The Hunger Games, a young adult book published in 2008, focuses on the experiences of 16-year-old heroine Katniss Everdeen as she faces death in a gladiatorial arena in the futuristic country of Panem. Many of the dystopian novel’s central themes revolve around the conflict between survival and humanity and reveal how freedom of choice offers the possibility of defiance within a cruel and totalitarian regime. Of particular note is the way the author, Suzanne Collins, gives razor-sharp focus to the invasive and corrupting qualities of reality television and technology. Although it is a work of fiction, the novel mirrors our own society in a way that is fascinating and disturbing.
The Hunger Games is the first book in Collins’s trilogy that follows Everdeen in her struggles to fight for freedom in a country ruled by a tyrannical government. (2009’s Catching Fire and 2010’s Mockingjay complete the triology.) Panem has arisen from the ashes of a post-apocalyptic North America destroyed by floods and other natural disasters. The country is divided into poor districts that serve and are tightly controlled by a totalitarian government seated in the wealthy, technology-centered Capitol. The Hunger Games, deadly gladiatorial contests, are mandated by the government as a means of oppressing the residents of the districts: Each year, two children from each district are selected as tributes to enter an arena and fight to the death, reminding the districts of the Capitol’s power and control over their lives.
Collins has said that the book was partly inspired by channel surfing on television. While flipping between a program with footage from the invasion of Iraq and a program depicting contestants in a TV reality show, she found the two concepts begin to “blur in this very unsettling way.” Other touchstones Collins relied upon in creating the book include the Greek myth of Theseus, a story that informs Katniss’s character, and the Roman gladiatorial games, which clearly provided a foundation for the novel’s Hunger Games.
Written in a simple style that employs strong, visceral language and nearly constant suspense, The Hunger Games has become immensely popular. The film version of the novel, which was released in 2011, was also a huge success and only increased the book’s visibility and notoriety. Many critics point out that the novel’s popularity results in part from the themes Collins develops, themes that resonate with modern teenagers, including the idea of the “pack mentality” with the strong preying upon the weak and the notion that style and appearance can trump substance. Also, despite the futuristic setting, the struggles of the teenage characters are depicted realistically. Many of the decisions they must make are morally complex, requiring the ability to perceive how forces beyond themselves attempt to manipulate them.
Although this dystopian novel is filled with dark passages and scenes of terrible violence, ultimately it offers a message of hope through its strong themes of friendship, compassion, and unity. The Hunger Games is a compelling and thought-provoking introduction to the genre of dystopian novels for young adult readers.
By the end of the unit the student will be able to:
1. Reference themes, plot points, and characters in the novel in discussing how The Hunger Games explores freedom of choice as a means of resistance in a society that dehumanizes individuals.
2. Explain how and why the totalitarian regime in the Capitol evolved in this society and identify the means by which it creates and maintains control of the districts.
3. Identify the dystopian elements throughout the novel; in particular, discuss how the Capitol’s totalitarian government works to control language, law, and even nature.
4. Explore the Capitol’s relationship with District 12 and discuss the effects of the social inequality it creates.
5. Compare the way media control and manipulation function in our society with how they function in the novel and investigate how media affects the quality of life in each society.
6. Discuss how the novel explores themes of love, friendship, and unity, offering specific examples from the novel.
7. Investigate the actions of those who are oppressed by a culture of fear and live in a society with cruel, inhumane laws. Which of their actions does the novel appear to condone?
8. Discuss the connection in the novel between deprivation and survival and explain how learning survival skills can build qualities such as strength and dignity.
9. Describe the setting in the arena and the ways in which the Gamemakers use both physical and psychological tools to control the tributes and orchestrate the Games.
10. Explore the ways the author inverts the ideas of civilization and savagery and for what purpose.
This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom.
Student Lesson Guide
• The Lesson Guide is organized for a chapter-by-chapter study of the book. Lesson Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace.
• Lesson Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in reading each chapter and to acquaint them generally with the chapter’s content.
• Before Lesson Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading comprehension.
• Lesson Guide vocabulary lists include words from the book that vary in difficulty.
1. The vocabulary lists for each chapter are sufficiently comprehensive so that shorter lists of vocabulary words can be constructed from them.
2. Working from the lesson plan’s chapter vocabulary lists, the teacher also may construct vocabulary studies for individual students, choosing specific words from each chapter that are most appropriate for them.
The discussion questions vary in degree of difficulty.
1. Some questions require higher levels of critical thinking; others engage students with less challenging inquiry.
2. Individual discussion questions may be assigned to students working in pairs or in small study groups; their contributions may then be added to a whole-class discussion.
Test questions also vary in degree of difficulty.
1. Some multiple-choice questions address the factual content of the book; others require students to employ critical thinking skills, such as analyzing; comparing and contrasting;...
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1. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story from Katniss’s point of view? How would it differ if told from the point of view of Cato or another strong, well-trained tribute from a wealthier district? How would the story change if it were told from Peeta’s point of view?
2. What are the similarities and differences between the way televised entertainment is presented in the book and the way it exists in our society?
3. Consider the most common gender stereotypes about who’s capable of killing and protecting. Do they apply in this book? Why or why not?
4. Interpret the author’s choice of the mockingjay as an important symbol in the novel. What does it symbolize, and why is that important?
5. Explore Katniss’s ambivalent feelings for Gale and Peeta and why her character might have trouble forging close relationships.
6. Explain how the powerlessness of the people in the poorer districts changes in the novel. How does the inequality and hopelessness of their plight seem different at the beginning of the book and at the end? Use examples from the novel in your discussion.
7. Discuss how the society of Panem is both similar to and different from our own, particularly as regards class and social inequality.
8. Explain the methods the Capitol employs to threaten and destabilize the populations in the districts. How does controlling the populations benefit the government? How does government control relate to the book’s title?
9. Examine the theme of the natural world. What does nature represent? How does the oppressive regime in the Capitol attempt to corrupt and manipulate nature? Does it succeed, and if so, to what extent?
10. Explain the sacrifice, selflessness, compassion, and empathy demonstrated by Katniss and Peeta, and give examples of how the pair displayed these traits. How does their empathy affect the outcome of the Games for them, the citizens of the Capitol, and the other districts?
11. Analyze the relationships the Capitol has with Districts 11 and 12 and Districts 1 and 2. What are the effects of the social inequality created by the relationships?
12. Discuss The Hunger Games as a “dystopian” novel, one that critiques the notion of what makes an “ideal” society by depicting instead a society characterized by a sense of isolation, powerlessness, and fear. Given the bleakness associated with this type of novel, discuss the overall feeling generated by The Hunger Games. Do you feel its themes are bleak or hopeful? Why or why not?
affected: not genuine or natural
apothecary: a person who prepares and sells medicines
arena: the specified area in which the tributes participate in the Hunger Games
black market: an underground economy that illegally sells and trades goods
Capitol: the central city of Panem that controls the 12 districts
claustrophobic: uncomfortable in or afraid of small contained spaces
cocooned: completely wrapped within some covering (often fabric or clothes)
cumulative: increasing or increased by successive additions
Dark Days: a time when the districts rebelled against the Capitol
delicacies: food dishes that are considered...
(The entire section is 2045 words.)
blind: a shelter for hunters that’s designed to reduce the chance of detection
condone: to accept behavior that is considered morally wrong or offensive
dissent: a sentiment or philosophy of nonagreement or opposition to a prevailing idea or regime, such as a government’s policies
exposure: lack of protection from severe weather
luscious: juicy, delicious
mesmerized: fascinated, captivated
predicament: an unpleasant or difficult situation
protocol: a code prescribing strict adherence to correct etiquette and rules
reeks: strong or disagreeable fumes or odors
sodden: completely wet...
(The entire section is 652 words.)
abandonment: renunciation of protection, support, or help
Appalachia: the region in the eastern United States, comprising the Appalachian Mountains, that stretches roughly from southern New York state to central Alabama; known for coal mining
bludgeon: to beat with extreme force
concoction: a combination of various ingredients
decrepit: worn out or ruined because of age or neglect
enunciate: clearly pronounce
evasive: dishonest or indirect
homing: an adjective used to describe birds that are trained to return home
immobilizing: causing an inability to move
insurmountable: impossible to overcome...
(The entire section is 800 words.)
arrowheads: rocks in the shape of arrows
battered: beaten, injured
carcass: dead body of an animal
Cornucopia: a large horn-shaped structure in the Hunger Games arena that’s full of provisions such as goods and weapons needed by tributes
deteriorated: greatly decreased in quality; to have fallen apart
game: wild animals hunted for sport or food
gorged: consumed greedily
grandeur: magnificence, grandness
katniss: a type of edible water plant
oblivion: a state of lacking conscious knowledge or awareness
obscenities: vulgar or rude speech; curse words
pokeweed: an American herb with spikes of...
(The entire section is 753 words.)
affectations: acts that display an attitude or mode of behavior not natural to oneself or not genuinely felt
circulation: movement of the blood through the body caused by the heart pumping blood
clipped: short, abrupt
concession: an admission, an acknowledgment
demeanor: behavior, attitude, conduct
despicable: horrible, shameful
engulfed: enclosed; overwhelmed
flamboyant: showy and flashy
giddy: joyfully elated
grotesque: distorted in a way that is frightening or unnatural
petrified: terrified; paralyzed by fright
prestigious: holding a commanding position; held in high honor or standing
swathe: to bind or wrap...
(The entire section is 705 words.)
advantage: a factor or circumstance of benefit to its possessor
adversaries: enemies; opponents
Avox: a traitor to the Capitol whose tongue has been cut out and who is forced to be a servant
barbarism: mode of behavior that is cruel and often violent
chaperoned: to be in the presence of someone who is watching you to make sure you act properly
graphite: a soft black and lustrous form of carbon that conducts electricity and is used in lead pencils, among other things
hovercraft: a type of flying vehicle
maimed: injured, disfigured
mutilate: to injure or disfigure
reservations: misgivings, doubts...
(The entire section is 887 words.)
animate: to enliven, to make lifelike
assent: to agree
barter: to trade
brutality: extreme violence
burgundy: a reddish-purple color
camouflage: concealment by means of disguise
Career tributes: tributes from Districts 1 and 2 who have spent their entire lives training to compete in the Hunger Games
combative: aggressive; eager to fight
deluged: overwhelmed or overrun
demean: to insult
edible: suitable for consumption
emaciated: very thin; physically wasted
Gamemakers: people from the Capitol in charge of designing and running the Games
glower: to glare...
(The entire section is 928 words.)
arduous: difficult, hard
burlap: a strong, rough fabric often used for making bags
confidant: one to whom secrets are entrusted
gaping: huge, wide open
grudgingly: reluctantly, without enthusiasm
guffaws: loud laughs
irredeemably: beyond remedy or repair; hopelessly
mutual: shared in common
provoked: stirred up
pungent: strong, overpowering
reprieved: excused, cancelled, or postponed
sidestep: to avoid
solitary: alone; without companions
spoils: plunder taken from an enemy in war
twitch-up snares: snares used to catch victims and hang them from trees
(The entire section is 688 words.)
absorbent: capable of soaking up liquid
aggravating: irritating, annoying
aloof: standoffish, unfriendly
anecdote: a brief story
banal: lacking originality, freshness, or novelty
banter: to speak in a witty or teasing manner
eccentric: strange or unusual (used often in regard to personal behavior)
elusive: mysterious; hard to find or capture
get-go: the beginning
gossamer: delicate, light
handiwork: work done personally
intrigued: interested, curious
longevity: endurance, durability
ludicrous: outrageous, unbelievable
mystified: bewildered, confused, puzzled
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aghast: struck with terror, amazement, or horror
barren: desolate; unfruitful
bluff: to impress, deter, or intimidate by a false display of confidence
breached: broken through, opened
catacombs: underground passageways; a subterranean cemetery
hysteria: emotional panic, frenzy
patronizing: adopting an air of condescension; treating haughtily
ruminating: pondering, thinking over
Stockyard: the place where the tributes are prepared to go into the arena
syringe: a medical device used to inject or withdraw fluids
urn: a large vase
winning: charming, likable
1. How does the...
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adrenaline: a hormone in the body that regulates heart rate
directive: command, instruction
intermixed: combined, blended together
iodine: a chemical element normally used for medical and cleaning purposes
rejuvenating: refreshing, renewing
serrated: saw-toothed or jagged
sparse: consisting of few and scattered elements; not thickly grown or settled
1. What is the Cornucopia? In what way is it ironic?
The Cornucopia is the giant golden horn at the center of the arena that contains everything, such as food and weapons, tributes might use to help them survive being...
(The entire section is 836 words.)
abstain: to refrain deliberately
ails: troubles, bothers
bewilderment: confusion, puzzlement
dehydrate: to lose water or bodily fluids
fashion: to put together; to create; to make
fatigue: tiredness, exhaustion
forthcoming: about to appear or to be produced or made available
hoist: to raise, to lift
imprudent: foolish, irresponsible
innards: the internal organs of a human being or animal
purifying: removing undesirable elements
scarcity: shortage, lack
searing: very hot; marked by extreme intensity, harshness, or emotional power...
(The entire section is 453 words.)
abate: to slow down, to stop
apace: quickly, rapidly
bravado: boldness, boasting
circuitous: indirect, twisting, winding
confronting: facing, dealing with
conspiratorially: with a secretive manner
crevice: a crack, a gap
fiend: an evil, cruel person
inferno: an intense fire; a conflagration
instincts: natural or inherent aptitudes, impulses, or capacities
manipulate: to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means, especially to one’s own advantage
materialize: appear in bodily or physical form; to appear especially suddenly
(The entire section is 646 words.)
cinch: an easy feat
disintegrates: falls apart
eradicated: eliminated, destroyed
evade: to avoid
hyperventilating: breathing faster or deeper than normal; overbreathing
land mines: explosive charges usually placed just below the surface of the ground (designed to explode under the weight of vehicles or people)
persevere: to continue, to endure
precariously: dangerously, riskily
putrid: rotten, decaying
sedated: drugged with a sedative; made unresponsive, sluggish, or sleepy
strategically: with a defined purpose
tracker jackers: wasps genetically...
(The entire section is 602 words.)
ally: to unite or to form a connection or relationship between
anoint: to smear or rub with an oily substance
contend: to struggle, to strive or to vie against difficulties
groosling: a type of wild bird found in the Hunger Games arena and some districts of Panem
hallucination: a perception of objects with no reality, usually arising from a disorder of the nervous system or in response to drugs
haven: a safe place
honeysuckle: a type of shrub with bright, sweet-smelling flowers
leaching: sucking out
manifest: become visible
nectar: juice from a flower or plant
noxious: physically harmful or destructive to living beings...
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accomplice: a partner, an ally
copse: a small group of trees that have grown together
dexterity: mental or physical skill or quickness
domineering: controlling, overbearing
meticulous: marked by extreme or excessive care in the consideration or treatment of details
momentum: a property of a moving body that determines the length of time required to bring it to rest when under the action of a constant force
mulling: considering, thinking over
needling: annoying, irritating
obliging: helpful, cooperative
ordeal: a trial, a test
poised: not yet...
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acrid: harsh smelling
proximity: nearness, closeness
roosting: perching in a tree
salvage: to save; to find usable things in a pile of wreckage
tantrum: a fit of bad temper
tinder: a flammable substance adaptable to use as kindling to start a fire
undetectable: completely concealed
1. Why can’t Katniss escape quickly after the explosion? In the aftermath of the explosion, what is particularly frightening to her, and why is it so fearful?
Katniss feels very dizzy, perhaps from a head injury; she can’t seem to move. She also can’t hear, and one of her ears is...
(The entire section is 381 words.)
audible: able to be heard
impotence: the inability to take action or show strength
inducement: incentive, a reason to do something
lethargy: weariness, exhaustion, lack of energy
replenish: to fill up again; to restock
statistics: a branch of mathematics dealing with the collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of masses of numerical data
1. Who attacks Rue, and what is the result?
The boy tribute from District 1 spears Rue in the stomach after she becomes entangled in a net.
(The entire section is 777 words.)
alleviate: to ease, to lessen, to lighten
caliber: the quality of someone’s character or the level of someone’s ability
contagion: the transmission of a disease from one person to another by close contact, or a disease spread in such a way
gash: a long deep slash, cut, or wound
incapacitated: deprived of natural power; disabled
jeopardize: to put at risk
levity: lightheartedness, cheerfulness
pariahs: individuals who are despised or rejected by a group
peruse: to read, to examine, to inspect
ruse: a wily subterfuge; a clever action intended to deceive someone
(The entire section is 655 words.)
buck: a male deer or antelope
chives: an edible plant related to the onion
doe: a female deer
drastic: extreme, radical
exasperation: frustration, annoyance
gaggle: a group
incoherence: the quality of lacking order, continuity, or relevance
mauled: clawed or bitten
staged: intended for an audience
stalemate: a deadlock
tethered: tied to
tuft: a small cluster of plants or hair
yearling: an animal that is one year old or in the second year of its life
1. For Katniss, what are the disadvantages of helping Peeta? Why...
(The entire section is 758 words.)
asset: something useful or valuable
defiance: to act with resistance; to refuse to obey
emanating: coming out from a source
irreparable: beyond repair
prearranged: planned beforehand
prolong: to lengthen in time
sadistic: to delight in excessive cruelty
savor: to enjoy, to relish
vicinity: proximity; a surrounding area
1. During the cold night before the dinner party as she thinks about her family and friends, what does Katniss envision unfolding back in District 12?
She pictures everyone in District 12 in high spirits, cheering her and Peeta on. She...
(The entire section is 647 words.)
exorbitant: exceeding customary or appropriate limits
fabricated: invented, created
irreverent: lacking proper respect or seriousness
rabid: extremely violent; furious
reluctance: the quality or state of feeling aversion, hesitation, or unwillingness
simultaneously: at the same time
sinister: evil, menacing
tainted: stained, infected
tirades: a protracted speech usually marked by intemperate, vituperative, or harshly censorious language
1. Dreams are a recurring motif in the novel. Explain how Katniss’s dreaming is ironic. What are two examples of this irony?...
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eerie: mysterious, strange, and frightening
extricating: freeing or removing from an entanglement or difficulty
nightlock: a type of poisonous berry that grows wild in the woods outside District 12 and is also present in the arena
noncommittal: guarded, evasive
preoccupation: a worry or concern
relent: to give in, to cease resistance
repellent: disgusting, revolting
residual: an internal aftereffect of experience or activity that influences later behavior
respite: an interval of rest or relief
Victor’s Village: a neighborhood of upscale homes built in each district where victors go to live after they win the Hunger Games...
(The entire section is 896 words.)
dissonant: jarringly discordant; incongruous
enraged: furious, filled with anger
mesmerized: enthralled, fascinated
unhinged: mentally deranged
1. Do Peeta and Katniss discard the poisonous berries? Why or why not?
Peeta is about to throw them away, but Katniss has the idea of putting a few berries into a leather pouch to take with them. Since the berries fooled Foxface, she reasons, they might fool Cato.
2. What is Katniss’s opinion of Cato as an adversary? Describe at least one way in which she thinks the two of them are similar.
Katniss thinks Cato...
(The entire section is 441 words.)
asphyxiation: death caused by inadequate oxygen supply or interruption of breathing
callously: heartlessly, coldly
climax: the point of highest dramatic tension or a major turning point in the action, as of a play
devised: planned, plotted
hindquarters: the back legs of an animal
revoked: cancelled, withdrawn
tourniquet: a bandage tied tightly to stop or slow bleeding from a wound
unintelligible: impossible to understand
1. Where do the tributes retreat to that offers a bit of safety at the start of the chapter?
(The entire section is 912 words.)
accumulated: collected, gathered
antiseptic: scrupulously clean; free from contamination
benign: of gentle disposition; gracious
compromise: settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions
contrived: forced, false
garish: tasteless, gaudy
orchestrated: arranged to achieve a desired effect
1. What disorients Katniss when she and Peeta are brought onto the hovercraft?
After experiencing so many traumas in the arena, Katniss imagines the doctors who take Peeta away are just another...
(The entire section is 712 words.)
crucial: decisive or critical; of great importance
disproportionate: too large or too small in comparison with something else
feat: a deed notable especially for courage; an act or product of skill, endurance, or ingenuity
flaunted: paraded or displayed ostentatiously
insidious: treacherous, having a gradual and cumulative effect
instigator: one who provokes, goads, or urges on
keen: intense, strong
misguided: led or prompted by wrong or inappropriate motives or ideals
omit: to leave out
palpable: capable of being touched or felt; tangible
1. At the beginning of the chapter, Katniss...
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1. At what age are children first included in the reaping for the Hunger Games?
2. What word does Katniss say is synonymous with “tribute” in District 12?
E. coal miner
3. Panem is a country located in a post-apocalyptic North America. To what part of North America does District 12 most closely correspond?
A. the Rocky Mountains
C. the Midwest in the...
(The entire section is 930 words.)
1. Describe how exercising the freedom of choice and acting independently are presented as forms of resistance in the novel. Also, discuss the author’s general view regarding the most effective way to resist a cruel and oppressive government. Support your essay with specific evidence from the text.
The author establishes immediately that the society in the novel is one in which freedom of choice is limited by cruel, oppressive laws. The people of District 12 live within a tightly restricted world; even something as essential as hunting for food is forbidden, and as a result, many people starve to death. Katniss, however, chooses to break the law to meet the responsibility she feels for feeding her family; Gale...
(The entire section is 3276 words.)