Themes in The Hunger Games

Providing Postitive and Thought-Provoking Ideas

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Themes in the Hunger Games. Chris Ryan / Getty Images

Some people are concerned that the book the Hunger Games might not be appropriate for children. The rather dark side to the story in the book might make you wonder whether your child should read the book. But there is more to the story than the dark elements of the plot. The book also develops many positive themes that one would expect from a young adult book, including the meaning of friendship, independence, and duty, but there are some that really stand out for me.


One sure sign of maturity is self-reliance. As kids reach the "coming of age" stage, they work at becoming their own person, separating from their parents and becoming less dependent on them. Katniss and Gale have learned to become almost completely self-reliant at a very young age; they had to grow up fast in order to survive. Katniss moves from being dependent on her parents to being the one others depend on. Kids always struggle at this age and Katniss's struggle to survive in the district is representative of the struggle all kids go through as they "come of age."

Strength of Character

Both Katniss and Peeta are determined to stay true to who they are and not allow the games to change them. As Peeta puts it, he doesn't want to become a pawn in the Capitol's game. And they both manage to do that. The games are something like a deadly version of middle school and high school vying for positions in the social hierarchy.

The career tributes are much like the bullies who don't care who they hurt in their climb to the top. Katniss wants to survive and win the games, but she is no bully. In fact, she tries to protect one of the more vulnerable tributes from the bullies.

Courage and Sacrifice

It goes without saying that a tribute needs the courage to excel in the games, but what kind of courage does it take for someone to volunteer?

Katniss has had no training like the career tributes and doesn't volunteer for honor. When she volunteers, she is essentially sacrificing herself for her sister Prim. Throughout the games, Katniss demonstrates her courage and her willingness to take risks and at times sacrifice her needs for the sake of others, without ever giving up on herself or seeing herself as less valuable than others.


Hope is what keeps us going no matter how dire our circumstances. The Hunger Games are meant to give the people of Panem just enough hope to keep going. There is hope that they or their children won't be chosen, but if they are, there is hope that they will survive. But by the end of the first book, there is more hope than that. There is hope for the citizens of Panem and hope for a different kind of life.

Political Themes

In addition to these young adult themes, the book also covers some themes that many adult science fiction books cover: poverty, starvation, and the oppression of a big and all-powerful government.

We learn that much of the poverty stems from the policies of the oppressive government and is used by the government to control the population. The government also uses technology to control the population and to instill fear in the people. People in fear of their government are much easier to control than those without such fear. With its use of technology, the government makes its presence felt at all times, ensuring that people remain fearful. These themes make the book a good one for parents to read and discuss with their children. Parents can talk to their children about totalitarian governments and ask some political questions about the book.

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