The Hunger Games (Series) | Study Guide

Suzanne Collins

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The Hunger Games (Series) | 10 Things You Didn't Know


Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games trilogy of dystopian novels was a blockbuster hit, selling more than 65 million copies in the United States alone. The first installment, titled The Hunger Games, was published in 2008, with Catching Fire and Mockingjay following in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The series follows Katniss Everdeen, a resourceful and resilient girl living in a poverty-stricken, outer district of a corrupt civilization. In the series' universe, children such as Katniss are forced to fight to the death in a gruesome ceremony known as the Hunger Games. Intended to be a societal diversion from the pitifully dismal conditions outside the Capitol city, the Hunger Games are a combination of sport spectacle and human sacrifice.

Throughout the series, Katniss faces the challenges of competing in the Hunger Games and representing the oppressed citizens of the outer districts by becoming a revolutionary figure. Critics have praised The Hunger Games trilogy for its exciting plot, disturbing yet mesmerizing setting, and—perhaps most of all—for Katniss herself. The character has been cited as a strong and much-needed literary role model for young girls, as she acts independently and cleverly and often outshines the male figures around her in terms of intelligence, willpower, and strength. The novels' popularity and impact led to Collins being named as one of Time magazine's most influential people of 2010.

1. Suzanne Collins got the idea for The Hunger Games while flipping through TV channels.

Suzanne Collins's inspiration for her series came from a quiet night at home watching television. She explained that the idea for the violent, dystopian world of the novels came to her as she was flipping through channels, noting the differences between the news coverage and entertainment programs she saw. Collins elaborated:

I was flipping through images of reality television, there were these young people competing for a million dollars ... and I saw images of the Iraq War. Two things began to sort of fuse together in a very unsettling way, and there is really the moment when I got the idea for Katniss' story.

2. The Hunger Games was inspired by an ancient Greek myth.

Suzanne Collins has noted that The Hunger Games was inspired by the Greek legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. In the myth, the Greek hero Theseus travels to Crete, where the king is forced to sacrifice young maidens each year to the ferocious half man, half bull Minotaur. This Greek epic gave Collins the idea for The Hunger Games's recurring sacrificial ceremony of forcing children to fight to the death as a type of societal distraction and penance. Collins recalls being extremely fond of Greek mythology as a child, explaining, "Even when I was a little kid, the story took my breath away, because it was so cruel, and Crete was so ruthless."

3. Katniss Everdeen's name comes from another resilient female character.

Suzanne Collins revealed that Katniss Everdeen owes her name to Bathsheba Everdene, protagonist of Thomas Hardy's 1874 novel Far from the Madding Crowd. Bathsheba Everdene was a notable feminist role model at a time when the purpose of female characters in literature was often limited to objects of romantic attention. Bathsheba refuses to marry in Far from the Madding Crowd despite social pressures, much in the way that Katniss refuses to be secondary to the men around her, often outshining them in terms of skill and intelligence.

4. The illustrator for The Hunger Games novels also designed stamps for the U.S. Postal Service.

The Hunger Games novels were illustrated by Tim O'Brien—an illustrator with an extremely impressive and diverse portfolio. O'Brien has worked for publications that include Rolling Stone, National Geographic, Esquire, GQ, and Time, having illustrated more Time magazine covers than any artist in the quarter century after 1990. O'Brien's work has also turned up in mailboxes across the United States, as he's worked to design stamps for the U.S. Postal Service.

5. The Hunger Games is based on gladiatorial combat from ancient Rome.

Suzanne Collins drew from classical mythology to craft the universe of The Hunger Games, and she also incorporated elements of ancient Roman civilization. The "Games" themselves are based on the gladiatorial matches of Rome, which occurred in the world-famous Colosseum within the city. One critic noted that by portraying the dystopian combat as a spectator sport, much like gladiatorial matches, the audience is both entertained by and complicit in the violence, brutality, and chaos that define the Games.

6. A hand gesture from The Hunger Games was banned in Thailand for inciting unrest.

Throughout The Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss Everdeen displays a particular gesture: a raised hand with three pressed fingers, which represents revolutionary solidarity against the oppressive regime of the Capitol. In 2014 this gesture was appropriated in Thailand during a series of antigovernment protests. According to reports, several young people have been arrested during the protests for its use, which was banned by the government. Those arrested had to swear to stop protesting or be subjected to what the the Thai government calls an "attitude adjustment" before being released.

7. Suzanne Collins was a writer for Clarissa Explains It All and other children's TV shows.

Long before achieving international fame as the author of The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins wrote scripts for popular children's television shows. Starting in 1991 Collins worked on Nickelodeon programs including Clarissa Explains It All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. While working on the show Generation O! for Kids WB, she met children's author James Proimos. Proimos persuaded Collins to try her hand at writing children's literature, eventually leading to the creation of The Hunger Games.

8. Suzanne Collins believed Jennifer Lawrence was the only suitable actress to play Katniss Everdeen in the films.

Suzanne Collins was given input during the casting process for the film adaptations of The Hunger Games. The author was very pleased with the decision to cast Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role of Katniss Everdeen. After the decision was made, Collins released a statement to her fans, stating:

Dear Readers, We have found Katniss ... Jennifer's just an incredible actress. So powerful, vulnerable, beautiful, unforgiving and brave. I never thought we'd find somebody this amazing for the role. And I can't wait for everyone to see her play it.

9. Some critics accuse Suzanne Collins of creating dull and unimaginative male characters.

Although Katniss Everdeen has been almost universally praised as a strong, innovative female protagonist, some reviewers have noted that Suzanne Collins didn't craft similarly interesting male characters. This may be simply due to the fact that Collins intended for Katniss to surpass and outperform her male counterparts. A review in Entertainment Weekly criticized the novels, saying:

There's little distinction between the two thinly imagined guys, other than the fact that Peeta has a dopier name. Collins conjures none of the erotic energy that makes Twilight, for instance, so creepily alluring.

10. The Hunger Games was one of the top five most-challenged books of 2010.

Although The Hunger Games was popular with younger readers, the novel did face challenges across the United States. The American Library Association listed the first of the series' novels as the fifth most frequently challenged book of 2010, citing sexually explicit content and depictions of violence as the reasons. The same year, a parent in New Hampshire demanded that the book be removed from her child's school reading list, stating that it "gave her 11-year-old nightmares and could numb other students to the effects of violence."

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