Study Guide

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games Summary

In the wondrous land of the future, the land of Panem squats where the United States used to be. A cruel Capitol rules 12 enslaved Districts with an iron fist and a wardrobe straight out of Lady Gaga's closet, while the District residents mainly root around in the dirt with the hogs. Once a year, one boy and one girl—called "Tributes"—from each District are chosen to participate in The Hunger Games, a gladiatorial battle to the death which is broadcast live throughout Panem. Most of the Districts are not cool with it, but the Capitol's fashionably dressed storm troopers say otherwise.

Such are the musings one fine day between Katniss Everdeen, a.k.a. Our Heroine, and her buddy Gale. The two have a habit of sneaking out past the fence in their District to go hunting in the forbidden woods, something the Capitol definitely frowns on. They've got a little thing going on, but Gale's more interested in how evil the Capitol is than in the upcoming selection process.

Katniss, for her part, has more pressing problems.

She's been looking after her little sister Primrose since their father was killed in the mines and their mother basically checked out. She's less interested in overthrowing the Capitol than in ensuring that her sister doesn't worry about the selection. After all, there's no way that Prim could be chosen for the Games, could she?

Yeah, about that…

Prim gets chosen and Katniss, stepping up like a big sister should, volunteers to take her place. It's kind of a shocker, since District 12 has never had a volunteer before. But what's a girl forced to grow up before her time gonna do?

She and the male Tribute, a handsome stack of baker's son named Peeta, stand together on the stage. In a flashback, we see that Katniss recalls seeing Peeta before—but the memory isn't complete.

The pair are whisked off to the Capitol to begin the primping that apparently precedes their imminent death. Katniss keeps staring at Peeta, and another flashback fills in some details; she saw him feeding pigs some burned bread from his family's bakery.

On the train to the Capitol, they meet Haymitch, the last survivor of the Games from their District, who's charged with advising them on what's about to happen. (Apparently, dispensing advice requires a lot of drinking.) They also meet Effie, who picked their names out of a hat and apparently is also part of their advisory team.

They arrive at the Capitol to great acclaim and quickly become celebrities. Their fashion guru Cinna designs outfits for them in the opening parade that appear to burst into flame, leading the Capitol media to dub Katniss "the Girl on Fire." Cinna knows how important it is to make a huge first entrance.

They spend several days training, planning, and watching the rest of the Tributes size them up like pieces of meat. Katniss makes a big impression by shooting an arrow through an apple in the mouth of a roast pig during her evaluation. That helps Haymitch score them sponsors that can buy them life-saving goodies in the Games battle arena. Peeta helps out by being a natural in front of the camera, and by confessing his love for Katniss, which Katniss is reasonably not-cool with.

Turns out to be a good strategy—the Capitol knows a ratings booster when they see it.

The Hunger Games arrive, and before Katniss is let loose, Cinna slips her a little present: the pin of a mockingjay (bird of the future and convenient symbol of defiance when the Capitol gets all up in your business) that she got from her sister when she volunteered to take her place.

Then we're up through the magic tube and into the arena, a faux wilderness where the Tributes fight like dogs for food, weapons, and anything to save them from various bits of heinosity that the Capitol throws at them. About half the Tributes are dead at the end of the first day. Katniss survives for a time by steering clear of anyone else, but a Capitol-engineered fire sends her back into danger. She soon runs afoul of a group of bigger, stronger kids, including Peeta, who appear to be making deals to stay alive and chase her straight up a tree.


She survives with a little help form Rue, a small, young Tribute who's good at hiding in trees, and with a nest of genetically engineered death wasps called tracker jackers that she drops right on her pursuers' faces. She gets a few stings herself and takes a magical trip through time and space thanks to their hallucinogenic poison, though she manages to snag a bow and arrow in the process.

She wakes up sometime later, with Rue watching over her. The little girl tended her wounds and kept an eye out for danger. They plan and successfully execute the sabotage of the group that's been pursuing them. Unfortunately, one of the other kids kills Rue with a spear right afterwards. Katniss kills him.

Only a few Tributes are left at this point.

Back outside the arena, where people aren't slaughtering each other, Haymitch convinces the Games coordinators to change the rules to allow two winners if they both come from the same District. Shortly after the announcement, Katniss comes across Peeta, camouflaged as a log and badly wounded. She nurses him back to health with help from a bowl of soup from a sponsor, helping to enhance the blossoming-but-not-quite-there-yet love triangle between the two of them and Gale. (And for the record, we are totally Team Peeta around here. Crusaders like Gale make lousy boyfriends.)

Unfortunately, Peeta needs medicine as well as just TLC. Luckily the generous Capitol offers to provide it, along with things that the other survivors need. Katniss just has to get the the center of the arena to get it, and Peeta tries to talk her out of it because, well, she could get killed. Like a sensible girl, she agrees; then when he's asleep, she leaves.

Katniss arrives in the center of the arena, and barely survives an attack from a Seriously Crazy Young Lady. She's saved by a boy from Rue's District, who does it in honor of the dead girl. She beats a hasty retreat with the medicine, and soon enough Peeta is ready to rock and roll.

Emerging form their hiding place, they come across another contestant who died after eating poison berries. They pocket some of the berries just in case.

Soon enough, it's just the two of them, along with Cato, the leader of the band who had chased Katniss. They battle at the arena center after the Capitol unleashes giant dogs to hunt them down. The three survive by climbing to the top of the giant cornucopia in the middle of the arena, and, after a brief-but-terrifying game of chicken, Peeta chucks Cato to the beasts.

High five for the good guys.

Except…the Capitol changes their mind again and now announces that only one victor can emerge. After a brief discussion, Peeta and Katniss agree to eat the poison berries together, and they make sure everyone is watching on their screens.

And guess what? The Capitol changes their minds again and lets them live.

Katniss and Peeta are the victors, but, having stuck their collective finger in the Capitol's eye, are advised to seriously watch their backs in the future. Seneca Crane, the Games creator who obviously has mismanaged it bigly this time, finds himself locked in a room with nothing but a bowl of poison berries.

  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    So Poor, So Hungry

    • We begin with a little backstory of gunpowder, treason, and plot: a brief description of the world we are about to enter.
    • Katniss Everdeen comforts her little sister Primrose after a nightmare about the Reaping.
    • Once Katniss has calmed her sister's fears, she heads out to the woods to hunt.
    • Katniss moves through the deer trails like a true predator, silent and focused.
    • She takes aim at a deer before her friend Gale interrupts her and startles her prey.
    • They exchange a friendly taunting before a large airship thunders overhead.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    Like Wheel of Fortune, Except You Die

    • Effie Trinket arrives in District 12.
    • Gale and Katniss sit in a field and discuss the future, burdened by the reality of family they are unwilling to leave behind.
    • Katniss wanders the Hob before she goes home.
    • She picks up a mockingjay pin from an older woman who gives it to her with a pained look in her eyes, knowing the terror that the child is going to face in a matter of hours when the selection begins.
    • Katniss returns home to wash and dress in her finest dress, which isn't so fine.
    • Katniss gives the mockingjay pin to Prim, promising her that it's a talisman of protection.
    • The children march silently into town for identification and sign in for the Reaping.
    • The magenta peacock, Effie Trinket, introduces a short PSA made to let the kids understand the glory of the Hunger Games for which they're lined up waiting like the Tributes of Athens.
    • Ladies first, and horrified silence echoes as the tiny Primrose is selected.
    • Katniss runs out to volunteer in her place and tells Prim to go.
    • The peacekeepers surround her and push her towards the stage.
    • (Peacekeepers—classic case of dystopia-speak. They'd just a soon kill you as look at you.)
    • Katniss's fate is sealed as the first volunteer ever from District 12.
    • The next name called is Peeta Melark: Katniss recognizes this boy, but they're clearly not friends.
    • In a quick flashback, she remembers something about seeing him at his family's bakery.
    • Katniss has only a few moments to say so long, farewell to her family.
    • Prim puts the protective mockingjay pin in Katniss' hand and begs her to win.
    • Katniss admonishes her mother to rise to the occasion and not abandon Prim like she did when their father died.
    • Gale enters and assures Katniss that killing an animal is no different than what she is about to face. Alright, then.
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    Riding that Train

    • Katniss is prodded onto a train with Peeta and Effie, a stupid luxurious train that floats and everything.
    • Effie tries to soften the blow of reality with earnest and misguided naiveté before departing to locate Haymitch, their mentor.
    • Peeta tries to talk to Katniss, who remains fixated on her vague memories of her previous interactions with him back home.
    • In another short flashback, the memory gets fleshed out a bit—he was feeding bread to his pigs.
    • Haymitch stumbles in drunk and brings the whole room down then departs, followed by a determined Peeta.
    • Katniss watches the television coverage of previous Hunger Games, and digests the gory reality she's facing.
    • Back in the dining car, Haymitch and Peeta discuss the games.
    • Katniss pushes for more advice, and loses her patience with Haymitch.
    • She learns that perhaps her loner, disconnected nature won't do her much good in the games. She's definitely not camera-ready.
    • The train arrives in the Capitol, and Peeta's entranced, feeding on the energy of the crowd.
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    Rock Stars

    • More media coverage: a glimpse into the fashion sense of the Capitol, which seems to believe that everyone should dress like David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust years.
    • Katniss gets cleaned up for presentation to her designer, Cinna, including what looks like a non-Brazilian wax job.
    • Cinna expresses his condolences, and vows to do everything he can to dress her with dignity.
    • He's not congratulating her like the other idiots. This endears him to Katniss, who's not one for pretense.
    • Cinna adds a special touch to Katniss and Peeta's outfits: fire.
    • The Tributes line up for the parade, while Capitol citizens frolic in the revelries.
    • Media coverage bombards the screen with images of Panem President Snow, our commentators, and the Tributes as they proceed into the grand arena. The crowd goes wild.
    • Peeta grabs Katniss's hand; he knows the crowds will love it.
    • The mob screams out in delight as Peeta and Katniss raise their arms, hands interlocked with flames bursting from their costumes.
    • Show biz creep Caesar Flickerman dubs her "The Girl on Fire."
    • President Snow ascends his podium to address the throngs.
    • Behind the scenes, the politics begin to take form, while Katniss and her team plot their strategy from her new penthouse digs.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    Gonna Need a Montage

    • Training for the Hunger Games begins.
    • Some rules, some advice, some warnings doled out to these children who'll spend the next several moments of the film in a series of training montages that reveal some of the charming traits of their competitors.
    • At an obscenely sumptuous dinner, we learn that Effie's very concerned with what Tributes get to eat for dessert.
    • Haymitch tries to get to know his Tributes a bit better.
    • Katniss and Peeta praise each others' strengths, and we learn that Peeta's own mother told him that District 12 might actually have a winner, but she didn't mean him. (Seriously, Mom?)
    • When Peeta storms out from dinner in disgust with the whole situation, Katniss has another flashback, which completes her memory of Peeta.
    • After he was throwing the bread to the pigs, he saw her huddled by a tree, looking miserable and hungry. With a compassionate look, he tosses her a loaf of the burned bread meant for the animals.
    • Katniss leaves the table, too.
    • More training, which means more charming Tribute interactions involving death threats and meaningful looks.
    • Katniss looks out for Peeta with some well-timed good advice on showing your strength. She's definitely warmed up to him after her memory of him came back.
    • Peeta shows some real talent with camouflage, while Katniss first notices Rue watching her.
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    And Now for My William Tell Impersonation

    • Haymitch explains the evaluation process, and leaves them with a very important tip: "make sure they remember you."
    • Katniss is called, and with a brief word of encouragement from Peeta, she enters the cold room and lays her hands on her prized bow and arrows.
    • The judges are distracted by their partying, and are unimpressed when Katniss fires her first arrow and misses the bull's-eye by a long shot.
    • Not discouraged one bit, she grabs another arrow and lands a perfect bull's-eye. Nobody notices. They're too busy drinking.
    • She grabs one more arrow and fires directly into the party through an apple in a roasted pig's mouth.
    • She takes a bow, snarls "thank you for your consideration," and departs.
    • It's what you might call a walk-off home run.
    • Effie pitches a fit because Katniss was so cheeky. But she's missing the point. Haymitch arrives and congratulates her for the performance she gave to the judges.
    • The media plays the results of the judge's scores.
    • Peeta does well, but Katniss scores 11—the highest of all the Tributes: the girl really is on fire.
    • Yes, sometimes things really do go up to eleven.
    • President Snow meets with Seneca Crane, the Game Maker.
    • Snow offers a quick lesson on despotism and political power, and warns Seneca about what he sees happening with this Katniss girl.
    • Haymitch tells Katniss that Peeta's asked to train alone from now on; Katniss is visibly jarred by the news.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    Ready for Your Close-Up

    • Caesar Flickerman, the man who's been hosting the media coverage, appears as a demented late night talk show host to interview the Tributes.
    • One child after another declares their confidence in winning the favor of the mob.
    • When it's time for Katniss, she gets disoriented by all the lights.
    • Caesar takes good care of her, trying to engage her.
    • Katniss eventually loosens up enough to wow the crowd with her fiery dress.
    • Caesar asks about Prim, and manages to truly catch Katniss off guard, showing the vulnerable girl from District 12 underneath the political polish.
    • Afterwards, Haymitch, Katniss, and Effie watch Peeta's performance from behind the scenes.
    • Peeta's a natural. Caesar gets Peeta to admit that Katniss is the girl he's always crushed on, setting the stage for their doomed love affair.
    • Katniss tries to beat Peeta senseless afterwards.
    • She feels that this fantasy makes her look weak, but in fact, Haymitch is excited about the narrative. It'll allow him to push for support during the games.
    • Everyone will respond to the star-crossed lovers bit.
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    Gut Check Time

    • It's the night before the Games, and Peeta sits, sleepless, in the main room.
    • Katniss joins him, and they talk about the event ahead of them.
    • Peeta's concerned about letting the Capitol turn him into something he isn't.
    • Katniss is concerned about leaving her sister behind and alone, but she can't afford to care about anything beyond victory.
    • Haymitch advises Katniss to avoid the cornucopia, and offers a few last-minute instructions as he escorts her to the transport and gives her one last pep talk.
    • The kids are injected with a tracker, and we get a glimpse of the control room for the games and the dramatic transport of the kids into the arena.
    • Katniss meets Cinna, who dresses her.
    • He's fastened her mockingjay pin inside her lapel. Cinna voices his confidence in Katniss, and she enters the tube to the surface.
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9


    • Blinding light.
    • In cold robotic tones, the Gamemakers count down the last moments before the rumble begins.
    • The thumping of time runs out, and the blare of doom hits us as the children burst from their stands into a sea of blood and murder and mayhem.
    • Katniss runs through the slaughter to grab a pack before narrowly escaping the thrown knife of a Career—a fighter trained for years by previous winners— and then flees into the forest.
    • Running.
    • Running.
    • More running, deeper into the remote and relative safety of the forest.
    • The media interrupts the running with the sounds of the cannons: one for each fallen Tribute.
    • Apparently, a huge chunk of the competition is out of it right off the bat; um… good news?
    • Katniss goes about the business of survival.
    • She lays traps for food, collects water, and generally stays secure in her element: this is her kung fu.
  • Scene 10

    Scene 10

    Fire Bad

    • Katniss wakes from the invasion of light from a foolish Tribute's nearby fire.
    • A pack of Careers also takes notice of the light and the opportunity to separate another Darwin award winner from his life force.
    • The Gamemakers take notice of Katniss' remote location and decide to herd her back into the action.
    • They choose fireballs and a disintegrating forest to push her right into the welcoming arms of the Career pack, who are traveling with Peeta now.
    • Katniss climbs the riverbank and runs.
    • She makes it up a tree, which they can't seem to climb as easily.
    • Peeta advises the pack to wait her out, and they agree.
    • Katniss tries to tend to her wounds from the fireballs, while Haymitch practices some serious salesmanship to get aid from some sponsors.
    • Soon, a small package glides to Katniss' tree refuge: medicine procured by Haymitch. What, they couldn't throw a Snickers in there, too?
    • Katniss applies the salve and her wounds magically heal. She sleeps through the night.
  • Scene 11

    Scene 11

    The Bees' Knees

    • At dawn, Katniss wakes before the rest of the pack.
    • Rue is in a nearby tree with her eye on something important.
    • The media interrupts to explain the terrifying nest of tracker jackers— poisonous, genetically modified wasps—lurking in Katniss's tree.
    • Katniss manages to saw the heavy limb down and drop the tracker jackers right on top of the pack.
    • She's stung repeatedly, but hangs on until the limb is down.
    • In the panic and suffering that unfolds below, Katniss manages to get down from the tree and tries to escape. The stings make her hallucinate.
    • She gets a bow and arrows from a fallen Career, and passes in and out of her trippy visions.
  • Scene 12

    Scene 12

    A Little Help from My Friend

    • When Katniss wakes up, she's covered in leaves and tucked away beneath a log.
    • Her weapons are nearby, and a curious but frightened Rue is waiting to see how this will go; the girl took care of Katniss while the insect venom got out of her system.
    • Katniss feeds Rue, and they immediately form a strong bond.
    • In the morning, the girls have formulated a plan.
    • Rue teaches Katniss how to use the mockingjay's call to signal to each other. They plant a trap to distract the Careers long enough to destroy their cache at the cornucopia in the center of the arena.
    • Katniss assesses the situation, and one of the other Tributes arrives to steal supplies without being detected.
    • Katniss realizes that the supplies are surrounded by land mines: it would only take one to set off a devastating chain reaction of explosions.
    • She takes aim at a bag of apples with her bow.
    • The first arrow misses, but the second time's the charm: kaboom. A bouncing apple sets off the mines.
    • Supplies are scattered, Careers are alerted and angry.
    • Their leader, Cato snaps the neck of the younger, smaller Tribute who was assigned to guard the cache.
    • Katniss quickly races back to the forest to meet up with Rue, and finds her snared in a trap.
    • She cuts Rue loose.
    • A Tribute arrives for his prey, and Katniss dispatches him, but not before he lobs a spear into Rue's tiny body.
    • Katniss cradles her small friend's corpse and sings her into oblivion.
    • Katniss expresses her defiance by decorating Rue's lifeless body with nearby wildflowers before she departs, even more determined to win this thing.
    • Riots erupt in Rue's District after her death. Troops are called in to quell the uprisings.
    • Meanwhile Katniss cries in the woods, alone.
  • Scene 13

    Scene 13

    The Rules Change

    • Haymitch talks with Seneca Crane, and tries to keep them from simply killing Katniss for her defiance.
    • Snow warns Seneca not to let Katniss, and the revolution that seems to be swirling around her, get out of hand.
    • A voice booms across the arena, announcing new rules: there can now be two victors, but only if they're from the same District.
    • Katniss begins to track Peeta down.
    • She finds him seriously injured and hiding near a creek.
    • Katniss doesn't let on how bad his wounds are.
    • They find a cave where he can rest.
    • Another package arrives, but this time with only soup.
    • Peeta tells her that his love for her was never fake. Of course, it sure doesn't hurt that everyone's watching this little love scene.
    • The voice of doom arrives again: offering them the medicine they desperately need to save Peeta. It's back at the cornucopia.
    • Peeta forbids Katniss from going to this obvious trap.
    • Katniss shuts his mouth with a kiss, and settles into his arms for a short rest.
    • Katniss watches Peeta shiver with fever. When he conks out, she leaves to get that medicine.
  • Scene 14

    Scene 14

     For Rue

    • Katniss arrives at the cornucopia and watches one of the remaining survivors, a fox-faced girl, getting a similar package to hers.
    • Katniss runs into one of Cato's girls who likes to play with knives.
    • They fight, and the other girl seems to have the advantage, but Rue's District mate Thresh arrives and violently dispatches her.
    • He tells Katniss to beat it: he's giving her this one for Rue.
    • Katniss brings the medicine back to a very love-struck and weakened Peeta.
  • Scene 15

    Scene 15

    End Game

    • Peeta and Katniss emerge from hiding to gather food.
    • As Katniss takes aim at a bird, a cannon sounds.
    • Katniss finds Peeta, who's been unwittingly gathering extremely poisonous berries.
    • Foxface has been following and eating the berries: she didn't know that they were deadly.
    • Katniss gathers the berries into her pocket hoping that they might come in handy for dispatching Cato.
    • A sudden darkness descends: the finale is here.
    • Another Tribute falls to the booming voice of the cannon: Thresh.
    • Now, it's just our two heroes and Cato left.
    • Peeta and Katniss move silently through the forest, but they're jumped by an enormous dog.
    • Katniss manages to get Peeta up and running towards the cornucopia to safety.
    • Well, not quite safety. Cato's there waiting.
    • There's a valiant battle atop the cornucopia that culminates in Cato grabbing Peeta and holding him hostage to keep Katniss from shooting him.
    • Katniss shoots a perfectly aimed arrow right through Cato's hand.
    • He lets go of Peeta's neck and Peeta throws him to the ravenous pack of animals salivating below.
    • Katniss compassionately puts one last arrow right between Cato's eyes to save him from his screams of agony as the dogs rip him limb from limb.
    • See why they call this dystopian?
  • Scene 16

    Scene 16

    One Last Twist

    • The sun rises, and the voice appears again: the rules have changed.
    • Apparently, there's only one victor now. Sorry, kids; no co-valedictorians.
    • Katniss pulls out the poisoned berries. She and Peeta make a suicide pact onscreen for all to see.
    • They'll die together and deny the Capitol a victor.
    • Just before they eat the berries, the voice stops them: they'll be allowed to share the victory after all.
    • Back in the Capitol, Haymitch tells Katniss that she's still in danger: the powers that be don't like being shown up the way she showed them up.
    • Seneca's led into a room with a bowl of poison berries and no exit.
    • Caesar puts his spin on the drama as he interviews the victors.
    • Katniss is coached on the politics of life as a victor, and she and Peeta perform the star-crossed-lovers routine to help calm down the authorities.
    • President Snow gives Katniss her victory crown.
    • Peeta and Katniss ride the train home, while Snow plots from the shadows.
    • Have we been set up for a sequel or what?