Study Guide

The Hunger Games Power

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The Capitol would like you to know that they're in charge. Period. Full stop.

How to maintain that power? Here's an idea: pick two kids from each District and have them all fight to the death during an annual television special. And let's see—we'll make it mandatory viewing for every citizen. That oughta keep 'em in line.

The life-or-death implications of the power differentials in Panem are blatantly obvious. The Capitol holds all the cards; the Districts are helpless. It's a malevolent totalitarian government. But power comes in many forms, and as Katniss learns, becoming a celebrity gives her a chip in their game that even President Snow may not be able to handle.

As Shmoop brilliantly illustrated in our "Why Should I Care" section, some literary critics have seen in The Hunger Games novels and films a parable of the adolescent experience, where adults run the show and powerless teens are forced to conform to sometimes arbitrary rules and social expectations heavily influenced by a media-obsessed culture. And sometimes, it seems like a fight to the death. In this view, Panem is a lot like your high school.

Of course, volunteering for human sacrifice isn't quite the same as protesting the removal of pizza from the cafeteria menu. Still, there's a strong class struggle dynamic in the film. The powerless have-nots in regions like District 12 produce the stuff that the elites need, but they get no benefits for themselves. They're ground down by a totalitarian government that keeps them in their place by intimidation and deprivation. So—Marxist class struggle or senior-class struggle? We report, you decide.

Questions About Power

  1. How do the various characters exercise the power that they have?
  2. What differentiates the good guys' use of power from the bad guys'?
  3. Does Katniss have any power in the film? If so, how does she use it?
  4. How does power in the arena relate to power in the Capitol and vice versa?

Chew on This

The Careers may look powerful and threatening, but they're powerless, too— just the result of being programmed by the Capitol to become elite fighters.

The Capitol cracks down hard on the citizens because they know the oppressed masses could rise up against them at any moment.

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