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The Hunger Games Trilogy: A Closer Look at Its Questions to Humanity

Updated on June 28, 2020
Nalini Marquez profile image

Nalini combines her love of meaning, analysis, and critical thinking with movies, media, and discussion to bring a different perspective.

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The conversation the night before the Games that takes place between Katniss and Peeta in Chapter 10 of the Hunger Games, is arguably the most important conversation in the trilogy as a whole.

"Thinking about your family?" he asks.

"No," I admit a bit guiltily. "All I can do is wonder about tomorrow. Which is pointless, of course." In the light from below, I can see his face now, the awkward way he holds his bandaged hands. "I really am sorry about your hands."

"It doesn't matter, Katniss," he says. "I've never been a contender in these Games anyway."

"That's no way to be thinking," I say.

"Why not? It's true. My best hope is to not disgrace myself and. " He hesitates.

"And what?" I say.

"I don't know how to say it exactly. Only. I want to die as myself. Does that make any 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 of self. "Do you mean you won't kill anyone?" I ask.

"No, when the time comes, I'm sure I'll kill just like everybody else. I can't go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to. to show the Capitol they don't own me. That I'm more than just a piece in their Games," says Peeta.

"But you're not," I say. "None of us are. That's how the Games work."

"Okay, but within that framework, there's still you, there's still me," he insists. "Don't you see?"

"A little. Only. no offense, but who cares, Peeta?" I say.

"I do. I mean, what else am I allowed to care about at this point?" he asks angrily. He's locked those blue eyes on mine now, demanding an answer.

I take a step back. "Care about what Haymitch said. About staying alive."

Peeta smiles at me, sad and mocking. "Okay. Thanks for the tip, sweetheart."

It's like a slap in the face. His use of Haymitch's patronizing endearment. "Look, if you want to spend the last hours of your life planning some noble death in the arena, that's your choice. I want to spend mine in District Twelve."

"Wouldn't surprise me if you do," says Peeta. "Give my mother my best when you make it back, will you?"

"Count on it," I say. Then I turn and leave the roof. I spend the rest of the night slipping in and out of a doze, imagining the cutting remarks I will make to Peeta Mellark in the morning. Peeta Mellark. We will see how high and mighty he is when he's faced with life and death."--Chapter 10, The Hunger Games


This discussion between Katniss and Peeta set up the questions that the series seeks to answer. How do these characters play the game? How do they demonstrate that they are more than just a piece in their Games? What is the cost of being more than just a piece in their Games? And will they ever really be successful in being more than just a piece in their Games or is the attempt futile?

In a twisted process where tributes are to romance their abusers and where they are to enjoy this or where they are to make it look like they enjoy it, (this process is seen and undergone by all the tributes), the process of being groomed for the games is one further step the Capitol takes in further dehumanizing the tributes and one further step in taking away what is left of the tributes’ sense of self. If tributes do not play the game at this level (comply with this process and romance their abusers), then their support is lessened and in so lessen their chances at survival (which by the nature of the game, are designed to be temporary and fleeting). This is another level of twisted dehumanization as it really only adds insult to injury because it basically tells tributes that if they do not play the game, they do not have a chance at surviving--but they do not really have a chance at surviving anyway because the game is designed so that they do not have a chance!

Katniss and Peeta survive this grooming process with their senses of self intact, albeit with inner conflict and confusion about the bizarreness of it all, but their senses of self do not survive the overall story. Katniss struggles with the instability and brokeness of trauma throughout the series, and Peeta loses his identity and is turned “into a monster,” which was what he did not want to lose or to become. Katniss and Peeta are both survivors and casualties of a broken, perverse, and dysfunctional system.

All of it is a game made by the game makers and there are games within games. Regardless of how they play the game, players are expendable. Players can be as malicious and evil as they want (reveling in their own dehumanization), they can aid evil in the process (be the “right hand of the devil”), they can fight it, they can play nice, they can be good people, or they could not fight all—and in all of these, they are expendable.

So the question is, if players are expendable, how exactly do they play the game? Do they go out with a fight? Do they give the game-makers what they want (dehumanization, torture, violence, pleasure in brutality and inhumane acts, “a good show,” etc.)? Or do they stay true to who they are, the values they hold, and what they believe to be moral, right, and true? And how do they stay true to who they are, the values they hold, and what they believe to be moral, right, and true in a system that is meant to obliterate and brain-wash both the players and the audience of these?

If players are expendable, how exactly do they play the game? Do they go out with a fight? Do they give the game-makers what they want? Or do they stay true to who they are, the values they hold, and what they believe to be moral, right, and true? And how do they stay true to who they are, the values they hold, and what they believe to be moral, right, and true in a system that is meant to obliterate and brain-wash both the players and the audience of these?

How do you think you would "play the game?"

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Katniss is a powerful and resonating character, and an un-traditional hero. She is a complex character that people connect to although she is a pawn through most of the trilogy. Katniss embodies a balance of both masculine and feminine traits seamlessly, both the positive and negative traits. She is a female character embodying the worthy in what is masculine, and she is feminine and embodies what is worthy in the feminine when she could embody what is masculine. In addition to that, her personality and worldview are important. Her moral stance is ambiguous and she keeps quite a bit to herself. She does not show her opposition to the Capitol like Gale, and in so she is not someone who wants to change the world and is not willing to fight for that change; but she also does not hope for a future like Peeta, and in so she is not someone who has accepted the status quo and is not someone who still has hopes and dreams within that framework. She does not “play the game” but she also plays the game just enough to survive. She lives day-to-day, trying to survive and trying to take care of the person she loves most, and sacrifices herself for this person.

In essence, the majority of people could be Katniss and if we could be Katniss, then we each have the potential to spark a fire, and we each have the potential to change the world. If we are Katniss, then we are not only pawns and players, but we are also capable of playing the game by our own rules and we are capable of changing the game altogether--but at a price.

The case can be made that the world that we live in (or that the future world that we will live in) is a type of world where similar games are played and is a world where the games are similarly rigged with the odds not in favor of the people. The Hunger Games Trilogy’s most thought-provoking contribution are the question it leaves open to the reader:

“How do we choose to play the game in a game or a world where the game is rigged and where the odds are not in our favor?” and by extension, "How do we hold on to our humanity?"


“How do we choose to play the game in a game or a world where the game is rigged and where the odds are not in our favor?” and by extension, "How do we hold on to our humanity?"

The trilogy does not tell us how to answer or include if we will ever be successful in being more than a pawn, and it even suggests that we cannot avoid damages or come out unscathed in playing the game, but it does leave us with two clues about what is important to remember in how we play the game:

1. “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.”-President Snow, The Hunger Games

2. “You just remember who the enemy is. That is all.”-Haymitch, Catching Fire

"Hope is the only thing stronger than fear."

Which resonates most with you?

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© 2020 Nalini Marquez

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