The Hunger Games Summary
The Hunger Games is a young-adult dystopian novel by Suzanne Collins about young people who must compete in deadly gladiatorial games.
- Katniss Everdeen lives in the poorest district in Panem. Each year, the twelve districts are forced to offer two children (one male and one female) to participate in a nationally televised event called the Hunger Games. When Katniss’s younger sister, Prim, is chosen, Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place.
- At the Capitol, Katniss competes along with a boy named Peeta from the same district. When Peeta is injured, Katniss nurses him back to health.
- In the end, only Katniss and Peeta are left. They agree to take poison berries in a suicide pact rather than kill each other. The Capitol halts the games, allowing both contestants to win.
Last Updated on May 18, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 905
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 their family are awarded lives of ease, along with presents of food and resources for their district.
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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 what is likely 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. Gale has expressed deeper feelings than friendship for Katniss, and they even kissed once. However, Katniss is ambivalent about her feelings for Gale. She is so terrified of marriage and having children in a world ruled by Panem that she avoids any thought of romance.
After hunting, Katniss and her family prepare to go to the eerily named “reaping” ceremony, where two children from District 12 will be chosen to fight in the Hunger Games. This year, Prim, Katniss’s sister, is drawn as a tribute. Without hesitation, Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place, a step allowed by the rules of the Games. The other tribute from her district is Peeta Mellark, the son of the district’s baker. Katniss knows Peeta from her grade at school. Years ago, he gave Katniss bread when she and her family were starving.
Immediately after Katniss and Peeta are chosen as tributes, they are taken through a series of ceremonies, interviews, and makeovers for the Games. They meet Haymitch Abernathy, a past tribute from District 12 who won the Games years ago and who is required to mentor all tributes coming from his district. He is a middle-aged man who spends most of his days drunk but who ends up helping Katniss and Peeta in many ways before the Games are over. Both Katniss and Peeta are given makeup artists, costume stylists, and a public relations representative, Effie Trinket, from the Capitol. This team helps to polish and groom Katniss and Peeta, in order to put on a good show for the country that watches their every move.
Through the course of the interviews, Peeta admits on camera that he has always had a crush on Katniss; Haymitch encourages both of them to play up that angle because the crowds love it. If the crowds support a tribute, then the tribute gets more sponsors, who provide money, supplies, food, and medicine that can be given during the Games. The more sponsors they have, the more likely the tribute will survive. When the cameras are on, Katniss plays the role of being in love with Peeta, and they garner many fans and a great deal of support as a result.
The twenty-four tributes are put into the arena—an artificially staged landscape where they are required to fight to the death. During the Games, Katniss encounters many difficulties, both from her fellow contestants and from the mutated creatures and insects placed in the arena to harm the tributes. The hardest trial Katniss faces is the death of a younger tribute, Rue, with whom she had become good friends. Katniss ends up rescuing the wounded Peeta and nursing him back to health, and in the end, only the two of them are left. Instead of fighting each other, however, they both agree to eat poisoned berries and die together as a way to fight back against the Games and Panem. Just as they are about to do this, the Capitol ends the Games and declares both of them victors. The book ends with Peeta and Katniss being taken home to face their district, to face Gale, to face just exactly what their feelings for each other really are, and to face the consequences of defying the government.