My dear friend, Michelle Farley, told me that I must read The Hunger Games series. She assured me that I would plow through them all in no time. As per usual, she was right. I bought the trilogy and read all three books as one. It has been a long time since I have read something so engrossing and so addictive. I literally couldn’t put it down. It immediately became one of those–just one more chapter– books that keeps you up reading into the wee hours of the morning.
The Hunger Games is a young adult novel (the first of three), written by Suzanne Collins. The series is set in the future, in a dystopian society called Panem which is divided into 12 districts and controlled by a corrupt central Capital. Panem is what used to be known as North America. The Reaping is an annual event where each district provides two tributes by lottery–one girl and one boy, aged 12-18, to participate in the televised Hunger Games. The teenagers fight to the death in a survival game and in the end there can only be one victor…
The heroine, Katniss Everdine is 16, smart, strong and skilled. It is refreshing to see a young heroine whose top priority is not to find a boyfriend. Aside from the fast paced plot and vivid descriptions, there are much deeper themes that run throughout the novel including poverty, censorship, privacy, classism, violence, survival, leadership, alliances and corruption–to name only a few. These timeless themes harken back to some of themes explored in classics such as Brave New World, 1984, Animal Farm, Grapes of Wrath and Lord of the Flies. Many school districts are now including The Hunger Games as part of their reading curriculum. I can already imagine some really innovative comparative essays developing now.
The highly anticipated, star studded movie will be released March 23 which I am really excited about. That said, READ the book first. Michelle who recommended the book is on her second read in anticipation of the movie release.
May the odds be ever in your favour–Let The Hunger Games begin!
For your book club discussion:
1. How does Katniss feel about the country of Panem? Why does she need to make her face “an indifferent mask” and be careful what she says in public?
2. Describe the relationships of Katniss with Gale, with Prim, with her mother. How do those rela- tionships define her personality? Why does she say about Peeta, “I feel like I owe him something, and I hate owing people.” How does her early encounter with Peeta affect their relationship after they are chosen as tributes?
3. How does the fact that the tributes are always on camera affect their behavior from the time they are chosen? Does it make it easier or harder for them to accept their fate? How are the “career tributes” different from the others?
4. Why are the “tributes” given stylists and dressed so elaborately for the opening ceremony? Does this ceremony remind you of events in our world, either past or present? Compare those ceremonies in real life to the one in the story.
5. When Peeta declares his love for Katniss in the interview, does he really mean it or did Haymitch create the “star-crossed lovers” story? What does Haymitch mean when he says, “It’s all a big show. It’s all how you’re perceived.” Why do they need to impress sponsors and what are those sponsors looking for when they are watching the Games?
6. Before the Games start, Peeta tells Katniss, “ . . . I want to die as myself . . . I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.” What does this tell you about Peeta? What does he fear more than death? Is he able to stay true to himself during the Games?
7. Why does Katniss ignore Haymitch’s advice to head directly away from the Cornucopia? Did she do the right thing to fight for equipment? What are the most important skills she has for staying alive – her knowledge of nature? – her skill with bow and arrow? – her trapping ability? What qualities of her personality keep her going – her capacity for love? – her intelligence? – her self-control?
8. Why does Peeta join with the Career Tributes in the beginning of the Games? What does he hope to gain? Why do they accept him when they start hunting as a group? Why do groups form in the be- ginning when they know only one of them will be able to survive?
9. What makes Katniss and Rue trust each other to become partners? What does Katniss gain from this friendship besides companionship? Is Katniss and Rue’s partnership formed for different reasons than the other group’s?
10. Discuss the ways in which the Gamemakers control the environment and “entertainment” value of the Games. How does it affect the tributes to know they are being manipulated to make the Games more exciting for the gamblers and viewers? Does knowing that she is on live TV make Katniss be- have differently than she would otherwise?
11. When does Katniss first realize that Peeta does care for her and is trying to keep her alive? When does she realize her own feelings for him? Did Haymitch think all along that he could keep them both alive by stressing the love story? Are they actually in love?
12. What do you think is the cruelest part of the Hunger Games? What kind of people would devise this spectacle for the entertainment of their populace? Can you see parallels between these Games and the society that condones them, and other related events and cultures in the history of the world?
13. In 1848, Karl Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” Discuss this statement as it applies to the society and government of Panem. Do you believe there is any chance to eradicate class struggles in the future?
14. Reality TV has been a part of the entertainment world since the early days of television (with shows such as Candid Camera and the Miss America Pageant), but in the 21st century there has been a tremendous growth of competitive shows and survival shows. Discuss this phenomenon with respect to The Hunger Games. What other aspects of our popular culture do you see reflected in this story?