Collins, Suzanne - The Hunger Games (Dystopian Elements)

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Dystopian Elements

The present extract is taken from the dystopian action novel “The Hunger Games” which was published on October 14, 2012 by Suzanne Collins (b. August 1962). The book is about a dark future marked by oppression and destruction, the story is meant to serve as a warning of what might happen if we do not start taking care of our world.

The plot is set in a future version of North America, called Panem. This country is ruled by the mighty Capitol, which is surrounded by 13 districts. After a war in which the districts tried to free themselves from the grip of the Capitol, District 13 was destroyed and the Hunger Games started. Those “games” are actually a brutal competition intended to punish the district residents and to serve as a point of reference not to start another rebellion. During the Hunger Games, two tributes aged 12 to 18 are drawn from each district, one male and one female, who have to fight a brutal battle for life and death. In an outdoor arena with enormous climatic conditions and many pitfalls, children have to kill each other, the last surviving one is the winner. The whole gruesome spectacle is broadcast live as a mandatory program in the districts.

The story follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12, who volunteers for the 74th season of the Hunger Games instead of her younger sister Primrose Everdeen. Also selected from District 12 is Peeta Mellark. The two tributes are under the wings of their district’s only living winner, Haymitch Abernathy, who won 24 years earlier and has been living a lonely life as an alcoholic ever since.

In the excerpt at hand, the protagonist Katniss Everdeen is in the draw in her district. The reader gets an insight into her thoughts, in which she explains what the Hunger Games are and why they exist. Her worries about the likelihood of being drawn herself are likewise portrayed. Instead, her younger sister Prim is chosen, which puts the protagonist in a shock rigidity. Eventually, she realizes what has just happened and volunteers in panic as a tribute to save her terrified and incredibly loving little sister from certain death.

In the following part of my analysis, I will highlight the features of dystopia from the extract. First, there are the obvious characteristics, which are also enumerated by Katniss. That would be apocalyptic events like “the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires [and] the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land” (l. 3 f.). The final event had been the war between the capitol and the districts which was followed by the “Dark Days” (l. 6), where the districts had to pay for rebelling against the capitol. This type of punishment is typical in dystopia, because there are often inequality and injustice and democracy or fair laws are missing. As I have already mentioned earlier, one of the ways the Capitol uses the Hunger Games to subliminally threaten the inhabitants of the consequences should they get the idea to instigate another rebellion, according to the motto: “if you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you" (ll. 16-17). As a totalitarian government, the capitol is powerful enough to surveil everyone and everything and the districts do not have the technology and the power to do anything about it, which is another aspect of the dystopian world that Suzanne Collins created. Another characteristic of that totalitarian government is the fact that the capitol forces kids “to kill one another while [their families and friends] watch” (l. 13). Negative feelings are also not untypical for dystopia: "and I’m feeling nauseous and so desperately hoping that it’s not me" (l.22). That thought of Katniss shows how terrified she is of the Capitol and the Hunger Games that they host, she is scared and unhappy while she is feeling helpless, because she is the one who holds her family’s head above water since her father died, and if she is chosen, her mother and sister probably would not be able to make it. The result would be, that Prim would be taken away from her mother and Katniss knows that her little sister would not be able to deal with it, that’s the reason why she does everything to protect her little sister. Which is exactly what she does when she volunteers after Primrose was chosen. She also notes, that "no one thinks is fair" (ll. 25-26) when a 12-year-old gets chosen. This sentence represents that there is still some cohesion within the districts against the Capitol, because nobody likes how the government acts. It's another dystopian aspect, the minority is broken, but in their suffering, they suffer and stick together, though usually everyone fights for himself. Nevertheless, there is not much hope in this shattered world, because the Capitol holds the reins and controls everything that goes on within the boundaries of Panem, including the Hunger Games: "this is the Capitol´s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy" (l.14).

To sum up, Suzanne Collins uses the typical characteristics of a dystopia, but the classical ones are more likely to be reflected in the prehistory of an apocalypse and a war. But even in the presence of the novel there are many dystopian aspects, such as totalism, injustice and the supremeness of the Capitol, which could easily wipe out the districts. These terrible circumstances are brought closer to the reader by being told by one of the people who suffer from them, Katniss Everdeen.

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