The Hunger Games: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Odds are, you've at least heard of Suzanne Collins' mega-popular novel, ''The Hunger Games''. But how much do you really know about the book? This lesson explores the summary and characters.

Imagining The Hunger Games

Imagine a future world where the government controls nearly every aspect of your life. Where you live and what you eat. Where you're allowed to go and who you're allowed to talk to. Even your career is determined for you. To make matters even worse, the government has the right to pluck two children from your community and make them fight to the death on television. Sounds pretty horrible, right? For the characters in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, this is the harsh reality of everyday life.


If you've ever studied the Ancient Romans, you may be familiar with the Latin phrase, 'panem et circenses.' Translation: 'bread and circuses.' This idea was embraced by Roman emperors; so long as the Roman people were well-fed and entertained, they could get away with doing whatever they wanted. The Hunger Games takes place in the futuristic Panem, a dystopian nation inspired by the Roman 'bread and circuses.'

Panem is made up of the Capital and twelve economic regions called districts. Each district is responsible for a different economic activity. For example, District 1 (a favorite of the Capital), manufactures luxury goods, District 4 is home to the country's fishing industry, and District 11 acts as the agricultural center of the country. While people living in the districts toil for long hours to earn slave wages, people living in the Capital are cradled in the lap of luxury. They enjoy outrageous fashion trends, gorge themselves on decadent foods, and revel in the suffering of the districts.

The Hunger Games

At this point, you're probably thinking to yourself, 'That Capital sounds truly awful. How is it that the districts allow it to stay in power?' The answer is really quite simple: the Hunger Games. Just over 70 years before the start of the book, Panem was caught in a nasty civil war. The districts rebelled against the capital, nearly causing the extinction of the human race. In the fighting, the Capital destroyed the mysterious District 13, the home of nuclear development in Panem. After the rebellion was quashed, the Capital created the Hunger Games to maintain peace and order by breeding fear in the districts.

Every year, the Capital goes to each of the 12 districts to 'reap' the tributes, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18. The pair of tributes is then sent to the Capital where they're primped and prepped to fight in a nationally-televised fight to the death. Only one of the 24 tributes can survive. The winner is rewarded with immense riches and fame unlike anything they've seen before. Such prizes, however, can never truly make up for what they see and experience during the Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games is told from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old living in District 12, Panem's coal-mining region. The poorest of the districts, District 12 is largely neglected by the Capital. The electric fence that contains the district is rarely electrified and the local Peacekeepers, Panem's law enforcement, are friendly with the residents. Year after year, District 12 has a poor showing in the Hunger Games. The people of the Capital don't expect much of District 12's tributes, that is, until they meet Katniss.

Characters in The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins' novel The Hunger Games is filled with dynamic, exciting, and sometimes awful characters.

Katniss Everdeen

As mentioned before, Katniss Everdeen is the heroine and narrator of The Hunger Games. Katniss is an avid hunter, something she learned from her father. After Mr. Everdeen died in a tragic mine explosion, Katniss has acted as the primary caretaker for her family, making sure there's enough food on the table. When Katniss's sister, Primrose, is reaped for the Hunger Games, Katniss bravely volunteers to take her place. Through the rest of the novel, Katniss defies the Capital and beats the odds to survive the Hunger Games along with fellow victor, Peeta Mellark. Katniss's heroism and bravery make her a national icon and the face of rebellion against the Capital.

Primrose Everdeen

Primrose Everdeen, popularly known as 'Prim,' is Katniss's little sister. Prim is young and sweet. She loves her cat, Buttercup, and also has a pet goat.

Peeta Mellark

Along with Katniss, Peeta Mellark is reaped to compete in the Hunger Games. Peeta is the son of a baker in District 12. Unbeknownst to Katniss, Peeta has loved her since they were children. This information comes out on national television during a pre-Games interview. At the start of the Hunger Games, Katniss suspects that Peeta has aligned himself with tributes from strong districts so he can hunt her down and kill her. In reality, Peeta does this to protect her. Eventually, Peeta and Katniss partner up and survive the Hunger Games together.

Gale Hawthorne

Gale Hawthorne is Katniss's best friend and closest confidante. Gale's father died in the same mining accident as Mr. Everdeen, and Gale hunts alongside Katniss to support his family as well. After Katniss is reaped for the Hunger Games, Gale realizes his true feelings for her. While she's off competing, Gale promises to take care of her family (and to continue doing so if she doesn't return).

Haymitch Abernathy

Haymitch Abernathy, a past victor of the games from District 12, becomes the Hunger Games mentor for Katniss and Peeta. As such, Haymitch is charged with helping them train and keeping them alive while they're in the arena. Haymitch is haunted by the things he saw and experienced during the Games; as a result he's nearly always intoxicated and is a very nasty drunk.

Effie Trinket

Effie Trinket, an employee of the Capital, acts as Katniss's and Peeta's escort leading up to the Hunger Games. Effie is the epitome of Capital self-indulgence and decadence. She wears outrageous clothing and wigs, has a highly affected Capital accent, and considers the people of the districts to be rather uncultured. Despite her ridiculous exterior, Effie is a good person deep-down and does her best to support Katniss and Peeta.

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