The Fire Still Burns
Suzanne Collin’s best-selling trilogy, The Hunger Games, having sold 100 million copies, captivated readers since the first novel was released in 2008. Since then, the series has expanded to include Catching Fire, Mockingjay, and the newest addition, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. In preparation for the newest movie to be released this fall, Netflix temporarily added the Hunger Games series to its streaming platform for March, and since then, the series has gone viral on TikTok. TikTok has 7.3B #HungerGames tagged videos where fans have been reliving their obsession with the series, sharing fan edits, theories, series analyses, former Halloween costumes, movie primer outfits, and Hunger Games-themed birthday parties.
As a college English major, I credit Suzanne Collins’s trilogy as the series that cultivated my love for reading. The series was such a large part of my life that not only did I dress up as Katniss for Halloween for my twelfth and thirteenth birthdays, my friends and I also saw both parts of The Mockingjay in the theatre. Now, as an adult, thanks to TikTok and Netflix’s addition to the trilogy, and I have had the ability to reread the novels, there are many themes throughout both the novels and movies that I have found I did not comprehend while reading and viewing as a pre-teen.
The corruption in the Capitol runs far deeper than poverty within the districts and the forced mass murder of children for the Capitol’s viewing pleasure. Even for those who win the Hunger Games, or the Victors, the nightmares do not end. Being made to mentor tributes mentoring and constantly being reminded of the trauma, alcoholism, physical disfigurements, psychological issues, and sexual exploitation still plaguing the Victors, every day is a battle. Each character, plagued with trauma, brings a new struggle to the story.
Katniss Everdeen, the Mockingjay, winner of the seventy-fourth game from District 12 who volunteered for her sister Prim, was the leader of the rebellion. Before she saw the games, she experienced her own battles at home. Following her father’s death, her mother became consumed with grief and suffered a psychotic break. After her win with Peeta during the seventy-fourth game, Katniss experienced hearing loss and PTSD. It is also widely assumed that Katniss struggles with depression. Despite her struggles throughout the series, with the support of family, friends, and the other Victors, Katniss prevailed.
Peeta, the thoughtful and brave winner of the seventy-fourth games from District 12, paved the way for his and Katniss’s win using words as his primary weapon of choice. From the first time Peeta sat down with Cesar and shared his feelings for Katniss, to his lie about Katniss being pregnant in an attempt to end the games, Peeta used strategy to win. After being kidnapped by the Capitol during the Quarter Quell, Peeta was brainwashed, and after being rescued by the rebellion, dealt with many psychological side effects. One aspect not addressed in the movies was that in the novels, Peeta’s left leg was amputated after being hurt in the seventy-fourth game. He could only walk with the aid of a prosthetic leg throughout the Catching Fire and Mockingjay novels.
Finnick, the charming and witty winner of the sixty-fifth games from District 4, stole hearts with his first appearance. It was mentioned briefly in Catching Fire, but was covered in detail in Mockingjay, After he won his game, as a fourteen-year-old, Finnick was forced into prostitution by Snow, and his loved ones were threatened if he did not comply. Finnick reveals that during this time, he collected secrets from the Capitol, most notably Snow’s use of poison.
Johanna, the powerhouse from District 7 and winner of the seventy-first games, labeled a savage killer with anger issues, did not conceal her disdain for the capital. Armed with sarcasm and snarky remarks, Johanna was viewed as a hothead. However, her strength and motivation are far more notable. After the games, Johanna struggled with morphine addiction as a coping mechanism for the trauma she endured during the games.
Beetee, from District 3, is best known for his intelligent survival skills to win the game and technological advancements, which aided the Rebellion to overthrow the Capitol. During the Quarter Quell, while trying to aid Katniss’s rescue, Beetee was wounded by a forcefield, leaving him disabled and in a wheelchair.
Wiress, from District 3, was the one to solve the Quarter Quell’s game with her infamous “Tick Tock” line. After winning the 41st Hunger Games, Wiress began to suffer from PTSD, resulting in struggles with verbal communication.
Mags’s story was heartbreaking. The winner from District 4 of the eleventh game sacrificed herself for Peeta and the rebel cause to overthrow the Capitol. While not explained in the movies, the novel Catching Fire explains why Mags could only communicate through gestures. Experiencing a stroke left Mags unable to speak. However, it has also been assumed that PTSD could have led to her inability to speak. Although Mags’s story was short, her sacrifice was momentous.
Although Annie, winner of the seventieth game from District 4, is not at the forefront in the trilogy, her character, Finnick’s eventual wife, was referred to as crazy. Katniss once labeled Annie as odd but stated that she was not mad, simply unstable. After her win, Annie suffered from PTSD.
Haymitch, after his win in the fiftieth game, Katniss and Peeta’s loveable, sarcastic mentor from District 12, played a crucial role in not only preparing the two for their games but aiding in the rebellion. After the trauma of serving as a mentor for years and watching his mentees die each year, Haymitch turned to alcohol to cope.
Although Effie was never a participant in the games, her struggle was still real, torn between her love for Katniss and Peeta and her obligation to the Capitol. Being forced to watch her entire belief system fall and see her join the rebellion was remarkable character development.
Suzanne Collins’s trilogy, The Hunger Games, a dystopian series that captivated readers and viewers from the beginning with its heroine’s bravery and resilience, also addresses trauma in a unique way. Although no character was spared from struggles and trauma, they were all resilient, victorious, and united for the greater good. As seen through the recent resurgence of fans through TikTok, The Hunger Games still has a large fan base and will always have a place in my heart.