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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Answers to Six Unanswered Questions About The Hunger Games

Over on, John Gholson boldly admits to being wrong in underestimating the box office potential and audience hunger for the first installment of The Hunger Games, and has some lingering questions about the story. I’m kind of with you, John, in that I was a late arrival to The Hunger Games and underestimated its popularity for the longest time. I like to keep up with what my kids are into, and sometimes I find that I also like what they like. I read (and loved) the Harry Potter series. Read the Twilight series, and liked it well enough, for what it is. Even read the True Blood series while I was recovering from surgery, and got totally absorbed in it, although I’ve never watched an episode of the series. So, The Hunger Games, I figured I could take it or leave it … until it got closer to time for the movie to come out, and my daughters really got into the books. So I finally read the first book, making it maybe 2/3 through before we went to the midnight premiere on Thursday (I just started the second book this morning).

Gholson, who has not read the books, has some unanswered questions about The Hunger Games, and since I had some perspective on answers for (most of) them, I thought I’d kick my Monday off with a response. So here you go … with a warning that there are spoilers galore within this piece. So if you haven’t seen the movie or read the books, and don’t want to know anything, go away now and come back later. If you have a different take on answers to Gholson’s questions, feel free to chime on in down below.

1. If the games come every year, why don’t all the districts prepare for them?

My read on this from the book is that only the richer districts (particularly Districts 1 and 2) select their most capable young athletes and train them to compete in the Games, and that in these districts being chosen for the games really is considered an “honor,” as opposed to the more superficial acceptance of the designation of “honor” that the poorer districts display. I’d equate this to, say, the way that the US Olympic teams in the more expensive sports (skiing and snowboarding, for example) tend to be weighted with kids who grew up in families that had the money to take kids skiing from the time they can walk. Naturally if your family lives has the resources to afford vacations like ski trips, you have a greater likelihood of becoming a champion skier. In a poor coal mining community in Appalachia (where District 12 is), people are barely scraping by a hand-to-mouth existence to just keep alive. Katniss and Gale hunt illegally to keep their families fed, and in the book it refers to it being rather commonplace for residents of District 12 to starve to death. They don’t have the resources to spend on training kids for a once-a-year competition; in District 12 the citizenry is so beaten down that they’ve come to accept that the Reaping is a mandatory sacrifice, not something that will lead to victory for the children whose names are drawn.

2. If you can volunteer for the games, as Katniss does, why wouldn’t a district have their very best competitors offer themselves up?

It’s established in the book that it’s allowable for someone to volunteer, but it’s also established that when Katniss steps up for Prim, it’s the first time in the history of the games that this has happened in District 12. The idea of sacrificing yourself to certain death isn’t a part of the moral code of the poorer districts, and there’s no competitive code either, because they expect their Tributes to lose, period. This is further established in the book in an aside about Rue, when Katniss sees this tiny girl who reminds her so of her own sister, and mourns that no one stepped up to volunteer in Rue’s place. When Katniss steps up, she’s stepping up to her own death, not to the expectation that she stands a chance of winning.

Further, while the movie makes this fairly evident, the book does make more clear the extent to which the Capitol uses the Games to punish the Districts, not only by killing two of their young people each year, but by making it mandatory that everyone watch it happen, and then rubbing salt into the wound by forcing the Districts to celebrate the slaughter of their children by honoring the winner on the Victory Tour, which always takes place at the midpoint between games. It’s part of how the government keeps its boot heel on the citizenry, and it’s also how they’ve been punishing the Districts for seven decades for the last major act of rebellion, the result of which was the complete obliteration of District 13 the establishment of the Games as both punishment and reminder of the cost of rebelling.

3. In the book, are the odds ever against Katniss?

Gholson argues that in the film, it’s made too clear that Katniss will ultimately be victorious. I could argue that this is pretty obvious at this point anyhow given that we know the book is a trilogy, but taken purely from a plot standpoint in evaluating this first film, I disagree that it’s patently obvious to either the audience or the other competitors that Katniss will be victorious. If anything, Katniss being rated an 11 by the Gamemakers – especially after the opening ceremony when all eyes were on the Girl on Fire – puts a target squarely on her, especially from the perspective of the better-trained Tributes who always expect to come in as the favorites. She knows they will be coming after her full force. Further, because Haymitch so strongly advises her to ignore the cornucopia and get away as fast as she can when the Games start, Katniss has to abandon hope of getting her hands on the bow and arrow that are her best shot at survival. She nearly perishes of dehydration before she finds water, and the Gamemaker forces her closer to her competitors by flushing her out with the fire. She does take out a few competitors with the wasp nest, but that’s clearly shown as Rue’s idea. It’s not really until Rue dies that Katniss feels angry enough to really fight hard to win, and that she accepts that she might be able win.

4. At the end of the game, what would’ve happened if Peeta and Katniss did nothing at all?

The book might do a better job of establishing this, but it’s actually Peeta, early on, who says to Katniss that there has to be a way to hold on to something of who you really are, who you were before, even in the midst of horror. He doesn’t articulate it perfectly, but what he’s getting at is the idea that true honor means knowing when to stand up and say, “No, I won’t” rather than just acquiesing. Katniss and Peeta’s clear willingness to eat the berries and die rather than killing each other is a major act of rebellion. It takes control of the game out of the hands of the Gamemaker and government, because they know the populace loves Katniss and Peeta and the first romance to have ever emerged from the Games. This poses a serious problem for the government; they don’t really want Katniss and Peeta to resonate too much with the citizenry, because they sense that popularity carries the seed of rebellion. The last thing they want or need is to create two martyrs and have no winner to parade around to the Districts. If Katniss and Peeta had just done nothing, the Gamemaker would have kept throwing things at them until one of them finally died.

There are other elements that foreshadow rebellion hinging around Katniss. The mockingjay pin she wears is a clear slap in the face of the government that Katniss gets away with only because they have to let her bring one symbolic thing from home to the Games. Katniss further rebels against the norm by singing Rue to “sleep,” by covering her body with flowers, and most of all, by acknowledging her death to the people of Rue’s district, District 11, when she gives the three fingered salute to them over the cameras she knows are on her, knowing the government will not turn the cameras away from a moment of death. The people returning this salute to Katniss further foreshadows that Katniss is the emotional center of a coming rebellion. The berries are just the final rebellion that Katniss acts out during the games. It’s her “screw you” to the government that would force her to kill her friend, this boy who loves her, for the sake of their entertainment and oppression.

5. Why are only youth selected for the games?

The book makes it clearer that the Games are set up to lottery draw from the Districts’ population of children because there’s nothing worse you could possibly do to a parent than force them to give up their child to death without a fight. What better way to oppress your citizenry and show them they have no control over their lives than this? Kind of like how slave masters in the old South would callously sell of the children of their slaves, and there was nothing the parents could do about it. In the book, it’s also more clearly posited that the Games are about showing the citizens that the government controls, and always will control, your life, your death, and your future. Life, such as it is, is a gift from your beneficent government; your death, or your children’s deaths, is also controlled by their whim.

6. What’s the deal with the dogs that materialize out of nowhere?

I’m kind of with Gholson on this, as it was one of the weaker points of the book for me as well. In the book, the dogs, called “mutt-ants,” are actually mutations bearing the characteristics of the dead Tributes. There’s a Glimmer dog, a Foxface dog, even a Rue dog, all coming after Katniss, Peeta and Cato. They are created for the game, and like the fireballs they send after Katniss that burn her leg badly early on, the damage they create is very real. In the book, by the bye, Cato’s death is a much longer, more drawn-out and gory affair that goes on all night before Katniss finally ends it. By far the weakest point of both the book and the movie for me.

25 Responses to “Answers to Six Unanswered Questions About The Hunger Games”

  1. Jalen says:

    i think though the muttations needed an explanation or clarification. the arena is literally a giant biosphere, and it is unknown where said arena is. also when the tributes rise from the podium, we have to remember that there was an entire underground facility down there, impossibly as long as the arena itself. for the capitol it would be hard to dispatch the muttations.

  2. Gina says:

    I think to understand a lot of these questions you just have to read the book. You have to understad the districts are like 3rd world countries. They barely have enough to eat.. people starve to death daily. How
    they train? And also even though some districts do it, it is illegal, punishable by death. And you have to realize this is all from katniss’ point of view, she had a great team working with her.. but in her mind she still didn’t think she would make it out alive. And its a fight to the death between 24 people. Even if you had been trained can you honestly say that you would volunteer to possibly die? I wouldn’t. Also they jumped straight to suicide because katniss knew that they had to have a victor and that the capitol wouldn’t actually let them do. You just have to read the book to understand it all.

  3. Suzanne says:

    Thanks for this very good explanation for Gholson’s questions. I couldn’t have done better myself, and I’ve been explaining the political oppression component of this story to people on Facebook for a week.

  4. carly says:

    I got into the book and read everyword like it was the last even at the begging and I new the answer to all the questions right away including the mutt-ants. So if you read carefuly its all actually there.

  5. Bryan says:

    Very good job answering the post at

    I agree with your views on this, and to John Gholson….this is just proof that you should always read the book before you see the movie

    I took my roommate to The Hunger Games, because he was bored and wanted to do something. He hasn’t read the book, and was utterly confused, and even mentioned wanting his money back.

    EDIT: I loved the movie. 9/10 from me (though I understand anyone’s confusion if they haven’t read the book)

  6. adnovitam says:

    I don’t think you have to – or should – read the book before you see the movie and certainly not always.

    If the film doesn’t explain things enough, then it is not made well enough.

    Film and books are two different storytelling media, with different strengths & restrictions. One should not rely on the other to make sense.

  7. TC Kirkham says:

    Never read the books, but loved the movie – I think it’s always better to see the film first – same with HP and Twilight – before reading the book, because if you can follow the movie – and you usually can, even with HG – then reading the books will be much more rewarding with more detail and characterization and such and make it a really rich experience. I’ve got a group of friends who are SO disappointed by the HP series because they’re not EXACTLY like the book on every movie – it drives us nuts because all of the HP movies are at least passable (and the last four movies were UNBELIVABLE) and they are too book-oriented and they end up sorely disappointed because of it. I confess now to having cheated after HG and going to Wiki and reading up because I wanted to make sure Katniss and Peeta both make it to the end of the trilogy, but it won’t ruin it for me when (or if) I finally do read the books!

  8. N Wilson says:

    I thought the movie was Ok. It did not seem intense or realistic to me though. People from work described the book before I saw the movie and the books seem more detailed and realistic to how the Hunger games would play out. When the tributes come up from the ground and get ready to start, wouldnt they be scared. Possibly throwing up and things. The 12 year olds would surely be crying. They all looked normal like nothing was going on. Also the fighting was not intense and the movie did not really show many fight scenes. In a real fight to the death I would assume things would be so intense it would be unbearable. But in the movie the opening fight scene shows only glimpses. I believe the fight scenes could have been more drawn out but also more intense to capture the true horror that was taking place. One more thing that I was wondering is why did the tributes form alliances. They all have to kill eachother. If the alliance is for the weak to take out the strong why for an alliance with the strong tribute (Cato is the name I think). Why not for an alliance take out the strong ones then spread out and fight the rest. Forming an alliance with the strongest recruit makes no sense. You help him then he would take you out if he is bigger and stronger. Well these are just a few things I noticed. I know in the next movie they battle against past tribute winners. That should be interesting. I cant picture past winners being weak or young (12 years old). I would think all the past winners are smart, strong, and kind of a bad A##. LOL. So that should be way better when it comes to the fight scenes.

  9. Joe B says:

    I don’t at ALL agree that “you should always read the book before you see the movie,” unless the filmmaker is intending to create a piece of fanboy art. You should NEVER have to read the book before you see the film if the film hopes to stand on its own merit. Gholson admitting he didn’t read the book first actually puts his questions into context because THOSE THINGS AREN’T EXPLAINED IN THE MOVIE.

    If you’re looking for Pretty Pictures to go with your book, fine. If you want cinema, I understand the questions.

  10. illuminatta says:

    I don’t think the dogs were a weak point in the books (still haven’t gotten to see the film yet). The “resurrection” of the killed tributes as mutated attack dogs with the humans’ very own eyes, was not only physically threatening, but psychologically disturbing to the final tributes. And if the airships could materialize out of nowhere, they clearly had the science to do that with anything, including the dogs.

  11. Andrew says:

    I still think the film sucked. It was clearly lazy writing. Everything in the world was vastly underdeveloped, and if there is ever a problem, a magic parachute drops exactly what you need. Give me a break. The dogs we’re just jumping the shark. What a joke.

  12. OKIQUIT says:

    One big unanswered question … when the boy tribute from District 11 saves Katniss’s life at the cornucopia … he says he is doing it for Rue. But how would he know Katniss had teamed with Rue, tried to protect her and mourned her death? It’s not like the tributes could see what the home viewers saw.

  13. Andrew says:


    It was a crappy edit in a crappy movie. Apparently he “overheard” the other girl say he killed her. I think.

  14. Mike says:

    He overheard Clove talking about Rue as Katniss’ little friend or something such quite clearly. Also, the dogs are released into the arena, as with the start there is a whole underground facility as I’m sure in other spots above ground, the team moves things around and releases them when and where they want and have control of them, to call them off if they would like to.

  15. ehh.. says:

    The cannon didn’t fire off for everyones death

  16. Mich says:

    I believe in the book that training for the games is actually against the rules. However, districts 1 and 2 (the favored districts of the Capital) get away with it.

  17. Becky says:

    After each death the cannon was to fire and at each evening there would play a scene in the “sky” to tell which ones died from which district. I read all of the books a long time ago and finished the final one within a couple of days of its release.
    Having a vivid imagination of my own, it was an adjustment to watch the movie the first time through since not everything matched to my imagination and I kept wondering if my memory was faulty. For one- the mockingjay pin … something wasn’t right with that part of the movie from my memory of the book and where it came from. If someone watching the movie payed close attention to detail- like the explanation playing on the vid screen about where the hunger games originated, they should get enough background to at least have an idea why things happen.
    When I read the original questions that this responds to, I kept thinking the one writing the questions must not live in the real world. When every citizen is downtrodden and the only way to get barely enough food to survive is to risk your life either by putting names of the young in for extra food vouchers or by sneaking into a restricted area to hunt, there is no time or energy for “training”. The richer districts were closer to the capitol and this is intentional. They had to have a more military pride and fierce belief system in the correctness of the games because they were in the best position to harm those in control. This is like the Marine elite. They had plenty of resources and this gave them the freedom to train, thus feeding the cycle by also making them much more likely to win than poor, untrained, randomly chosen people from outer districts. Katniss was in better shape and had skills only because she had broken the rules by learning to hunt in the restricted areas. She had some unique skills that she didn’t even realize until the time for training. It wasn’t against the rules to train for the games but in outer districts where it would be more difficult to control the people, there were severe restrictions and punishments that kept people from straying outside of their areas. The capitol didn’t have to keep these people happy, just hopeless and under their thumb.
    As to why all of the tributes didn’t just cry, puke, or whatever when they came up- remember they were all recently well-fed, supposedly trained by mentors from their districts who had been in there and won before, and had attended the “trainings” in the capitol on various survival skills, weapons, etc.

  18. Reesa says:

    The best reason to explain why they didn’t show their “emotions” while waiting on the platform is the sponsors. Those “magical” parachutes are crucial to the game and allow the viewers to manipulate the game play. Usually it’s the citizens of the Capitol that chose to pay the hefty fee’s to have supplies be delivered to the tribute they’ve placed bets on and essentially keep the game going (and make it more interesting).  If the tributes show any emotion or appear weak leading up to and in the early days of the games, they’re less likely to get those crucial supplies from the sponsers. 

  19. Rachel says:



  20. Mike says:

    I still don’t get the mutt dog part. Rest of the stuff is possible in a controlled environment. But how can you create live animals out of thin air? The only explanation is that its virtual environment(that cannot be right) or the dogs were released from underground. The way they showed it in the movie doesn’t support it either. If the author really suggests future people will be able to produce breathing animals out of thin air, I have nothing to say.

  21. hungergames pro says:

    all those questions are answerd in the book. the book explains alot more and is more in deph then the movie. it talkes about the thirteenth district and how they rebeled agenced the capitol, why they do the reapings. to be honest all these questions are all verry simple for me to explain becouse i have finished the book.

  22. Ravyn says:

    Alright… To all you folks saying you don’t have to read the books before the movie. CLEARLY, you do, otherwise this page wouldn’t exist. Every single question that is asked here is answered in the book.

    So stop being stuck up idiots and pick up the damn trilogy, read them, and understand.


  23. Whatever says:

    To everyone saying “read the book”, you should just answer the people’s d*mn questions; that’s why they asked them, not to be redirected, or told to read a whole novel just to figure out one thing they’re curious about.

  24. Alex says:

    I love the hunger games

  25. seriouslay? says:

    Surely sending 12-18 year olds is just going to cause a rebellion, 15-18 maintains its purpose and would probably makes a hell of alot more sense if you are trying to oppress, and not antagonise. Secondly, if life is soo awful and there is little food or prospects in the outer districts, surely people would be training their kids from birth to get them out of poverty. And i read the training is expensive argument, but realistically, all you need is time, carve wooden swords, and a bow (you can make arrows). Spending a couple hours a day training would be a given. Also I find it hard to believe that in 70 odd years there wasn’t some wannabe badass who volunteered, we used to think we were invincible as kids… Liked the movie though

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