Study Guide

The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games Summary

Synopsis

The Hunger Games

After writing the fantasy series The Underland Chronicles, Suzanne Collins departed from the world of fantasy and stepped into a harsh, dystopian creation in The Hunger Games. Published in 2008, The Hunger Games is the first novel in a projected trilogy, and introduces readers to a futuristic dystopian society where an overpowering government controls the lives and resources in twelve different districts. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, of District 12, is the main character of the story. Each year, as punishment for the now demolished District 13's attempted rebellion, two children in each district are chosen by lottery to fight each other to the death in an arena. The event is called the Hunger Games and is televised for everyone in the Capitol to see; the winning tribute is given food and a life of ease for themselves and their families, along with presents of food and resources for their district. Katniss ends up volunteering for the role of tribute to the Games after her little sister Prim is drawn in the lottery. Peeta, a baker's son that Katniss knows through school, is also drawn to fight in the Games. Katniss and Peeta are whisked away to the Capitol to fight other children in the artificial landscape created for the arena. In a twist of events, it is revealed that Peeta is in love with Katniss, as is Gale, a boy back in District 12 whom Katniss hunted with regularly. The love triangle gives added interest to the story line and to the Games themselves as Katniss and all the other tributes fight for their lives.

Although marketed as adolescent literature, the theme of fighting to the death, and the violence of the events that occur in the arena, all involving children, has brought with it controversy and some protest from parents and school groups. On the other hand, the book is popular among teens and adults alike, all who like it for its simple and understandable prose, wry sense of humor, constant suspense and action-packed plotline. The Hunger Games was met with mostly positive reviews, with some negative commentary on the simplistic style and lack of thorough complexity that a dystopian future would merit. Its themes of family, friendship, love, and survival are accessible, and Katniss's strong, pragmatic, and yet vulnerable character adds to the story's appeal.

The Hunger Games Summary

Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games is the first novel in a trilogy that explores a future dystopian society. The story is set in "a country that rose up out of the ashes" of North America, after survivors of droughts, storms, fires, floods, hurricanes, and wars fought for their lives. This post-apocalyptic world is run by Panem, an all-powerful central government that controls the people and resources of twelve districts. Each district produces different products that are taken to the Capitol, the headquarters of Panem, where they are used as luxury items. Meanwhile, the twelve districts struggle to survive, often under the heavy and oppressive hands of armed guards. Security fences prevent escape, and brutal tactics keep the people under control. One such tactic is the staging of the annual Hunger Games, where, in a lottery, two children are chosen from each district to fight to the death in an arena while the entire country watches on television. The Hunger Games are a punishment for a time in the past when the twelve districts rose in rebellion against the Capitol and were defeated; a thirteenth district was even completely destroyed. Panem has staged the Hunger Games ever since to chasten the people, remind them of their uprising, and warn them that if they rebel again, they will all be destroyed. Once in the Hunger Games arena, the children (called "tributes") fight until only one child is left; the remaining tribute and his or her family are awarded lives of ease, along with presents of food and resources for his or her district.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is the main character of the novel. As the story opens, she is preparing to hunt in the forests outside the boundaries where she lives in District 12, which is a mining district located in the Appalachian Mountains. Hunting outside the boundaries is forbidden, but Katniss risks punishment in order to provide for her family’s survival. Ever since her father died in a mining accident, Katniss has been hunting and providing for her little sister, Prim, and for her mother, who suffered an emotional breakdown.

Katniss often hunts with her good friend Gale Hawthorne, who is two years older....

(The entire section is 904 words.)

The Hunger Games Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 Summary

After North America, an all-but-forgotten entity now, was ravaged by a series of natural disasters, a new country arose. Called Panem, this new country organized the continent into thirteen districts. Those districts were ruled from a distant city known as the Capitol. Eventually the “Dark Days” came, and the districts rebelled against the Capitol. They were defeated, and District 13 was destroyed. Now every year two children from each district are selected to compete in the Hunger Games, a sort of gladiatorial death match in which only one person is allowed to survive. The Hunger Games are a punishment of disloyalty and a reminder of the Capitol’s power.

Katniss Everdeen, or Kat, is a teenager in District 12, an especially poor district whose economy is based on coal mining. Coal mining is dangerous and not very lucrative, but it is all that most people in District 12 have, especially in the Seam where Katniss lives. Sadly, Katniss’s father was killed in a mine explosion. Now it is up to her to feed her mother and her younger sister, Prim.

Katniss is well aware that her mother and sister rely on her efforts to survive. Jaded with the weight of responsibility, Katniss spends her days illegally hunting in the woods for game with her bow and arrows. She illegally sells the game in her community. Hunting is perhaps the best part of Katniss’s life because she gets to spend the time with her best friend, Gale. Gale is a little older than Katniss, but he has an even larger family to support than she does. They have taught each other a great deal about hunting and trapping over the years.

Although Katniss and Gale have every reason to be disappointed with their lot in life, they are especially tense on the day that The Hunger Games opens. On this day, representatives and television crews from the Capitol have come to District 12 to draw the names of the two competitors who will be sent some distant outdoor arena where they will be forced to kill their opponents or be killed themselves. Each year, every teenager’s name is entered into the draw, an event known as the “reaping.” However, both Kat and Gale have entered their names additional times to receive bread and oil to support their families. Any 17 year old would have five entries, but Gale has at least forty. Kat has well over twenty.

The drawing of names is a difficult time for District 12, particularly because they have almost never won the Hunger Games. Their only living victor is Haymitch, who is now little more than a town drunk. However, although these are sad times, the people of District 12 attend the draw in their nicest clothes. The odds are stacked against them, but neither Kat nor Gale is chosen to compete in the games. Instead, Kat’s younger sister, Primrose Everdeen, is drawn.

Chapter 2 Summary

When Prim’s name is drawn to be District 12’s tribute, Katniss’s first thought is how unlikely it is that her sister was chosen. After all, Prim’s name was entered into the drawing only once. Considering that she is only twelve, it is all but certain that Prim will be one of the first children killed in the Hunger Games. With this in mind, Kat rapidly volunteers to be taken to the Hunger Games in place of her sister.

The Hunger Games are first and foremost a merciless reminder of the price of rebellion against the Capitol. The heartlessness of the Capitol is expressed when their spokesperson, Effie Trinket, gushes that she will bet her “buttons that was your sister. Don’t want her to steal all the glory, do we?” However, the people of District 12 interpret the scene differently. Although they may not rebel against the Capitol, they remain silent rather than clapping. Then they kiss their fingers and salute Katniss to express their admiration for her. The moment is ruined when Haymitch yells into the camera in praise of Katniss’s spunk and proceeds to fall off stage.

The second tribute is Peeta Mallick, and Kat reflects that her odds really are not very good on this day. Kat recalls how difficult her life was just after her father died. Her family did not have very much to eat while he was alive. After he died in a mine explosion, they found themselves starving. At the time, Kat was too young to trade her Hunger Games eligibility for food and oil. She also had not yet figured out that she could hunt game to feed her family.

One night, she found herself wandering through the town. Kat, her mother, and Prim were about to starve, and Kat had come to the point that she was digging in dumpsters to feed her family. When she came to the bakery, Kat found no bread in the dumpster and the baker’s wife scolded her. However, the next thing she heard was the baker’s wife hitting her son, Peeta, for burning the bread. The son exited the bakery with a welt on his head, but instead of throwing the bread in the dumpster, he tossed it haphazardly. The bread landed at Kat’s feet, and she took it home to feed her family. Only after did she consider that Peeta might have burnt the bread on purpose.

Now, instead of being able to thank Peeta, Katniss will be required to kill him to win the Hunger Games. At best, she reflects, someone else will likely kill him first. It does seem that the odds are not in her favor.

Chapter 3 Summary

In the third chapter, Katniss and Peeta leave District 12. They board a train that takes them to the Capitol, where they will be subjected to an intense series of interviews as a lead up to the Hunger Games. Upon boarding the high-speed rail from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains, Kat reflects that she has never been on a train before. The districts are isolated from each other to prevent an additional rebellion.

Before Kat leaves, she says goodbye to her friends and family. She tells her mother and sister how to take care of themselves, and she lectures her mother, insisting that she not abandon Prim the same way she once abandoned Kat. Gale tells Kat to find a bow and arrow in the Games and to believe...

(The entire section is 473 words.)

Chapter 4 Summary

As the fourth chapter opens, Peeta and Katniss pick Haymitch up from the floor and carry him to a shower. Peeta kindly offers to wash Haymitch and Kat leaves. It seems that Peeta is always quite kind.

That night, Katniss reflects on the early days after her father’s death. During that time, Kat’s mother became depressed and withdrew from her children, all but abandoning them. If not for Kat and her determination to learn to hunt, they likely would have died. Kat recalls how she began to hunt and gather illegally beyond the fenced-off boundaries of her town. Over time, she learned how to sell game and how to barter at the Hub successfully enough that she could afford medication for her mother and food for the three...

(The entire section is 392 words.)

Chapter 5 Summary

Katniss has entered the Capitol and is being attended to by her stylists in the Remake Center. As they rip hair from her body, Katniss reminds herself of Haymitch’s advice to cooperate with the stylists no matter what. Still, she feels uncomfortable standing naked in front of these stylists, although the discomfort is mitigated by how bizarre the stylists seem to her. One has dyed her skin a pale green, and they all speak with Capitol affectations. By the time they finish, they declare that Kat looks nearly human. The initial team of stylists leaves and Kat is left alone with Cinna. Unlike the other stylists, Cinna adopts a more minimalist approach; she wears a simple black shirt and lightly applied golden eyeliner.

...

(The entire section is 478 words.)

Chapter 6 Summary

The Training Center in Capitol has a tower for the tributes; although Katniss is often disdainful of the opulence of Panem’s ruling city, she enjoys their elevators. Kat has also begun to appreciate Effie Trinket, who turns out to be their chaperone. Although Trinket is doing her best to secure sponsors for Kat and Peeta, she finds it difficult to work with Haymitch. Haymitch has not shared his strategy with her, so she admits that she has been promoting them as mysterious tributes from the barbarous District 12. Kat finds this judgment ironic considering that Trinket is “helping to prepare us for slaughter.” Still, Trinket is determined to help Kat to succeed in the Capitol’s games.

Before long, Kat is called...

(The entire section is 424 words.)

Chapter 7 Summary

Katniss and Peeta are given the chance to train for the games. Haymitch asks whether they would like to train separately, and they agree to train together. When Haymitch asks Katniss and Peeta about their skills, both are overly modest, and they soon find themselves arguing over how impressive the other is. Kat explains that Peeta is strong and is a very talented wrestler. Meanwhile, Peeta points out that Kat is capable of shooting arrows through the eyes of squirrels. He concludes by saying, “She has no idea. The effect she can have,” which Kat at first takes as an insult but later decides might have been intended as a compliment. Haymitch tells them to stick together, to act as though they are friends, and to spend their time...

(The entire section is 517 words.)

Chapter 8 Summary

Although Katniss may have looked impressive firing an arrow at the Gamemakers, she does not feel so confident inside. Kat leaves her interview and storms back to her quarters before she starts to cry. She worries that the Gamemasters will punish her or, worse, that her family will be punished. Although she cries herself to sleep, by the next morning nothing has happened. While eating with her team, she explains to Haymitch what happened. He and Effie actually find her story amusing and reassure her that she likely will not be punished. After all, for the Capitol, the Hunger Games have become a show, and they need fighters with “heat.”

Now that the tributes have all gone through training and an evaluation, they await...

(The entire section is 436 words.)

Chapter 9 Summary

After finding out that Peeta has asked to be coached separately, Katniss feels overwhelmingly betrayed. However, she acknowledges that it makes sense for him to look out for himself, particularly because she has not always seemed very friendly toward him. Katniss considers their relationship severed and resolves to do the best she can.

Kat’s preparations for the televised interview start with four hours of presentation work with Effie. Effie tries to train Kat to walk in high heels and to wear a dress properly. More than anything else, she trains Kat to smile. This is not Kat’s strength, and by the end of the session the two women are happy to be finished aggravating each other. Effie’s final advice is for Kat to...

(The entire section is 510 words.)

Chapter 10 Summary

After Peeta confesses his love for Katniss on television, Katniss is initially embarrassed and then infuriated. Back in private quarters with Peeta and their crew, Kat shoves her fellow tribute. Peeta falls and injures his hand. Kat goes on to confront Haymitch, demanding to know whether the two of them planned Peeta’s confession. Haymitch admits that they did and explains how it will help her. Peeta’s confession of love makes Kat seem attractive to the sponsors again. Kat’s interview with Caesar was not very impressive; Peeta and Haymitch have done her a favor. Kat’s fury turns to concern about whether her performance was real enough to continue causing the audience to think that she and Peeta are in love. Cinna and Effie...

(The entire section is 446 words.)

Chapter 11 Summary

The Hunger Games begin at the Cornucopia, a giant horn filled with supplies and weapons. There are also supplies arranged beyond the horn, but the further they are from the Cornucopia, the less useful they are. Around all of this, arranged in a circle, are the twenty-four tributes. Nearby are a lake and some woods.

Although Haymitch warned Kat and Peeta to run away from the Cornucopia, Kat spots a bow and considers running for it. When the gong sounds, she is looking at Peeta and misses her chance. Kat is determined not to leave empty handed, so she runs and grabs a backpack. Another boy confronts her for it and is killed by a knife-throwing Career. Kat runs away before she is forced to face the Career. Her opponent...

(The entire section is 415 words.)

Chapter 12 Summary

At the end of the eleventh chapter, the Career pack and Peeta attempt to kill another tribute. However, when they do not hear a cannon shot to announce her death, Peeta volunteers to go back and kill her. Kat is so shocked to hear his voice that she all but falls out of the tree in which she is hiding. Although the Careers are close, they do not know Katniss is watching them. With Peeta gone, they debate about what to do with the second contestant from District 12, whom they call Lover Boy. Although one Career recommends killing Peeta, the others object, pointing out that Peeta is handy with a knife and that he can help them take out Katniss. Her score of eleven during the training has made her a target. Peeta returns, and the...

(The entire section is 428 words.)

Chapter 13 Summary

The wall of flame is a manufactured trap orchestrated by the Gamemakers. The purpose of the fire is not necessarily to kill the tributes but rather to herd them toward each other to provide better entertainment for the viewers. Kat manages to outrun the wall of flame by following animals. Afterward, she is exhausted and vomits on the ground. However, there are also fireball launchers in the trees and rocks, and Kat soon finds herself running for her life again. This time, she is unable to evade the fire and severely burns her leg. Fortunately, she survives and finds herself standing in another pond. Kat tends to her leg.

Before long, she hears the Career pack coming. Like her, they have been running from fire. Their...

(The entire section is 380 words.)

Chapter 14 Summary

At the end of the thirteenth chapter, Rue brought Kat’s attention to something in the tree she is hiding in. Beneath them, the Careers and Peeta have made a camp and are planning to resume their attack on Kat again in the morning. Rue has now hid again, and Kat is examining the object above her. It is a tracker jacker wasp nest.

Like the mockingjay, tracker jackers are muttations that are left over from the Dark Days. The tracker jackers are more dangerous than regular wasps are. Their venom is much more poisonous and several stings can be fatal. Their venom is also a hallucinogenic. Finally, the wasps are particularly territorial, and they will track down anyone who disrupts their nest. Although they have been...

(The entire section is 454 words.)

Chapter 15 Summary

The hallucinogens are a nightmare for Kat because the tracker jacker wasp venom was designed to target the part of the brain that controls fear. Kat sees her sister Prim die and relives the death of her father.

When she wakes from her hallucinations, she takes stock of her situation. She does not know how long she slept, but she is now alive and has a bow. Now that Kat has a bow and arrow, she does not have to play defensively. She feels confident that she can kill any opponent she faces. Kat manages to shoot a rabbit and bathes in a pond. Still, she is once again battling thirst and notes that she has lost enough weight for her bones to stick out from her skin. She also still needs to treat the burns on her leg.

...

(The entire section is 435 words.)

Chapter 16 Summary

Before taking a more aggressive approach to the games, Kat and Rue must get some sleep. As Kat shares her body heat with Rue, she finds that she already implicitly trusts the tribute from District 11. After all, Rue could have left Kat to die but instead warned her about the tracker jacker nests. The next morning, Kat shares her plan with Rue: she wants to attack the Careers by destroying their food. Unlike Rue and Kat, they are not used to being hungry.

Although Kat does not have a specific plan, she tells Rue that they can form a plan as they return to the Cornucopia. During their hike, Rue tells Kat that her favorite thing in the world is music. In the orchards of District 11, Rue’s job was to sit in the trees and...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Chapter 17 Summary

After the explosion, Kat is disoriented and unable to stand straight. However, she knows she must move on before the Careers return to find out what has happened. Kat also realizes that she has gone deaf in one ear and the other is still ringing.

With great effort, Kat manages to return to the copse of trees Rue showed her. She sees the Careers return, and Cato kills the boy from District 3. The Careers wait until nightfall to see whether the person who destroyed their food died. When they discover that the person still lives, they set off with torches to find her. After, the fox-faced girl returns and scavenges some supplies from the explosion. Kat considers trying to ally herself with the fox-faced girl, but she...

(The entire section is 374 words.)

Chapter 18 Summary

Katniss has just seen a Career from District 1 capture Rue in a net and spear her belly. Katniss retaliates by firing an arrow into the Career’s neck. Rue is dying but is able to tell Kat that no one else is around. Kat returns to Rue’s side and Rue, whose favorite thing in the world is music, asks Kat to sing for her. Kat sings, and Rue dies by the final lines:

Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

The mockingjays take up the song around her. Knowing that she is supposed to move on so the Gamemakers can collect the bodies, Kat collects the supplies that the boy from District 1 was carrying and retrieves...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Chapter 19 Summary

Of the six remaining contestants in the Hunger Games, four are affected by the rule change that will allow two tributes from the same district to win the games as a team. There are still two Careers from District 2, and there are Peeta and Katniss. Up to this point, Kat has not really understood what Peeta has done and what he has pretended to do, but regardless of his true intentions, Kat will have to team up with Peeta now. If she returns home without Peeta, she will be ostracized. So Kat sets a fire as a distraction and sets out to find her fellow tribute.

Kat reasons that if Peeta has indeed been stabbed by Cato, then he is lucky to still be alive. He would not have been able to go very far and he would have needed...

(The entire section is 419 words.)

Chapter 20 Summary

Katniss is trying her best to care for Peeta, but his illness might be too much for her. As Peeta falls asleep that night, Kat finds herself wanting to return to a tree for safety. However, those days are behind her as long as she and Peeta continue their “star-crossed lovers” routine. Although it is necessary, it leaves Kat much more vulnerable. She does her best to stand guard that night, but it is so cold she eventually returns to share body heat with Peeta. Unfortunately, Peeta is burning with fever. The next morning, Kat discovers that his wound has swelled and has led to blood poisoning. Kat reflects that Peeta will die without powerful medication, though at this point in the games such medicine would cost her sponsors a...

(The entire section is 539 words.)

Chapter 21 Summary

On her way to the Cornucopia, at which each of the districts will be offered something it desperately needs, Kat finds herself wishing Gale was with her. She recalls that Gale has proposed to her that they run away together and wonders whether they could have become more than friends. Now she is kissing Peeta to survive. Kat wonders what Gale thinks. Gale is surely watching, as is everyone else in Panem. Kat suspects that even school has been cancelled for this event.

At the Cornucopia, a table with four packs rises out of the ground. Before Kat can decide what to do, the fox-faced girl hops out of the horn, grabs her bag, and runs off. The other bags still remain, guaranteeing that no one will chase her. It is a...

(The entire section is 402 words.)

Chapter 22 Summary

When Kat wakes up, she has been asleep for some time. Fortunately, the medicine that she fought so hard to get for Peeta has worked. He is feeling better and is now taking care of Katniss. Kat’s head is still sore, and she is forced to spend most of the day recovering. It seems that there is a storm outside the little cave in which they are hiding.

Kat tells Peeta what happened at the Cornucopia and how Thresh let her go. Peeta confirms that Clove has been killed, but Cato and Thresh did not kill each other. The fox-faced girl also still lives. Peeta does not understand why Thresh would let Kat go. Kat explains that for people who are poor in the way she and Thresh are, it is difficult to pay back the gifts you have...

(The entire section is 404 words.)

Chapter 23 Summary

Peeta and Kat decide to ration the latest gift from their sponsors. They pass the time recuperating, kissing, and eating. They also make jokes at Haymitch’s expense and Katniss is sure that the audience is enjoying their humor. No doubt, by the time they finish, Haymitch is being interviewed by the Gamemasters. Peeta and Kat consider how Haymitch could have won the games and decide that he must have outsmarted the competition. However, before long, Thresh’s image appears in the sky, meaning that Cato has killed him. Kat is distraught because she would have liked Thresh to win if she did not.

Finally, Kat decides it is time to move on. She and Peeta finish their food, and Kat says they will find more food by the end...

(The entire section is 414 words.)

Chapter 24 Summary

Peeta does not understand how he killed the fox-faced girl, and Kat has to explain it to him. The berries Peeta collected are called nightlock in District 12, and he has used them in ignorance to take out another tribute. Kat reflects that the fox-faced girl was probably the smartest of all the tributes; she then considers that there is a danger in overestimating opponents in the Hunger Games. Peeta warns Kat that Cato is likely coming, but she disagrees, reasoning that Cato will assume they hunted down the fox-faced girl and are waiting to ambush him as well. So they make a fire and cook their food.

Kat suggests that they try to climb trees and spend the night in the safety of the branches. However, Peeta explains that...

(The entire section is 398 words.)

Chapter 25 Summary

Kat quickly discovers that Cato is running from muttations. Unlike the previous muttations that have been introduced—the mockingjay and the tracker jackers—these new muttations are especially heinous. When Kat looks into their eyes, she discovers that the muttations are the eliminated tributes. Even Rue’s eyes have been twisted with hate. Still, as always, the surviving tributes battle for their lives.

Cato reaches the Cornucopia first and climbs to the top of the giant horn. Kat arrives shortly after and begins to climb until she remembers Peeta’s injured leg. She turns around and fires arrows at the muttations to give Peeta time to reach the horn. He arrives, and they start to climb. Cato is at the very top of...

(The entire section is 446 words.)

Chapter 26 Summary

Kat and Peeta have won the Hunger Games, but they have not yet survived it. As applause from the Capitol is played on the arena’s speakers, a hovercraft appears, drops a ladder, and pulls Peeta and Kat out of the arena. There, Peeta collapses from blood loss and doctors immediately rush to revive him. Kat recalls the mining victims that her mother treats and finds that she now understands why their families stay to watch: they have no choice.

Kat sees her reflection in the glass, and at first she does not recognize herself. Her cheeks are sunken and hollow and she is covered in grime. Before she can consider the changes, she is jabbed with a needle.

The Capitol’s doctors have done their best to make Kat...

(The entire section is 417 words.)

Chapter 27 Summary

When Kat finally sees Peeta again, they are about to go on camera with Caesar Flickerman. Peeta has a new leg and walks with a cane. Compared to the show that comes after most Hunger Games, this one has several subtle differences. The victor’s single chair has been replaced with a loveseat. On it, Kat leans into Peeta, who puts his arms around her. The audience is eating up the love on display before them.

However, there is more than love on display. The show will last three hours and a large part of it will be a recap of the seventy-fourth Hunger Games. Kat recalls that victors are supposed to watch the horror and brutality of the games and that most victors just look shocked. However, Kat knows that her life, not to...

(The entire section is 441 words.)