the same point I was making. I appreciate your take on it! What gets to me: people who start drawing analogies about how the "parachutes" are like the way God directs us. WHAT? LOL! Haymitch is no stand-in for God. He's a manipulative guy trying to satisfy a very depraved audience in order to keep his charges alive.That's the kind of stretched pseudo-religious point that gets people very confused about worldview.

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