“Hunger Games” discussion questions

To any of my Introduction to Politics students who are 1) doing homework during spring break and 2) checking my blog over the break (both unlikely scenarios I’m sure), here are some questions to ponder for our discussion of The Hunger Games when you return:

How did Panem come to exist? What is the relationship between the Capitol and the districts?

Is Panem a “state”? From where does Panem derive its authority? From where does it derive its legitimacy? Does it even have legitimacy?

What elements of authoritarian governance does Panem exhibit?

Is the arena a metaphor for the Hobbesian State of Nature? How is it similar? How is it different?

What are some the Marxist elements of the storyline?

Why do the citizens of the districts obey the laws and rules of Panem?

Many of the Capitol citizens have Roman names (Caesar, Venia, Octavia, Flavius, etc.). What similarities are there between Panem and the Roman Empire? 

What is the culture of the Capitol? How is it similar/different to modern American culture?

How do the Capitol citizens view the Hunger Games? How is this similar/different to today’s popular forms of entertainment? How about to ancient forms of entertainment (specifically in the Roman Empire)?

On page 141 Peeta says “I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.” What would Hobbes say about this? Anarchists? Liberals? Conservatives?

On page 310 Katniss thinks about the possibility of going home: “To fame. To wealth. To my own house in the Victor’s Village. My mother and Prim would live there with me. No more fear of hunger. A new kind of freedom. But then… what? What would my life be like on a daily basis? Most of it has been consumed with the acquisition of food. Take that away and I’m not really sure who I am, what my identity is.” What is the “new kind of freedom” that she’s talking about? What are the different kids of freedom she discusses here? Are they positive or negative types of freedom?

What might the muttations who appear at the end of the story at the Cornucopia represent?

What do both Peeta and Katniss do at the end when it’s announced that there will be only one winner after all? What does this say about human nature?

On page 348 Katniss looks in a mirror and describes herself shortly after leaving the arena: “Wild eyes, hollow cheeks, my hair in a tangled mat. Rabid. Feral. Mad.” What imagery is invoked here? How does that relate to the rest of the novel and major themes of the story?

At the end of the book Katniss is faced with a choice: to explain her true motivations for the berries or explain it away in something that would be more viewed more favorably by the audience. What did she choose? Do you agree with this choice?

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