What happens in The Hunger Games?

Heroine Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, 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' younger sister Prim is chosen, Katniss volunteers to take Prim's place in the games.

  • Katniss joins Peeta Mallark, the male tribute, and their mentor, Haymitch, on the train to the Capitol. Haymitch devises a strategy: Peeta will admit that he loves Katniss on camera, and the "star-crossed lovers" will win massive fan support.
  • In the arena, Peeta pretends to join the group of violent and practiced “career” tributes while Katniss befriends a young girl named Rue. One by one, the career tributes kill off the other contestants. 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. Desperate to save face, the Capitol halts the games, allowing both contestants to win—and live.

Download The Hunger Games Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Synopsis

After writing the fantasy series The Underland Chronicles, Suzanne Collins departed from the world of fantasy and stepped into a harsh, dystopian creation in The Hunger Games. Published in 2008, The Hunger Games is the first novel in a projected trilogy, and introduces readers to a futuristic dystopian society where an overpowering government controls the lives and resources in twelve different districts. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, of District 12, is the main character of the story. Each year, as punishment for the now demolished District 13's attempted rebellion, two children in each district are chosen by lottery to fight each other to the death in an arena. The event is called the Hunger Games and is televised for everyone in the Capitol to see; the winning tribute is given food and a life of ease for themselves and their families, along with presents of food and resources for their district. Katniss ends up volunteering for the role of tribute to the Games after her little sister Prim is drawn in the lottery. Peeta, a baker's son that Katniss knows through school, is also drawn to fight in the Games. Katniss and Peeta are whisked away to the Capitol to fight other children in the artificial landscape created for the arena. In a twist of events, it is revealed that Peeta is in love with Katniss, as is Gale, a boy back in District 12 whom Katniss hunted with regularly. The love triangle gives added interest to the story line and to the Games themselves as Katniss and all the other tributes fight for their lives.

Although marketed as adolescent literature, the theme of fighting to the death, and the violence of the events that occur in the arena, all involving children, has brought with it controversy and some protest from parents and school groups. On the other hand, the book is popular among teens and adults alike, all who like it for its simple and understandable prose, wry sense of humor, constant suspense and action-packed plotline. The Hunger Games was met with mostly positive reviews, with some negative commentary on the simplistic style and lack of thorough complexity that a dystopian future would merit. Its themes of family, friendship, love, and survival are accessible, and Katniss's strong, pragmatic, and yet vulnerable character adds to the story's appeal.

Summary

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...

(The entire section is 1,287 words.)