Introduction and Book Summary From Wikipedia
“The Hunger Games takes place after the destruction of North America, in a nation known as Panem, which consists of a wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts. District 12, where the book begins, is located in the coal-rich region that was formerly Appalachia. As punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol in which a 13th district was destroyed, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised event in which the participants (or "tributes") must fight to the death in a dangerous outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol until only one remains. The story follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for the 74th annual Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose. Also selected from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a baker's son whom Katniss knows from school, who once gave her bread when her family was starving” (Wikipedia 1). There are strong literary themes throughout this work that readily lend themselves to various forms of critique. This paper will focus on two main genres of literary criticism. The first is Marxist criticism, for which there is plenty of material that reveals the novel’s explicitly anti-imperialist agenda. There is a strong oppression of the poor by the rich, and socioeconomic subjugation is responsible for the huge disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots”. The Capitol dominates its districts by controlling education and the media, keeping the districts in a state of hunger and poverty, and monitoring all aspects of life with an eagle eye. The second form of literary criticism applied to The Hunger Games will be feminist critique. Katniss is presented as a strong, independent woman who seems to have transcended the confines of the traditional female gender role, and she is ultimately successful due to her ability to take on the characteristics of either gender as required by her situation. She is her family’s provider, having adopted typical masculine duties in hunting, bartering, and protecting her sister and mother. However, there are times where she is able to be protected or supported by a male character without feeling degraded or submissive. Additionally, the female characters throughout the trilogy who strive for singularly feminine gender roles are met with opposition and grim misfortune. Ultimately, The Hunger Games is an excellent work of young adult fiction that uses a futuristic, dystopian society to offer readers the chance to explore and critique Marxist ideologies as well as feminist thought.
Marxist Critique of The Hunger Games
One of the strongest themes in The Hunger Games is its condemnation of imperialism, which is represented by the Capitol of Panem. Throughout its pages, the novel invites readers to denounce the oppressive socioeconomic forces and repressive ideologies of the Capitol and its representatives. The Hunger Games certainly has a Marxist agenda as it reveals the crippling effects of the oppression of the people by the elite few. Citizens of the Capitol are living lives of luxury and ease while the hard-working and impoverished citizens of the other districts struggle to get by. These are “men and women with hunched shoulders, swollen knuckles, many who have long since stopped trying to scrub the coal dust out of their broken nails, the lines of their sunken faces” (Collins 4). They are the perfect representation of the Marxist proletariat, “the majority of the global population who live in substandard conditions and who have always performed the manual labor that fills the coffers of the rich” (Tyson 54). They have lost hope and merely toil under the domination of the privileged elite, the bourgeoisie who control the world’s natural, economic, and human resources. This domination pervades every aspect of their lives – they are...
Cited: Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2008. Print.
Dunn, George A., and Nicolas Michaud. The Hunger Games and Philosophy: A Critique of Pure Treason. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2012. Print.
Siegel, Kristi. "Introduction to Modern Literary Theory." Homepage. Mount Mary College, 01 Jan. 2006. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <http://www.kristisiegel.com/theory.htm>.
Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today a User-friendly Guide. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
Various Authors. "The Hunger Games." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Jan. 2012. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hunger_Games>.
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