There’s a major disconnect between life in the Capitol and life in District 12. The Capitol’s residents are rich and (seemingly) happy, while residents of other districts are poor and miserable. The Capitol governs all the districts, but it’s not a democratic rule. The Capitol institutes and enforces laws that are meant to quiet dissenters and keep the status quo – a rich and happy Capitol.
In the quote below, Katniss discusses how people aren’t allowed to say negative things about life in their district or about the Capitol. There’s no concept of free speech in Panem. It’s clear that speaking negatively about the country in any fashion is likely to result in serious punishment.
“When I was younger, I scared my mother to death, the things I would blurt out about District 12, about the people who rule our country, Panem, from the far-off city called the Capitol. Eventually I understood this would only lead us to more trouble. So I learned to hold my tongue and to turn my features into an indifferent mask so that no one could ever read my thoughts.” (Chapter 1, Paragraph 11)
The dystopian theme is furthered when we learn the reason the Hunger Games were created. They were created as a reminder of the Capitol’s power and what it will do if anyone tries to disrupt the status quo. Any attempt at overthrowing the government will be met with a harsh, lasting punishment.
“The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.” (Chapter 1, Paragraph 75)