The future of the United States, according to Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games novel, is filled with bleak, rigid and never-ending misery. In other words Suzanne Collins picked a world in the future, formally North America but now called Panem that has many dystopian properties. Dystopia can be best defined as a society or world as a whole that is the complete opposite of a perfect world, which is a utopia. The distinctiveness of a dystopian world commonly include a strong central totalitarian government which has complete control over the people it rules lives, elite that are the minority of the society, huge long suffering and poverty of the rest of the population. Within the Hunger Games novel Panem is separated into thirteen districts along with the very wealthy Capitol. The closer a district is to the Capitol, starting chronologically with the first district, the more affluent the district. However, the furthest away from the Capitol a district is, which may include districts eight through thirteen, the poorer the people (Blasingame, James Review of The Hunger Games). What may arise concern for readers of this tale is that two young adults from each district, ages twelve through eighteen, are picked at random, which occurs at the reaping, to fight to the death. This event is the Hunger Games, of which was bestowed so generously on the people of Panem almost a century ago due to their ancestors’ rebellious spirits turning against the Capitol. What will also further indicate to the reader as to how the world of Panem is a dystopian world includes the fact that Panem has a Capitol of wealthy individuals whom have an abundance of resources. By disparity, the thirteen districts that represent a caste system where a increasing level of poverty occurs the further out the district is from the Capitol, the altitude of poverty elevates. What else makes Panem a dystopia include the Peace Keepers discipline the people of the districts with extreme force, very often resulting in death. With these facts in mind many people wonder why dystopian literature has become so fashionable. The main topic of this discussion is that this type of literature mainly attracts young adults and even adults, whom fear the state of the economy, student loans for when they cannot generate enough scholarships for college, the siege of environmental disasters and the tragedies within the on-going war in Iraq. The dystopia present in the Hunger Games evidently mirror our nation’s problems indirectly mainly through acts of rebellion with the characters Katniss, Gale and Peeta before and during the Hunger Games taking place.
One recognition as to why dystopian literature has become more important now is that detail that young adults are extremely worried about the state of the economy. The United States along with other countries such as Japan and Europe experienced a financial crisis around 2008 to the present. Many people lost successful businesses, mortgages and homes, employment and their life savings. People in families such as these turn to dystopian literature, like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, to reflect on what their social and financial situation is. More or less they hope to come to the realization that their situation could become as bad as the people of Panem, separated into districts and ruled by a totalitarian government. Author Suzanne Collins deciphers her inspiration to include the social, economic turmoil of Panem ion reflection to our nation’s own issues with the possibility that it can become poorer;
“Yes. The sociopolitical overtones of The Hunger Games were very intentionally created to characterize current and past world events, including the use of hunger as a weapon to control populations. Tyrannical governments have also used the techniques of geographical containment of certain populations, as well as the nearly complete elimination of the rights of an individual. In the book, the annual hunger Games themselves are a power tool used as reminder of who is in charge and what will happen to citizens who don’t capitulate”(Blasingame, James Interview with Suzanne Collins).
This portion of an interview with author Suzanne Collins establishes that her intention of creating the novel was to tie in current events and past events of this world by political and social means. She also infers that if not for the knowledge of current and past events being accessed many mistakes would continue to be made regarding the rights of an individual.
Dystopian literature in this day and age has become more popular than ever. However, even though it has existed for decades, the theme has become more frequent in today’s 21st century literature. One of the reasons as to why this has occurred includes the fact that students fear the loans they will have to take out and pay if they cannot generate enough scholarships for college. Millions of young adults worldwide seek to further their education beyond high school. By doing this they apply to colleges their senior year of high school in hopes to be accepted into such prestige allowing them to go forward in their career. What is stopping these young adults from doing so are the costs of college. Every year college tuition rises to often obscene amounts. The people who chose to take out loans risk paying off large amounts of interest along with the amount they borrowed what also happens is that these college seeking individuals cannot gather enough scholarships or the good grades to even apply for them. . While reading dystopian tales such as The Hunger Games, they hope to disbar thoughts their current issue for that of Katniss’ life. In other words an escape is needed in the psyche of the young adults reading dystopian tales.
Environmental disasters around the world have frequently crossed the minds of many young adults’ minds as they are seduced into pouring through the pages of The Hunger Games. Evidently, the recent environmental disasters that have impacted the world greatly include Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami and earthquakes of Japan and China. These natural disasters destroyed homes, lives, families and much more. Dystopian novels such as The Hunger Games give a firm reminder that a dystopian world purged by a government instead of natural disasters could also exist for people on earth. This fact may keep individuals mindful that the negatives of the world can come from people besides the earth the stand on.
One last reason as to why dystopian tales have become of great importance to our young adult readers of today includes the war in Iraq. The United States with their allies have been a a long suffering war with Iraq for more than a decade. Many lives have been lost in this war every single day since it has started the majority United States soldiers. Families have been broken up due to the fact that son and daughters come from war psychologically disabled with PSTD. PTSD is a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, of which is obtained by individuals who have faced extreme trauma, usually in combat. There is no cure for this disorder, but there are therapeutic techniques that are used to briefly remedy the symptoms. Readers of dystopian literature choose to read about situations in novels like Hunger Games that are slightly worse and more fantasy oriented in relation to what has gone on within the war. According to Laura Miller;
”The Hunger Games is not an argument. It operates like a fable or myth, a story in which outlandish and extravagant figures and events serve as conduits for universal experiences. Dystopian fiction may be the only genre written for children that’s routinely less didactic than its adult counterpart. It’s not about persuading the reader to stop doing something terrible from happening—it’s about what’s happening, right this minute, in the stormy psyche of the adolescent reader.”” (Miller, Laura Fresh Hell)
What this passage mostly infers is that Laura Miller sees dystopian novels as a whole, containing fantasy undertones pull the reader in because of what he or she is experiencing in the world at that moment. What can be further understood from this passage is that adolescents are likely to turn to novels as a means of escape, such as world issues as the war in Iraq.
In regards to the dystopian tones in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins mirroring our problems in the world indirectly include the crippling fear the mainly rebellious character Katniss Everdeen has. In one portion of the novel Katniss is explaining to her fellow tribute to the Hunger Games of district twelve, Peeta, of what she witnessed many years ago regarding the Avox waitress they came in contact with during their dinner earlier. An Avox is described as a traitor to the Capitol; the females have their tongues cut out whereas the males are pierced with a spear upon capture. Katniss starts off by explaining that she and her childhood friend Gale were out hunting in the forbidden area when a young male and female appeared running through the forest, with tattered clothes and obvious lack of sleep. Katniss further explains that she and Gale merely watched the two as they continued running until a hovercraft appeared out of nowhere. To Katniss and Gale’s terror a spear shoots out from the hovercraft piercing through the young man. Katniss and Gale continue to hide out of sight as net drops over the now screaming girl pulling her and the apparently dead male up to the hovercraft. As the girl is being pulled up to the hovercraft her and Katniss’ eyes connect with each other, one pair begging for help while the other lost in fear. Katniss confides in Peeta that she is ashamed of herself for not aiding the girl who must now serve guests of the Capitol during the Hunger Games for eternity, with the loss of her tongue (Collins 84). What can be inferred from this scene is that within the Hunger Games novel is that dystopia is within the world of Panem in which case the government that is supposed to look out for the best interests of its people, chose to take away the identity of “traitors”, by packaging them with one name; Avox. This shows that taking away an identity from uprisings as well as putting fear into those, such as Katniss, who want to help the people being punished.
One other example of how the world of Panem is a dystopian one includes the fact that Katniss’ rebellious spirit is shown, often pushing the limits of the Panem to a dangerous degree. One occurrence as to where this holds true occurs when Katniss is showing off her skills tot eh game keepers of the Hunger Games. When the game makers are not paying attention to her Katniss grows frustrated. So she decides to shoot an arrow through the apple that rests between the jaws of the roasted pig sitting in front of the game keepers. Upon doing so Katniss frightens the game keepers and then storms out of the room. When she reaches her own room realization dawns on Katniss of what she has just done;
““…What about my family?” I say. “Will they punish them?”. “I don’t think so. Wouldn’t make much sense. See, they’d have to reveal what happened in the Training Center for it to have any worthwhile effect on the population. People would need to know what you did. But they can’t since it’s secret, so it’d be a waste of effort,” says Haymitch. “More likely they’ll make you life hell in the arena…”” (pgs .106-107)
This passage in the novel details Katniss breaking down emotionally in fear at her actions. Katniss qualms that because she practically hit the game makers with her arrow trying to show off, as well as leaving before she was dismissed by them she would be sentenced to death. Haymitch, her mentor from district twelve, reassures Katniss that there isn’t anything worse that the game keepers could do to her because she is already in the Hunger Games fighting others to the death. What can be understood from this passage is that Katniss did not want to be seen as another “product” participating in the Hunger Games. Katniss felt her own identity was compromised, fading into the role of a tribute like the others.
One final example of how the characters of The Hunger Games have shown that they live in a dystopian world is the fact that Peeta Mallark rebels inwardly on the circumstances surrounding his involvement in the Hunger Games;
“”…I don’t know how to say it exactly. Only …I want to die as myself. Does that make sense?” he asks. I shake my head. How could he die as anyone but himself? “I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.”I bite my lip, feeling inferior. While I’ve been ruminating on the availability of trees, Peeta has been struggling with how to maintain his identity. His purity self” (pg. 141).
In this passage Peeta fears that the Hunger Games will strip him of his own identity. Evidently, the Hunger Games packages the tributes as a product that must viewed by everyone in the world. These products must be destroyed when the time comes for them to be destroyed. The sense of uniformity is what Peeta fears will further be implanted in him when the opportunity comes for him to kill another human being.
In finale, what can be designated from the position of the Capitol, the central totalitarian government of Panem is that with the Hunger Games they hope to dehumanize the general population. The Capitol believes that since the rebellion the people of Panem in the various districts, excluding the capitol and the first two districts, they are not human anyway. In hopes of further punishing the population, their children every year are taken to fight to the death, losing their identities forever publically. This novel’s dystopian theme mirrors the United State’s own problems in the fact that even though our world has war, Panem chooses to replace it with the Hunger Games. The differences between our war and the Hunger Games are very few however; it is very possible that the either country will give up promoting certain attributes in favor of mankind. Which means the future of the United States in the next century can very well resemble Panem while Panem goes back to what the United States was like previously. The only thing that we as Americans and people of the world could do is continue using our freedoms to our advantage in our economy, environmental disasters, student loans and the war.