For a young adult series, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games offers a surprisingly biting criticism of the status quo in the West. Her story is one of a privileged district in society that is altogether indifferent to the suffering going on outside its boundaries. Although Collin disguises it with different names, she has not ventured far from our present reality of global poverty.
The Hunger Games is set in a dystopic future world, where citizens live in an area divided by districts. District One & Two are the wealthiest, and control the majority of the resources. As they spread further and further out, the regions become more impoverished. The heroine of the novel, Katniss Everdeen, is from the last, District 13, and relies on her wits, her will and a crude bow and arrow to support her family. Through its fantastical descriptions, outlandish characters and futuristic technology, Collins’ world manages to appear quite distinct from our own. Yet, in a thinly veiled criticism Collins has painted an unsettling portrait of ourselves and the world we live in.
The Hunger Games: A Lesson on Global Poverty
The parallel escapes many of the fans of the books, but those who live in District One are akin to the top percent in the world: they have enough to eat, access to clean water, safe homes and opportunities for betterment. For this percentage of the world, daily life is not a struggle: it is a thing to be enjoyed, to find happiness and meaning, to indulge in fads and fancies and fashion. Much like the District One in the books, the humans in District One seem bizarre and alien in comparison to those struggling on the fringes. They have none of the same concerns and seem largely unaware of the brutal reality that exists just beyond their borders.
The Hunger Games offers an uncomfortable mirror to our own world. In our daily lives, we often obsess about trivialities: we track celebrities, dedicate time to watching who wore what dress, aim to buy smartphones and cars while the vast majority of the world struggles to scrape a living out of the most dire circumstances.
As audiences, we automatically condemn District One; without even meeting them, we judge everyone in it and see the plot’s revolution as inevitable and cheer for Katniss. In reality, however, we are not quite as benevolent. We are quick to make excuses to preserve self-interest. Poverty and the state of the world do not often rank among our daily concerns, as much as what to wear and what people think of us. On the national scale, US foreign aid consists of less than 1% of the budget; this covers everything from healthcare to military aid to food assistance.
The Hunger Games has captivated a number of readers in the United States; and yet, for some, Collins has posed a very uncomfortable and very important question – what makes us so different from District One?
– Farahnaz Mohammed