Do you watch reality TV? I have to admit. I kind of love it. There are so many great reality shows that just make me happy (check out this Television Without Pity list of the best reality shows of the decade). There is nothing better than watching a fight on The Hills, or watching some of the amazing (and horrible designs) on Project Runway. It’s awesome to cheer for your favorite dancer or singer on So You Think You Can Dance or American Idol.
For awhile I was kind of obsessed with Survivor. My family and I even had a little contest. We all picked a name of one of the contestants and we rooted for our person to be the last one on the island. No one wants to go to tribal council
Reality TV is fun because you get to watch other people do really insane stuff like the obstacle courses on one of my favorite Japanese reality shows, Ninja Warrior:
Now, imagine its many years in the future. A series of natural disasters have made the United Stated Pretty unrecognizable. In fact, the new nation is called Panem and it is divided into 13 districts. Now imagine that at some point in the past there was a huge uprising where the people of the districts rose up against the Capital. The 13th district was completely wiped out and the other districts were forced to do everything the Capital desired. To punish the people of the 12 districts, the Capital has created an annual torture they call the Hunger Games. In each Hunger Games two children, one boy and one girl, are chosen from each district. The kids are then sent to a secret stadium where they are pitted against one another in a fight to the death. Twenty-Four kids go into the stadium, only one comes out. And the entire thing is broadcast on national television. And the nightly recaps are required watching for all of the people of Panem.
So, Katniss is a teenager in District 12. Her family survives because Katniss and her friend Gale illegally hunt in the woods surrounding their district. This year is the first year her 12 year-old sister is eligible to be in the Hunger Games. When her sister Rose’s name is called, Katniss immediately volunteers to take her place, even though this means she is being sent to her certain death. Katniss and the other “tribute,” Peeta, from District 12 head to the Capital to be pampered and preened for their audience before the Games begin.
This book is amazing. It’s exciting. It makes you think. You root for Katniss while wondering how she, or any of the other tributes, can make it out alive.
If you’ve read the book, feel free to answer any of the questions below (these questions were taken from Scholastic. You can read a little more about the book, along with these questions here.), or just post your thoughts. If you haven’t read the Hunger Games yet, (and you really need to- because it is just that amazing) what do you think about the plot? Can you imagine being forced to fight other teenagers to the death?
1. How does Katniss feel about the country of Panem? Why does she need to make her face “an indifferent mask” and be careful what she says in public?
2. Describe the relationships of Katniss with Gale, with Prim, with her mother. How do those relationships define her personality? Why does she say about Peeta, “I feel like I owe him something, and I hate owing people.” How does her early encounter with Peeta affect their relationship after they are chosen as tributes?
3. How does the fact that the tributes are always on camera affect their behavior from the time they are chosen? Does it make it easier or harder for them to accept their fate? How are the “career tributes” different from the others?
4. Why are the “tributes” given stylists and dressed so elaborately for the opening ceremony? Does this ceremony remind you of events in our world, either past or present? Compare those ceremonies in real life to the one in the story.
5. When Peeta declares his love for Katniss in the interview, does he really mean it or did Haymitch create the “star-crossed lovers” story? What does Haymitch mean when he says, “It’s all a big show? It’s all how you’re perceived.” Why do they need to impress sponsors and what are those sponsors looking for when they are watching the Games?
6. Before the Games start, Peeta tells Katniss, ” . . . I want to die as myself . . . I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.” What does this tell you about Peeta? What does he fear more than death? Is he able to stay true to himself during the Games?
7. Why does Katniss ignore Haymitch’s advice to head directly away from the Cornucopia? Did she do the right thing to fight for equipment? What are the most important skills she has for staying alive – her knowledge of nature? – her skill with bow and arrow? – her trapping ability? What qualities of her personality keep her going – her capacity for love? – her intelligence? – her self-control?
8. Why does Peeta join with the Career Tributes in the beginning of the Games? What does he hope to gain? Why do they accept him when they start hunting as a group? Why do groups form in the beginning when they know only one of them will be able to survive?
9. What makes Katniss and Rue trust each other to become partners? What does Katniss gain from this friendship besides companionship? Is Katniss and Rue’s partnership formed for different reasons than the other groups?
10. Discuss the ways in which the Gamemakers control the environment and “entertainment” value of the Games. How does it affect the tributes to know they are being manipulated to make the Games more exciting for the gamblers and viewers? Does knowing that she is on live TV make Katniss behave differently than she would otherwise?
11. When does Katniss first realize that Peeta does care for her and is trying to keep her alive? When does she realize her own feelings for him? Did Haymitch think all along that he could keep them both alive by stressing the love story? Are they actually in love?
12. What do you think is the cruelest part of the Hunger Games? What kind of people would devise this spectacle for the entertainment of their populace? Can you see parallels between these Games and the society that condones them, and other related events and cultures in the history of the world?
13. In 1848, Karl Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” Discuss this statement as it applies to the society and government of Panem. Do you believe there is any chance to eradicate class struggles in the future?
14. Reality TV has been a part of the entertainment world since the early days of television (with shows such as Candid Camera and the Miss America Pageant), but in the 21st century there has been a tremendous growth of competitive shows and survival shows. Discuss this phenomenon with respect to The Hunger Games. What other aspects of our popular culture do you see reflected in this story?