How factor that I believe to be

power and control can be abused and mistreated is one of the most explored and
important ideas throughout Suzanne Collin’s novel, The Hunger Games. The Totalitarian style government of the Capitol
is one of the ways in which the people in the districts across Panem are
controlled, the factor that I believe to be the most effective. However, other
aspects such as the use of terror amongst the people and The Hunger Games
themselves could also be perceived and argued as the main sources of control
within the novel, yet without the ultimate power of the government itself, the
fear employed and The Hunger Games both wouldn’t exist and that’s the
underlining reason as to why I consider the government as the dominant source
of control and power.

The Capitol is a tyrannical dictatorship,
led by President Snow
and holds total political and economic control over Panem, enforcing their
power and rule through an army of Peacekeepers, capital punishment, propaganda,
the Hunger Games and the fear of nuclear devastation, ‘just as we did in
District Thirteen’1,
indicating the oppressive and terrifying nature of the government, and that
they’re not afraid to take drastic action to implement their power, despite the
devastating effects it would have, further reinforcing their recklessness.

The prosperous government uses its power
to exploit the surrounding districts. These districts see no reward for their
hard work and continue to live in poverty despite producing most of the
country’s food and resources, as ‘starvation’s not an uncommon fate in District
12’. The fact that starvation is a common occurrence and is normalized by
Katniss shows the extreme conditions that the people face on a daily basis and
how the government abuse their power by investing more into themselves than the
people across the districts. For example, the people of the Capitol adapted an
outrageous sense of style and fashion, enforcing their power through the form
of body art, tattooing their bodies in extravagant bright colors to showcase
their wealth, ‘Effie Trinket…fresh from the Capitol with her scary white grin,
pinkish hair and spring green suit’ (p. 20) and detaching themselves further from
the people of the districts.

As Kjellaug Therese Hauge Hamre states in
his essay, ‘Suzanne Collins’ Hunger
Games Trilogy and Social Criticism’,
that “it is not difficult to see the unjust type of government that rules
Panem, especially when we look at the Capitol where the citizens have succumbed
to decadence”2, suggesting
that the people of the Capitol are self-indulgent, ultimately reinforcing the
corrupt nature of the government because of the ways in which they exploit
their power.

            As readers, we feel sympathetic towards Katniss
and the other characters because of their awful mistreatment, which is a
consequence of the Capitols abuse of power. The total control that the
government have over the rest of the people is emphasized through the
rhetorical question, ‘what must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where
food appears at the press of a button?’ (p.75) which reveals how helpless the people
are, yet also shows their desperation, longing to live a life of luxury much
like the people of the Capitol.

In regards to how weak and helpless the
residents of the districts are, another way power and control is asserted
within the novel is through the spectacle of The Hunger Games themselves,
established by the capitol to maintain total control ‘in punishment for the
uprising.’ (p. 21) The cruel, savage nature of the games, ‘taking the kids from
our districts, forcing them to kill one another’ (p. 21) shows how the people
are completely at the capitols ‘mercy’ (p. 21) and the government can exploit
their power and control in whatever way they please, without the fear of anyone
rebelling. The phrase, ‘how little chance we would stand of surviving’ (p. 21)
further supports the idea that the districts know how powerful the government
is, and how defenseless they are, creating a beaten, defeated atmosphere for
the reader, ‘as there’s nothing we they can do.’ (p. 21)

Bennett and Royle state in their book, An
Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory, that characters are the
‘objects’ of an authors ‘curiosity and fascination, affection and dislike,
admiration and condemnation’3
which speculatively links into the childhood of Collins, whose father was an airman
in the USA’s Air Force which consequently meant that Collins and her siblings frequently
moved around, leaving her feeling powerless and without say, much like the
people of Panem. Therefore, out of ‘fascination’, created the character of
Katniss who is considered a ‘survivor’ (p. 90), making the best out of every
situation, a quality Collins perhaps did not see in herself.

            As a way to further exploit and
assert their power, despite how already ‘humiliating’ (p. 21) and ‘torturous’ (p.

21) The Hunger Games are, the Capitol requires each district to treat it like a
‘festivity’ (p. 21), highlighting the corrupt and twisted nature of the
government as they force everyone to celebrate the ‘twenty-four tributes’ (p.21)
who must ‘fight to the death’ (p.21), Katniss being one of them. Once again, making
us feel sympathetic towards the characters yet Bennet and Royal propose an
argument that states ‘our memory of a particular novel often depends … on our
sense of a particular character’ (p. 63), in this case most readers see Katniss
as afraid and self-sacrificing, however, because of the indoctrinating
propaganda and ideologies of the Capitol, Katniss actually becomes submerged in
the feeling, ‘the cheers, the admiration’ (p. 81) and alters herself to fit the
cruel intentions of the Capitol, which most readers miss and fail to
acknowledge. This shows just how powerful the government really is, yet also
how ignorant readers can be in failing to accept the full control of the

            In support of the Capitols ruthless
tactics regarding the ways in which they keep control, public displays of
punishment and torture are a regular occurrence. This not only punishes those
who speak out or act against the government, it also imposes fear amongst the
rest of the people, ‘they cut her tongue so she can’t speak’ (p. 77), warning
them what would happen if they stepped out of line.

            To conclude, it’s clear that the
main source of power within the novel is the government because of the strict
methods they use. There are a number of ways in which power is exerted
throughout the text, such as the class divisions, the punishments, The Hunger
Games and separating the people into districts, ‘pitting each district against
each other’ (p. 21), keeping tensions high so they will not collectively turn
against their true enemy, the Capitol. Therefore, without the government, there
would be no source of power or control and in my opinion, returning to those of
the ‘Dark Days’ (p. 18).

Collins, The Hunger Games (London,
2013), p. 21. All further references will be given in the body of the text.

Therese Hauge Hamre, Suzanne
Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy
Social Criticism (Oslo, 2013) p. 22 – 29.


Andrew Bennet
and Nicholas Royle, An introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory.

5th ed. (New York: 2016) p. 63. All further references will be given in the body of the text.