At first glance, “The Hunger Games” seems to criticize a capitalist world in which the rich just keep getting richer and the poor even poorer. But upon further inspection, “The Hunger Games” is taking on much more than that.
I’m sure most of us have read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins by now (or seen the movie), but if you’re anything like me, it’s been a while since you’ve read it. If that’s the case, here’s a quick review of the setting: The nation of Panem is split into 12 districts, with each district assigned to a certain line of work. The Capitol, the ridiculously wealthy and technologically advanced government of Panem, holds all the power, while the rest of Panem (those living in the 12 districts) is terribly poor and living in extreme poverty.
In retaliation for a rebellion against the Capitol that took place 75 years ago, a ritual called The Hunger Games is held annually, in which two teenagers are randomly selected from each district, placed into a televised arena, and instructed to fight one another to the death. The last one standing is then rewarded with wealth and other supplies for themselves and their district.
So What Exactly Does The Hunger Games Criticize?
Allowing ourselves only an oversimplified analysis of The Hunger Games, we might come to the incorrect conclusion that the series depicts the evils of Capitalism: income inequality, the well-to-do few profiting off the backs of many, sacrificing the lives of the poor for their entertainment, and the hoarding of wealth, food, and other supplies for oneself rather than distributing it equally among citizens. But by digging just a little deeper — and leaving behind any political leanings of our own — it becomes clear that The Hunger Games quite clearly criticizes Communism, not Capitalism.
Panem’s Capitol Is Undoubtedly a Communist Regime
Proponents of Communism would assert that it allows a society to achieve true equality — a world in which the government controls a nation’s resources and distributes goods evenly among citizens, and in which there are no classes. While this idea may sound ideal to some, Communist regimes inevitably lead instead to oppression, poverty, and genocide.
The Capitol is essentially a power-hungry totalitarian regime, and it seeks to control not only an individual’s line of work and income but also the means of production within Panem. It rations food, limits free speech by using propaganda to further their agenda, and uses The Games to spread fear and coerce citizens into remaining obedient to their authority. The Capitol enjoys a life of lavish wealth, while the people of Panem live in poverty, something that happens all too often within Communist regimes.
In Katniss, the heroine of The Hunger Games who volunteers herself to participate in The Games in place of her younger sister and then defies the Capitol’s rules during them, readers can see the rise of an individually-minded person, willing to challenge the world she’s been conditioned to accept as ideal — the exact opposite of what citizens living under Communism are encouraged, or even allowed, to do. Katniss refuses to allow fear or persuasion to be the deciding factor in the choices she makes, much to the chagrin of the control-obsessed Capitol.
Regarding The Hunger Games as a commentary on the widening gap between the rich and the poor, and attributing it to the evils of Capitalism, ultimately misses the point. The Hunger Games tells the story of a society made to live without hope, free will, and opportunity, and it clearly paints the picture of just what can happen to the human spirit once those things are taken away from us.