What “The Hunger Games” Taught Us About Literary Worldview

The Hunger Games and Literary Worldview

Suzanne Collins’ famous story “The Hunger Games” is arguably one of the greatest books of the modern day, particularly for its unique first-person style and sci-fi worldview.

The style was not, however, the focus of my attention as I read the series for the first time in 2018. The developing characters and dicey plotline did much to raise the book’s status in my eyes, but it was, by far, the worldview that made the largest impression upon me. After all, literary worldview is possibly the largest reason to read books in the first place.

But what is worldview?

“As the word itself suggests, a worldview is an overall view of the world. It’s not a physical view of the world, but rather a philosophical view, an all-encompassing perspective on everything that exists and matters to us.”

James Anderson

So, if a worldview is a particular view on the world itself, how would a book have a worldview? Furthermore, why would it be important or interesting?

I have found that the worldview of a book is usually more interesting than the worldview of the writer. The two are inherently connected; a book cannot write itself, yet a person always has some form of a worldview, thus the worldview of a book stems from the worldview of the author, but can be entirely different from that of the author.

This creates an interesting possibility for literary worldview. They are not completely restricted to the author, and they can, at times, seem to be entirely unique from the author’s.

Yet with that knowledge, it is still difficult to determine whether or not Suzanne Collins’ worldview matches that of her stories. While I find it rather difficult to believe such a question, it is entirely possible, given the worldview demonstrated within the books.

But what do the books show in terms of a worldview?

The savagery of the human heart.

This is shown in two specific views upon the same event- the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are an event created as a punishment for the rebel districts of Panem, a futuristic country. Every year, twelve boys and twelve girls are selected from the districts to fight to the death in the Games, whereafter the victor is crowned champion and showered with money and gifts.

The savagery of the human heart is shown by two views on the Games; the first by Katniss (in the actual Hunger Games series), who competes in the games, and the second by Coriolanus Snow (in Collins’ new book “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”), who helps formulate the Games.

Katniss experiences firsthand the swift change between innocent girl and cold blooded killer. She personally witnesses the death of her twelve-year-old friend Rue at the hands of an eighteen-year-old boy, and, in a rare moment of rage, she personally kills Rue’s murderer.

Coriolanus witnesses the development of the Games, and with it, the slow understanding of the evil within the human heart, evil capable of turning a thirteen-year-old girl into a murderer at the blink of the eye. He sees and even experiences the psychology of the arena, and this understanding helps him further develop the games, fully fleshing out the true evil hidden in the heart of all humans.

As Christians, we understand that sin is within the heart of all men, even children. Thus, even killing is not beyond our capabilities as sinful men and the books are, in fact, realistic. If the Hunger Games were recreated in real life, they would likely look extremely similar to the descriptions within the books: some would hide, some would run, and some would turn into killers. Even today’s modern-day psychologists agree with this understanding, calling it the “fight or flight theory”.

The power of control.

In some ways, the government of Panem is comparable to the governments of China, India, or the communist countries. It values control and power over freedom, and those in control are not afraid to use fear and death to keep their positions. Freedom is discarded and replaced with power, and nobody seems to care.

The power within control is especially shown within Collins’ book “The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes”. Focusing on Coriolanus Snow, future president of Panem, the book highlights both the false, masked politics of Panem and the need for control in and upon a society with no moral guidance.

Control is inherently linked with selfish ambition, also found within the human heart. The lust for power is well-known to all men, especially those in politics. The more power one receives, the stronger the desire for power grows. Examples in history such as Hitler, Napoleon, and Julius Caesar show that man’s journey for power never ends well. Hitler committed suicide, Napoleon was exiled, and Alexander died at the age of 32.

Those that reach the highest possible positions of power but continue to search for more will always fall. Just look at the Tower of Babel- man attempted to rise above God and paid the price. Another more modern example is found within the Titanic, a ship said “to be unsinkable by even God”, and yet it never reached its destination.

The eminent rebellion of those being controlled.

Nothing lasts forever, most especially control. After 75 years under the control of the Capital, and after losing hundreds of children to the Hunger Games, the districts finally rebel. The uprising is nearly nationwide, and it after years of bloodshed and warfare, the rebellion finally succeeds. All seems normal; the president is replaced with the seemingly sane President Coin, the government is abolished and replaced with a new, democratic-type system, and the war is over.

Then, Collins plays her trump card. The new government, run by the leaders of the former-rebel group, do precisely the same thing the Capital did 75 years prior- in revenge for the lives lost in the war, they create another Hunger Games with the roles in reverse. The rebels would run the Games, and the children would be selected from the Capital.

With this ending, Collins paints an extremely vivid picture of the human heart. In a never-ending cycle, she portrays man as a power-hungry creature, capable of killing for survival or power and incapable of going through life without pain. Loss comes and goes, and the world goes up in flames, and even grounding, hopeful feelings, such as love, are false and unreliable.

Collins writes of government as a portrayal of the human heart, and while accurate, she misses a key aspect- Christ as the greater government. While government does, indeed, portray the human heart, Collins’ painting lacks hope. As Christians, we know that God is the ultimate fulfillment of human government. His reign is perfect and will never end, and in that we can trust.

While government does, indeed, portray the human heart, Collins’ painting lacks hope. As Christians, we know that God is the ultimate fulfillment of human government. His reign is perfect and will never end, and in that we can trust.

While it is impossible to know whether the worldview presented within “The Hunger Games” matches that of the author, we must remember to read with a critical eye, seeing through the mindset and comparing the worldview with that of Christ’s. Again, I make no judgement as to Collins’ character or beliefs, and this analysis is entirely on her works, not her personality.

-Elisha McFarland

Anderson, James. “What Is a Worldview?”. Ligonier Ministries, 21 June 2017, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-worldview/

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20 thoughts on “What “The Hunger Games” Taught Us About Literary Worldview

  1. Grace Nelson

    I loved reading this. I in fact just finished the series for the first time and we are almost done watching all the movies. It is all fresh in my mind and this was very interesting to read! I think the author took a lot of her names and the Hunger Games idea from the Romans. With Plutarch, Seneca, etc. And then obviously the gladiator games.
    Fantastic job!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a super interesting read, Elisha! I’m a huge Hunger Games fan, mainly because of the worldview/political themes it includes. While the original series will always be the best, I really liked “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” and have enjoyed revisiting these stories and their messages in articles like this. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also, there is a book called “The Hunger Games Companion: An Unauthorized Guide to the Series” by Lois H. Gresh that is very insightful! It talks a lot about the symbolism, themes, and inspiration behind the books. You should check it out if you have the chance, it’s very interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only read the first book of Hunger Games, but I’ve seen all the movies. (Some of them I will never, ever watch again.) There’s one line I very specifically remember from the movies, I don’t remember which movie, where President Snow is talking to someone else about the Games and the Capital’s power and how he must keep control over the people. He says that hope is the only thing stronger than fear. My middle name’s Hope, so that’s always stuck with me. I think it’s a very realistic quote.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is, indeed, quite realistic, which is why we talk about the Bible telling us that Jesus’ hope drives away fear. They really are well-done books, so I’m glad you liked the post. Thanks for reading!


  4. Karl Bickerstaff

    This was a really good post. I have yet to read the series, but this certainly piques my interest. Your point about the lack of hope reminds me—in a contrasting way—of Fahrenheit 451. There, things don’t end well, but they end on a note of hope. It’s an interesting contrast. Thanks for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Why 2020 Has Been the Worst Year of My Life – Elisha McFarland

  6. Pingback: Monday Heckling: The Ballad of the Songbirds and the Snakes – Elisha McFarland

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