The Thirteen Districts
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
As we learn from the novel's first chapter, the country of Panem is located in what once was North America. In the middle sits the Capitol, a center of wealth and affluence which organizes the yearly Hunger Games. Surrounding the Capitol are thirteen districts, regions which fall under the control of the Capitol.
The districts all have distinct personalities (District 12, for example, is a coal-mining community; District 11 is primarily agricultural), yet they are all ruled from afar by the cruel and powerful government of the Capitol. The districts supply the Capitol with goods (like coal or grain), yet they often have sanctions, punishments, or unfair restrictions placed upon them by the tyrannical powers that be.
District 13, of course, is the one exception. The thirteenth district is a rebel region that the Capitol obliterated during the Dark Days as a reminder that everyone in Panem must obey the power and might of the Capitol.
The American history buffs among us might find this set-up – thirteen districts ruled by a harsh and distant power – all too familiar. During the colonial period, a huge chunk of North America was also split into thirteen colonies: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. (That was a mouthful.) As colonies, these regions reported to the fancy-pants British, as that region of North America was then considered part of the domain of the British Empire.
Just as in The Hunger Games, colonists in North America supplied folks back in England with goods such as cotton and tobacco; and much like the Capitol, the British government often imposed rules, laws, and restrictions on the colonies that the people living there felt to be pretty unfair. (Remember the battle cry "No taxation without representation"?) Though the Brits definitely weren't making the American colonists fight to the death for entertainment, the colonists eventually decided that it was time for either liberty or death, and thus the Revolutionary War began. Figures such as George Washington and Betsy Ross came onto the national stage to fight the Red Coats (British soldiers) that began invading the shores.
In sum, the thirteen districts of Panem are in a very similar position as the original North American colonies. Both have fallen under the rule of a tyrannical system of government. Unlike the original colonies, whose story we can read about in American history books, we don't yet know the fate of the 13 districts of Panem. Will the districts of The Hunger Games also ask for their independence from the Capitol? It looks to us like a revolution might just be on the horizon.