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What are the similarities between the social structure in The Hunger Games and modern America?

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Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, makes many intentional choices in creating Panem's social structure in order to critique the modern United States.

First and foremost, there are stark lines between rich and poor. In Panem, the wealthiest citizens live in the Capitol and Districts 1 and 2, where decadence, superfluousness, and indulgence are the defining cultural traits. Citizens of districts like 11 and 12, however, live in total poverty, often struggling to have anything to eat, let alone extra money to buy flamboyant fashion. This strongly parallels American society and the concept of the "1%" who hold the majority of both wealth and power. A place like Panem's capitol also mirrors the idea of Beverly Hills or other extremely wealthy parts of America that seem like a different country from the impoverished areas only miles away.

Furthermore, Panem's obsession with televised dramatic entertainment is also a commentary on American society. The most influential people of Panem practically worship events like the Hunger Games, literally sacrificing the lives of children for "good TV." It could also be argued that Americans behave in a similar way, enjoying the drama of reality television, even when those shows harm real lives (think Toddlers in Tiaras or any show that promotes irresponsible consumption of alcohol or other rash decisions). Panem values spending an unknown sum of money on televised spectacles and even requires all citizens to have access to a TV—even when those same citizens barely have enough money to survive. This parallels an America where consumption of media has become unhealthy, desensitizing, and even brutal.

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One of the main similarities between Panem and the United States is the different levels of social class. Differences in social class are highlighted both in the day-to-day lives of the characters from District 12 vs. the Capitol and in the opportunity the children of those regions have for future success.

There's a stark contrast between the fashion-conscious citizens of the Capitol and the starving citizens of District 12. Citizens from the Capitol are concerned about appearances, while citizens from District 12 are struggling just to put food on the table. There are similar social and financial disparities in the U.S. today. Just pick up a tabloid to learn about what frivolous items celebrities are spending their millions on, while other Americans are homeless, unemployed, living on welfare, and just struggling to survive.

Similarly, children from a higher social class in Panem--children from the wealthy districts--stand a much better chance in the Hunger Games because they have the resources to train for the Games from birth. In fact, many tributes from those districts even volunteer to compete in the Games. Children from poorer districts (like District 12) are basically handed a death sentence when their names are called at "the Reaping." They're not prepared to compete and they almost always lose.

With the high tuition rates for college in America and the competition associated with the college application process, you can argue that children whose families can afford to send them to college and afford to give their children unique experiences that help them stand out on their applications have a better opportunity to earn a college degree than those whose families cannot. These children are more likely to succeed (like those from the wealthier districts are more likely to succeed in the Hunger Games) because they are afforded better opportunities from the start.

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