The Hunger Games: The Fight of Your Life

Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2008.

external image 200px-Hunger_games.jpg"Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!"

Imagine growing up in a world so poor and inhospitable that you must fight to stay alive every second of every day. Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, does just this.

In a post-apocalyptic world, North America is no more. In its place exists Panem- a twelve-district area controlled by a totalitarian government. Serving as a twisted punishment for a past uprising, every year, an event known as The Hunger Games takes place. As a continuous fear tactic, one male and one female between the ages of twelve and eighteen are plucked from each of the twelve districts through random draw. Then, placed in a vast outdoor arena, they compete to the death, as there can only be one winner.

A gladiator-style fight to the death consisting of, for the most part, children and young teens, is highly violent and has been a key point of much of the The Hunger Game's controversy; however, Katniss plays a very feminist role that is often overlooked. When she volunteers to be part of the Hunger Games in place of her younger sister Primrose, it’s clear that she is a cut above the rest, always putting her family first. Throughout the Hunger Games, Katniss faces physical and mental challenges representative of issues people face everyday i.e. oppression, poverty, starvation, civil war, etc. With a strong female protagonist, The Hunger Games offers a nice alternative to the timid, defenseless Bella of the Twilight Series and so many other books that cast the female as a vulnerable damsel in distress just looking for their one true love.

Moreover, themes of power, self-identity, competition and sacrifice riddle The Hunger Gamesas Katniss battles her fellow “Tributes” and oftentimes her inner self. Although the chances of her surviving the Hunger Games seem slim to none, Katniss overcomes- symbolizing the uprising of the underdog. It is in facing death that Katniss is able to live her life to the fullest, never taking a second for granted. She is a feminist hero- strong and determined- who faces every obstacle possible, both mental and physical, and overcomes, winning the 74th annual Hunger Games.

Named one of Publishers Weekly’s “Best Books of the Year” in 2008, The Hunger Games is full of action, suspense, positive messages, and is a great book for readers of all ages.

Recommendations for Teachers
The Hunger Games is filled with relevant themes and ideas that can create an entertaining and enlightening unit plan for a high school or middle school classroom. Ideas such as character development, individualism, and social tyranny could be taught and discussed.

Collins does an excellent job with character development throughout "The Hunger Games" and focusing on this literary aspect would help delve into the meaning of the book from a new critical approach. Activities that could help illustrate the ideas that each character represents would be to play the game "Celebrity" within the class. Students partner up and one person is the interviewer while the other person is a character from the book. The person who is the character from the book does not reveal who they are, and the class must guess based on the answers that they provide for the interviewer. This game will help break the ice of understanding exactly who each character is, as they will have to think from the perspective of that character in either answering the questions or guessing who the person is supposed to be.

Individualism is another strong theme that is illustrated through both Peeta and Katniss' strength and resistance to the Capitol's standards. A possible approach to teaching this idea could be a series of questions for the students to answer in regards to how they would act if they were in the characters shoes. Questions such as: Have you ever found yourself in a compromising situation and chosen to take the harder route because you believed it was the right thing to do? Do you think it is okay to defy authority if you disagree with what you are being asked to do? How do you feel about Katniss' and Peeta decision to defy the Capitol?

Lastly, social tyranny and the social expectations that come from that tyranny could be addressed. An open classroom discussion about the ways in which our society "lays out" standards and protocol for how we are supposed to act would help the students understand this concept. After identifying these standards the students can draw parallels between actions taken by the Capitol and actions taken by our society/government today (i.e. pressures to look a certain way, enlisting in the army).

About Suzanne Collins
Click on this picture to see where this image came from!
Suzanne Collins has actually been a known writer since 1991, but wrote more for children's shows after receiving her MFA at New York University at the age of twenty-five. She wrote for shows such as the ones on Nickelodeon and the popular shows Clifford's Puppy Days, Little Bear and Oswald. After working on the set of Generation O!, a children's Warner Brothers show, she met James Promois, a children's author. He encouraged her to try writing children's books, which is where The Underland Chronicles came from. Since then she has also written the well known Hunger Games trilogy, the first of which is being made into a film (Click here for more).

Suzanne Collins is shy of the media and rarely agrees to interviews. The Hunger Games was meant to capture her distaste for the media, and how she believes it has an effect on our world today. Although she has received some opposition due to the violence of The Hunger Games trilogy, she says that she has written about war for young adults. Instead of sheltering our youth from the gory truth of war, she has exposed them to it through her dystopian literature. Suzanne Collins now lives in Connecticut, is married, and has two children. (See more about Suzanne Collins in this New York Times article.)

Multimedia (Video or Audio)
The first video is of the trailer for the upcoming film, "The Hunger Games" starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss and directed by Gary Ross ("Pleasantville", "Seabiscuit", "Big", etc.).

The second video includes author Suzanne Collins explaining her various classical inspirations. She discusses things like Greek mythology and Roman gladiator games.

The third video is another response from Suzanne Collins regarding her inspiration, this time- contemporary. She discusses the prevalence of our obsession with reality television, both for our entertainment and regarding current events like war.

Additional Resources:
  • Scholastic: The Hunger Games- Learn more about the book (and its predecessors) and the author; including videos, games, and downloads.
  • "The Hunger Games" Book Reviews- Accomplishments and awards received by "The Hunger Games" as well as reviews given by USA Today, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, etc.
  • "The Hunger Games" Movie- Main website for the upcoming The Hunger Games movie, set to be released March 23, 2012.
  • "The Hunger Games" Trilogy Teaching Resources- Resources for teachers considering bringing "The Hunger Games" into their curriculum; includes activity and discussion ideas, memes, and other forms of prevalent media.
  • Down With the Capitol- A fansite for all things Hunger Games; includes information about the books and movie, podcasts, music playlists, contests, etc.
  • Mockingjay- Another fansite dedicated to all things pertaining to "The Hunger Games"; includes a forum, book and movie information, upcoming events, etc.
  • Chapter Endings & The Hunger Games- Provides suggestions for keeping children interested in reading, specifically mentioning Collins' ingenious way of ending each chapter.
  • Hunger Games Lessons- Lessons for teachers teaching "The Hunger Games" as well as reasons why teachers should teach "The Hunger Games".
  • Hunger Games Jeopardy- An interactive game of Jeopardy all about "The Hunger Games" books. Categories include districts, people, Hunger Games, The Mockingjay, and Books.
  • The Hunger Games Resources- Provides detailed lesson plans and ideas for how to teach "The Hunger Games"
  • Discussion Guide for teachers- A detailed discussion guide for teachers covering all three books in the trilogy.
  • Hunger Games Overview- Detailed summary of the plot, characters, and themes
  • Hunger Games Review- Review of the book in relation to other popular works of today.
  • "Suzanne Collins's War Stories For Kids"-This New York Times Article was also credited for some of the "About the Author" information, but it has much more of Suzanne Collins's background and how she thought of some of the ideas to write The Hunger Games series. It also includes her responses to those who think that her books are too violent to be young adult literature.
  • Hunger Games Recipes-takes some of the "odd" foods in the literature and gives recipes! Making some of these recipes and bringing them into class could be a great conversational starter with students.
  • Suzanne Collins's Biography-The official webpage all about Suzanne Collins.

Steph Hagger
Katherine Blumenstein
Erin Toth

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