Are the Hunger Games Anti-War?

If you haven’t read all the Hunger Games books yet, go read them now! Seriously, they’re terrific. It should only take a few days to read them because once you start, you won’t be able to stop.

Finish all three books before reading further. Warning: Contains Spoilers!

At first, I thought Suzanne Collins was making a bold anti-war statement. In the Hunger Games, powerful adult politicians use young people for violent entertainment, then for actual war. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s exaggerated. We don’t play deadly games with real kids, only virtual ones. And our soldiers have to be 18, but Katniss is only 3 years younger.

No doubt war is a central to the Hunger Games. Collins got the idea for the books while flipping channels between reality shows and war coverage, and as she told the NYT:

I don’t write about adolescence. I write about war. For adolescents.

But what is she saying about war exactly? That it’s hell, for sure. Collins doesn’t hesitate to kill off key characters. But the world at the start of the series is so oppressive it begs for revolution, and her heroine, Katniss, plays the starring, violent role.

Yet, after all the blood and gore, Katniss is a broken person, having lost almost everything she fought for. Not exactly a happy ending. Then again, her world has changed through war. It’s relatively peaceful. The abuse of children has ended. Has the sacrifice been worth it?

I think the books are deeply divided over war. They’re not patently pacifist, but at the same time, they don’t seem to justify violent revolution as the answer. I find this tension very interesting, but I have to wonder:

Will Hollywood keep the ending?

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10 Responses to Are the Hunger Games Anti-War?

  1. Kathy says:

    I read the first one and enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll pick up the sequels.
    I don’t understand why everyone’s so fired up about the movie. It can’t be as good as the book. And like you say, it’ll take you maybe a day to read it. And cost you a quarter of the price, or less if you’re patient and get it from the library 🙂

    • sarazaske says:

      Definitely pick up the sequels. I think the story gets better as it goes on, which you can’t say for all series. The movie it won’t be as good, but I’m curious how it will turn out.

  2. I loved the first film, and I’m excited for the rest. I honestly don’t compare the book and movie. The book is almost always better, because it’s easier to show emotions and Katniss’ point of view and it can show more. But I love movies for what they are, and I think they did a great job with the first one.

    I’m sure they’ll keep the ending. It seems too important not too,but Suzanne Collins is an exec producer and she helped with the screenplay of the first one, so she has a ton of say.

    As for Hunger Games being anti-war. I agree with you. It seems to be mixed. War can lead to good things, but it leaves behind a lot of despair and destruction and, of course, death.


  3. sarazaske says:

    Good to hear the movie is not a Hollywood bomb. I had heard that Collins was closely involved with it. I think it’s a good sign for writers to be more important in movie-making. To me, story is everything. You can have all the special effects in the world but if the plot doesn’t make sense, it’s a terrible movie.

  4. She said once that she wanted to write books that show how destructive war is. But she almost seemed to wallow in it in the last book, which I loathed.

    • sarazaske says:

      I agree she walks the line btwn what she criticizes and inadvertently supporting it. I thought the 3rd bk was hard to take but good for exactly that reason.

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  6. Peter King says:

    I was amazed how well the movie echoed the sentiments of the first book. The holocaust style colourlessness and oppression in the selection of tributes was brilliant. The garish parody of Hollywood hypocrisy amazed me (given it was Hollywood making this). But perhaps the most disappointing thing about the books hasn’t been Collin’s books or messages “politics will get you whether you ignore it or not” and “no politician is a good guy” but the response of the audience. They see themselves as Katniss, the Triumphant Survivor. They want to get famous, look fantastic even if it involves killing other kids! Yes, that shallow! No wonder so many were turned off the last book. They never got it in the first place.

    • sarazaske says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. I really liked the movie as well–and I’m unfortunately not surprised by some not getting point of The Hunger Games series. We are so flooded with killing on tv and movies (and news!) that it’s hard to feel or understand the reality of it–which I think is where the last HG book really hits home. In order to criticize the sensationalism of killing and war, Collins had to do some sensationalizing herself. It’s a tricky line to walk, but hopefully, if the more shallow readers keep engaging with the series (seeing the movies, re-reading the books), they’ll get it.

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