Life Under Empire

“THE WORLD will be watching,” runs the tagline above a determined Katniss Everdeen, her arrow at the ready, on a teaser poster for The Hunger Games film. The phrase describes well the popularity of The Hunger Games trilogy, young adult novels headed to the big screen. The world has been watching, and reading, voraciously. Suzanne Collins’ dystopian tale of young Katniss Everdeen’s struggle to survive under the totalitarian government in Panem (the United States of some post-apocalyptic future) has captured readers’ attention, as evidenced by the continued dominance of the books—The Hunger Games (2008), Catching Fire (2009), and Mockingjay (2010)—on bestseller lists.

The country of Panem is ruled by a central Capitol known for its luxury and obsession with fashion and entertainment. Surrounding it are 12 fenced-in districts whose people exist in dire poverty—on the brink of starvation—and labor to supply the insatiable demands of the Capitol. To assert control, the Capitol demands that each district must send two children (called tributes) each year to compete in the Hunger Games—a televised survival game where they must kill or be killed in the fight to be the last one standing. Dreaded in the districts, the Games serve as the height of entertainment for the citizens of the Capitol.

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