The Hunger Games was written by Suzanne Collins, who has written many children's books over the past two decades. This series, however, is a departure from her regular children's writings and explores some themes that are not just thought provoking for teenagers but also for an adult audience as well.
I was first introduced to The Hunger Games when I was given the book for my birthday. Once starting the book I became completely absorbed by the story and then quickly read the other two books.
The story is set in future America which is now called Panem. The world had been all but destroyed by nuclear war and Panem was now a dictatorship, divided into 12 districts ruled by The Capitol. The dictator is President Snow. In Panem's recent history a rebellion had taken place as the districts rose up against the Capitol. The districts lost and, as a constant reminder of the price of rebellion, The Hunger Games were introduced. Every year two tributes aged 12 to 18 were chosen to represent each district in a fight to the death. The one who survived was crowned “The Victor” and the district the Victor was from was awarded certain privileges.
Suzanne Collins' Catholic faith comes through clearly in the story lines.
Firstly, it's refreshing to read The Hunger Games because there is no crude language or sexual overtones. More than that though, there are some strong themes that reflect Suzanne's Christian faith.
Early in the first book, the main character's younger sister, Primrose Everdeen, is chosen to be the female tribute for District 12. When Primrose is chosen, her sister Katniss volunteers to be the tribute in her place in order to save her life. This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. We were destined for death but Jesus volunteered to die in our place so that we can live forever. That is the very heart of Christianity.
The second theme that stands out strongly in this trilogy is The Capitol's domination and use of slavery of the districts. Each district has one purpose and that is to provide a certain product for The Capital. One district provides coal, another seafood, another electrical products and so on. How similar this is of the treatment the first world gives the third and developing worlds. It's like they exist for one purpose – to provide the West with all it needs, wants and desires.
Closely associated with this theme is the decadence of The Capitol. People have too much time and money on their hands and so they are preoccupied with their looks and their stomachs. Plastic surgery, hair styles and colors, gossip and shallow conversation are the order of the day. They've also developed a drink that causes them to vomit so they can continue to eat the bountiful food. Sound familiar? The Capitol residents have more than enough while the districts are poor, hungry and struggling.
Because they have so little to do, the residents of The Capitol become engrossed in the Hunger Games. It's the ultimate reality TV show. They fall in love with the characters but distance themselves from the reality that these characters are fighting to the death. It's reminiscent of the gladiatorial contests in Rome where people's deaths became entertainment for the masses. In our "civilised" society we may see this as horrendous and yet our own "reality" programs are often built on the ridicule and shame of those who participate. It's just a cheap form of entertainment for those with too much time on their hands.
The final theme I'll mention here is the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Without giving the end of the story away, ultimately evil is overcome by good. This is the main theme in God's Word too. Have a look at the last two chapters of the Bible. Good triumphs! But in the meantime the battle between good and evil rages and there are many occasions in real life as well as in The Hunger Games where it's obvious that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn very little from history.
The Hunger Games is a total page-turner. It's a ripper read. Parents, if you allow your teenagers to read this Trilogy you would do well to read it yourself and discuss these and other themes with them. Be aware that there is considerable violence in the book but that the themes are a great discussion point for sharing life-changing truths with your teens. Enjoy!