How does The Hunger Games explore the themes of innocence, tyranny, oppression, acceptance, and retribution?
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The theme of injustice against the innocents is represented in the fact that the Tributes are children chosen from the twelve districts who rebelled against the Capitol. The children have done nothing wrong, and this is why choosing them as sacrifice is so terrible.
The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the Uprising, each district must provide one girl and one boy, called Tributes, to participate. (ch 2, p. 18)
Tyranny is the oppressive rule over others. In this case, the Capitol rules tyrannically over the twelve districts by essentially using them as slave labor. Each district provides a service to the Capitol, but most of the districts are poor. Even the wealthier districts, the ones closest to the Capitol, do not have as much as those in the Capitol do. Katniss (and the others) resent the constant intrusion into their lives.
Yet the people must accept that things are not going to change. They have to give in. Peeta voices this effectively to Katniss.
“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.” (ch 10, p. 142)
He does not have a choice. In the end, all of the people in Panem accept their fate. They send their children to the Games. They can think of nothing else to do.
The Capitol’s retribution for the Uprising is the centerpiece of the book. The Hunger Games are their revenge, to make sure the districts remain weak. There are actually few instances of retribution in the book from the people themselves. Even when Katniss sees her friend Rue die, she does not immediately try to get revenge. She gets revenge by burying her in flowers.
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