What is the theme of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, contains many themes; some offer political commentary while others demonstrate individual characteristics.

The world which exists in this novel is recognizable to readers but has been corrupted by power and money. In this world, those who have everything first create and then oppress and control those who have nothing as well as all the resources people need to live. When the government forces members of each District to fight for their lives as a form of punishment for an earlier rebellion, it is imposing the will of a few onto the lives of many. When a government oppresses through this kind of control, it creates poverty and starvation, which ultimately lead to unnecessary deaths. So, one theme of this novel is the inherent unfairness of a government which has too much control of the people and resources; however, there is a sliver of hope when Katniss and Peeta defy the government rules and win. Though hope only begins in this novel, the citizenry will eventually begin to rise up and rebel.

Some more positive themes are centered around the games themselves. Katniss Everdeen is a splendid example of sacrifice and courage when she volunteers to take her sister's place in the games. She is afraid, of course, and she does not want to die; however, Katniss knows she is much better equipped to survive the games than her sister. She and her friend Gale Hawthorne are both expert hunters and could selfishly take care of themselves without worrying about anyone else:

“We could do it, you know."
"Leave the district. Run off. Live in the woods. You and I, we could make it.” 

But neither of them chooses to act in such a selfish manner, despite the burden this places on them, and especially Katniss, to be the providers for their families. Peeta and some of the others also demonstrate these qualities throughout the course of the games; because of that, two people manage to survive the games rather than just one. 

Both Katniss and Peeta vow that they will not be subverted into killing machines by these games, and they are strong enough to remain true to themselves even with the entire force of the government directed at them. They demonstrate strength of character as they battle for their lives, a sharp contrast to others who are selfish, greedy, and manipulative--and dead.

A theme in any work is simply the lesson or reminder the reader or viewer takes away from the work. For example, if you read this book and were inspired by the fact that young people could make a difference in the world and can find evidence from the text to prove it, that is a useful theme. I would encourage you to think about what you might have learned, realized, or recognized about yourself or the world as you were reading (supported by evidence and examples from the text, of course), as that will be a meaningful theme to you.