Literary Devices In The Hunger Games

Introduction to “The Hunger Games”

“The Hunger Games” is a captivating dystopian novel, written by Suzanne Collins. The novel was published in the year 2008. It tells the story of a girl named Katniss Everdeen, her creativity and imaginative work to survive in a totalitarian world. The novel deals with issues of survival as well as rebellion in a society that has embraced societal control.

The Hunger Games is set in the new country of Panem. Every year, the Capitol of Panem requires each district to send a boy and a girl as tributes to participate in a televised death match called the Hunger Games. The last living tribute would be considered as the winner and will bring home food for his/her district. The story revolves around 16-years old Katniss Everdeen who substitutions her sister for entering in the 74th Hunger Games due to which the life of the residents of the Panem faces some developments.

Short Story of “The Hunger Games”

The novel starts with Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the impoverished District 12, where she hunts and forages to keep her family from starving to death.

Prim dresses in her sister’s old clothing in hopes that she will also be chosen, however Katniss stepped in.

Peeta and Katniss, the male and female tributes respectively, are assembled into a large arena in the Capitol for training and general preparations for the Hunger Games.

The situational approach draws attention to the reality that inside the arena Katniss is faced with a plethora of dangers, such as human, the environment and the other tributes who are trying to kill her.

Her friendship with Peeta is short-lived when she realizes that he has fallen in love with her during a televised interview. The thrill of the Games increases as Katniss’s wits and instincts are repeatedly challenged.

The interesting and significant part of the plot takes places when the only two surviving tributes Katniss and Peeta disobey to kill each other and threatened to eat poisonous berries.

The choice of rebellion makes them both winners in the eyes of the Capitol and this in itself becomes a future source of conflict in the later novels of the The Hunger Games.

Themes in “The Hunger Games”


Survival is the significant theme in the novel. From the start of the novel, Katniss is portrayed as a survivor, who is expert in hunting and provides support to her family.

The Hunger Games are considered a brutal test of survival, wherein the tributes utilize their wits, physical prowess and skills to stay alive.

The theme also reflects the daily struggle of the districts under the cruel rule of the Capitol.

Societal Control and Oppression

The Capitol posses extensive dominance over Panem as seen from the cruel act of holding the Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games are a symbol of menace and force that keep the districts in check, thereby fully conforming to the rules of the Capitol.

This aspect is made clear through difference between the beautiful and pleasing life of the Capitol and the struggling and poor life of the districts.

Rebellion and Resistance

One of the key themes in the novel is rebellion.

Katniss volunteering for the Games, her defiance in the arena and Stone as well as her spirit of rebellion symbolically encourage others to rise against the Capitol.

This aspect of rebellion as a concept is reflected in the characters’ drive to defy the authority of the Capitol.

Literary Devices in “The Hunger Games”

1- Symbolism

“The arena’s a vast, open space with forests, lakes, and fields. It looks like a beautiful landscape at first glance, but it’s a carefully constructed death trap. The arena is a metaphor for the world of Panem, with the Capitol as its designer. Every tree, rock, and body of water is strategically placed to entertain and control.”

The structure of the arena in the novel stands as one of the most significant allegories that reflects the tyrannous power of the Capitol and the grim fate of the Districts in Panem.

It is designed to be the embodiment of both beauty and malevolence, reflecting the Capitol’s power over the dystopian society.

The divergent landscape of the arena and hidden dangers depict the unpredictable as well as oppressive rule of the Capitol.

The tributes are closely watched and forced into deadly situations, which bring the entertainment for the Capitol.

It reflects the wide experience of the districts, where the inhabitants are kept under proper surveillance and control.

The design of the arena i.e. it’s traps and challenged symbolize the Capitol’s power to form and command the lives of the tributes.

2- Foreshadowing

“Peeta! Peeta! It’s Peeta Mellark! The boy who gave me the bread! There’s no way to tell his mother what a difference that bread made. I was almost dead of hunger, remember? You gave me hope. And now you’ve extended that hope. It’s all I can think of when I remember how I felt. And I owe him for it. I’ll never stop owing him for his kindness and bravery. The memory of Peeta’s generosity brings tears to my eyes.”

This passage arises when lucky meets one of the rebels who gives her a message for Katniss.

The moment foreshadows the revolt and revolution which are key themes in the subsequent volumes.

A symbol of rebellion, the character and the message indicates that Districts are becoming restless and preparing for a rebellion against the Capitol.

The use of words like “the people” and “the rebels” enumerates that there is an organized struggle movement gaining momentum against the Capitol.

It sets the tone of the growing towards rebellion and puts a viewer into a position of expecting Katniss as a symbol of rebellion.

It also draws focus to the idea of collective action and how the oppressed can stand up against the oppressors.

3- irony

“And then, because it’s Effie and she’s apparently required by law to say something awful, she announces that Peeta and I will be representing District 12 as a couple. We’re star-crossed lovers from the seam. Is there anything I can say that will make you believe me? Peeta’s brow furrows in confusion. ‘We’re not star-crossed lovers!’ I shout.”

In the paragraph, the strategy of Peeta posing to be in love with Katniss is deeply ironic. Peeta confesses his affection for Katniss in the interview held before the Games.

This being his strategy is to appeal the viewers to attain their sympathy.

This declaration is ironic since though Peeta has genuine affection for Katniss, she does not think that he is being true to himself but is simply employing a tactic that will help her dominate the games.

On the other hand, the reaction of Katniss towards Peeta’s confession is confusing. She considers it as a cunning tactic and does not realize the depth of the actual emotion of Peeta.

Here, the irony lies in the fact that the audience of the Capitol and the tributes are convinced by their portrayal as ill-fated lovers, however the Katniss is struggling with the authenticity of Peeta’s feelings.

This strategy further complicates their relationship. Katniss pretends by mixing her performance with the reality.

The irony develops as their fake relationship starts to affect their real emotions and actions. This highlights the complex blender of truth and deception in the Games and in their relationship.

4- Imagery

“Our part of District 12, nicknamed the Seam, is usually crawling with coal miners heading out to the morning shift at this hour. 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. But today the black cinder streets are empty. Shutters on the squat gray houses are closed. The reaping isn’t until two. May as well sleep in. If you can.”

The passage contains extensive imagery to portray the depressing environment of District 12, especially the Seam where Katniss lives.

The imagery draws a picture of a harsh and oppressive setting. It reflects the cruel realities of the life in one of the impoverished districts of Panem.

The phrases “black cinder streets”, “squat gray houses” and “coal dust” form a distinct and dull atmosphere that emphasizes the poverty and distress faced by the local people.

The description of the coal miners with their “hunched shoulders”, “swollen knuckles” and “broken nails” further shows their physical appearance the the daily labor.

Furthermore, the imagery of “sunken faces” indicates both physical and emotional fatigue, which reinforces the theme of deprivation.

The empty streets and closed shutters unfolds a sense of anxiety, as the residents of the district prepare themselves for the reaping.

5- Metaphor

“The woods became our savior, and each day I went to the fence armed with a bow and a sheath of arrows, and returned with something to barter with: a rabbit, a squirrel, a handful of katniss greens or, if I was very lucky, a deer. But the woods were not safe. They were dangerous. They were as dangerous as the Capitol.”

In the passage, the author employed a metaphor where Katniss said woods are “as dangerous as the Capitol,” to explain the inherent danger in her environment.

The so called ‘savior’ – the woods where the bunny impersonates the food and a mean to survive– is also a threat.

This duality indicates the role of Capitol in the lives of the residents of the district. On the one hand, the Capitol ensures security and order, on the other hand, it preserves the authority to eliminate anyone who is seen as a potential danger.

The above metaphor represents the emerging threat and the fight for existence that can be encountered both in the meadows and forests as well as under the Capitol’s dominance.

6- Allusion

“Panem et Circenses translates into ‘Bread and Circuses’. The idea being that as long as the populace is kept fed and entertained, they will be docile and easy to control. This was a practice in ancient Rome. In the Hunger Games, the Capitol gives just enough food to keep people alive and stages elaborate games to distract and control them.”

The phrase “Panem et Circenses” refers to a concept from ancient Rome, according to which, the government provides free food and gladiator games to the people of the district to prevent them from the political issues and rebellion.

The writer draws a parallel between Rome’s tactics and those of the Capitol in “The Hunger Games”. The use of allusion shows the tactic of the Capitol regarding maintaining control through superficial rewards and brutal entertainment.

It indicates how the Capitol utilizes the Hunger Games to keep the districts somber with food and spectacle, and prevent from revolt and sustaining power.

Literary Devices In The Hunger Games - Copy
Literary Devices In The Hunger Games – Copy

“The Hunger Games” is not just a complex and interesting story but a book that uses and develops many aspects of literary references to the story. The use of literary devices not only help the readers to gain a better understanding of the characters, but also highlight the commentary of the novel on societal control, survival and rebellion. These literary devices help to reveal the journey of Katniss Everdeen and the broader implications of her actions, which make the novel a powerful and enduring work of fiction.

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