The Hunger Games

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Themes and Colors
Division and Control Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Compassion Theme Icon
Societal Inequality Theme Icon
Appearances Theme Icon
Hypocrisy Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Hunger Games, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Appearances Theme Icon

The Hunger Games are set up as entertainment for the citizens of the Capitol and are essentially a very extreme reality television show. As with American reality TV, appearances matter a lot in the Hunger Games, and they don’t always depict reality. The tributes need to learn how to appeal to their viewers in the Capitol so that they can gather support from sponsors. In Katniss’s case, she pretends to be in love with Peeta, and she allows this romance to capture the attention of her audience.

Surface appearances also cover up the real brutality of the Hunger Games and the citizens who watch them. In the days leading up to the Games, for example, the tributes are housed in fancy rooms, dressed in designer clothes, and fed with lavish buffets. They participate in interviews so that their audience in the Capitol might get to know them before they fight to the death. The citizens of the Capitol are obsessed with changing their own appearances as well, and they delight in exotic hair colors, advancements in plastic surgery, and extreme makeup. They’re so steeped in the artificial world of appearance that it seems they no longer understand the division between what’s real and what’s fake, and this confusion numbs them to the reality of the Hunger Games and their own complicity in the system that allows—and demands—that he Hunger Games take place.

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Appearances Quotes in The Hunger Games

Below you will find the important quotes in The Hunger Games related to the theme of Appearances.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety,” I mutter. Then I glance quickly over my shoulder. Even here, even in the middle of nowhere, you worry someone might overhear you.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of the novel, lives in District 12--an impoverished part of the nation of Panem. In District 12, the people are isolated and exploited by their government. One of the most important forms of exploitation Katniss notices in her community is surveillance. Because the government of Panem doesn't trust its own people, it watches them at all times, using a huge number of invisible cameras. Katniss has been born and raised in a surveillance state, in which everyone is being watched and recorded.

This passage also brings up the hypocrisy inherent in the Capitol's method of governing—the government promises safety and order, all while subjecting its citizens to starvation.


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Chapter 3 Quotes

Peeta Mellark, on the other hand, has obviously been crying and interestingly enough does not seem to be trying to cover it up. I immediately wonder if this will be his strategy in the Games. To appear weak and frightened, to reassure the other tributes that he is no competition at all, and then come out fighting.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point, Katniss and Peeta stil don't know each other. As a result, Katniss finds it difficult, if not impossible, to trust Peeta. She notices that Peeta seems sad and lonely, but she doesn't trust such an "image" of weakness. Indeed, Katniss imagines that Peeta is crafting his image so that his opponents won't take him seriously until it's too late.

The fact that Katniss supposes that Peeta might be performing for his competitors suggests that she herself is a capable performer who can use appearances to her advantage (in other words, it takes one to know one). This also stresses the importance of appearances and competition in the Games—when everyone is fighting for their lives, there's no room for honesty or trust.

Chapter 4 Quotes

The people begin to point at us eagerly as they recognize a tribute train rolling into the city. I step away from the window, sickened by their excitement, knowing they can’t wait to watch us die. But Peeta holds his ground, actually waving and smiling at the gawking crowd. He only stops when the train pulls into the station, blocking us from their view.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss and Peeta have arrived at the Capitol, where they will soon begin competing in the Hunger Games. As they arrive, Katniss and Peeta notice a huge crowd of people--people who are clapping and cheering. Katniss rightly sees how "sick" the crowd's behavior is: they're cheering for Katniss and Peeta's impending deaths.

It's interesting to note the difference between Katniss and Peeta's behavior. Peeta is more willing than Katniss to wave back at the crowd, acknowledging their applause. While it's possible that Peeta really does buy into the pomp and pageantry of the Hunger Games, it's more likely that he's just acting his part, getting people to root for him, all while knowing full-well how sick the crowd's behavior is. Peeta knows that if he gets the crowd on his side, he'll have an easier time winning the Games.

Chapter 5 Quotes

Cinna has given me a great advantage. No one will forget me. Not my look, not my name. Katniss. The girl who was on fire.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Cinna
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Katniss has an important ally during the early days of the Hunger Games--her stylist, Cinna. Cinna is a talented designer and makeup artist who's been tasked with finding the right "look" for Katniss. Cinna steps up to the task and creates a fiery, highly memorable outfit for Katniss, one that makes her stand out from the other competitors and earns her the crowd's admiration.

Thanks to Cinna, Katniss begins to realize the importance of glamour and spectacle in the Hunger Games. It's not enough to "play the game"--Katniss must also seduce the audience, convincing them to sponsor her and send her supplies. In short, Cinna teaches Katniss an important lesson: win the crowd and you'll win the Games.

Chapter 6 Quotes

Rebellion? I have to think about that one a moment. But when I remember the other couples, standing stiffly apart, never touching or acknowledging each other, as if their fellow tribute did not exist, as if the Games had already begun, I know what Haymitch means. Presenting ourselves not as adversaries but as friends has distinguished us as much as the fiery costumes.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark, Haymitch Abernathy
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

During the Hunger Games opening ceremony, Katniss and Peeta hold hands in front of an audience of millions. Neither Katniss nor Peeta understand why their actions are interpreted as being so rebellious, but they are. As Haymitch explains to them in the quotation, Katniss and Peeta send a clear message by holding hands. The entire point of the Hunger Games is to turn similar people against one another: the children of one district against the children of another, and eventually, competitors from the same district against each other. By holding hands, Peeta and Katniss send a clear message: the Hunger Games have begun, but they're not playing along. Instead of competing against one another, they're going to work together.

Haymitch's explanation establishes the idea that gestures and tiny actions can have enormous ramifications for the Games. Since the Hunger Games themselves are a highly symbolic event, even the tiniest disruption in symbolism--such as holding hands--can send a message of disobedience and even outright rebellion against the government of Panem.

Chapter 8 Quotes

I can’t help comparing what I have with Gale to what I’m pretending to have with Peeta. How I never question Gale’s motives while I do nothing but doubt the latter’s. It’s not a fair comparison really. Gale and I were thrown together by a mutual need to survive. Peeta and I know the other’s survival means our own death. How do you sidestep that?

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark, Gale
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Collins foreshadows the famous "Katniss-Gale-Peeta" love triangle, which shows up again and again through the Hunger Games trilogy. At various points, Katniss is more attracted to Gale than to Peeta; at other times, she prefers Peeta. For the time being, though, Katniss barely thinks of her relationships with Gale and Peeta as being romantic. Her friendship with Gale is seemingly platonic, and indeed, she can barely trust Peeta at all--she knows that they're going to have to fight to the death at some point down the line, after all.

The passage raises an important point: all alliances in the Hunger Games are temporary. Even if it makes sense to work with Peeta in the short term, Katniss knows that their "friendship" can end only one way: with one or both of their deaths. Although Peeta and Katniss have "rebelled" against Panem by holding hands, showing their trust and friendship, the fact remains that in the end, they'll have to fight one another. In short, "the house always wins"--Panem always succeeds in getting Hunger Games competitors to kill.

Chapter 10 Quotes

“He made you look desirable! And let’s face it, you can use all the help you can get in that department. You were about as romantic as dirt until he said he wanted you. Now they all do. You’re all they’re talking about. The star-crossed lovers from District Twelve!” says Haymitch.

Related Characters: Haymitch Abernathy (speaker), Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Haymitch sums up the "public relations" side of the Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeta, thanks largely to Peeta's confession that he has a crush on Katniss, are now perceived as lovers. As Haymitch rightly points out, Peeta's confession (whether it's true or false) has accomplished a lot for Katniss. By giving the audiences of the Hunger Games a juicy story, Peeta has ensured that rich sponsors will send both District 12 competitors lots of food and supplies, while also ensuring that the organizers of the Hunger Games will design the competitions to keep Peet and Katniss alive for as long as their "story" remains interesting.

On a more general level, Peeta and Katniss's "romance" is crucial for the Hunger Games because it allows the audience to see the competitors as human beings, not animals being sent to the slaughter. With Katniss and Peeta engaged in the most relatable, human thing imaginable--love--it's increasingly difficult for the audience to enjoy the bloodshed and violence of the Games.

“…Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games,” says Peeta.

Related Characters: Peeta Mellark (speaker)
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Peeta expresses his desire to maintain his identity and om during the Hunger Games. As he explains to Katniss, he doesn't want to become a savage killer, even though becoming one is exactly what the government of Panem wants him to do.

Although Katniss initially rejects Peeta's statement as hypocritical (since he's going to be killing competitors no matter what happens), Peeta seems to be of a like mind with Katniss. Like Katniss, Peeta recognizes that the point of the Games is to make similar people fight with one another, creating rivalries between Districts and therefore cementing the strength of the Capitol. While Peeta is too weak to overthrow the Capitol itself, he can subvert the Games by behaving differently: i.e., by holding hands with Katniss, by refusing to fight his competitors, etc.

Chapter 19 Quotes

Peeta, who’s been wounded, is now my ally…it just makes sense to protect each other. And in my case—being one of the star-crossed lovers from District 12—it’s an absolute requirement if I want any more help from sympathetic sponsors.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Katniss fully decides to protect Peeta during the Hunger Games. Peeta has been seriously wounded--he's incapable of defending himself in any capacity. But instead of killing Peeta (finishing him off, that is), Katniss chooses to help and nurture him.

It's important to understand why Katniss chooses to help Peeta. Katniss knows the rules of the Hunger Games: she knows that there can only be one winner, meaning that any help she offers to her competitors is hurting her own chances of surviving the Games. And yet Katniss also recognizes that her chances of receiving more sponsorship from her wealthy supporters hinges upon her keeping up a "romance" with Peeta. In short, the "story" of romance between Katniss and Peeta controls Katniss's behavior in this scene: she has no choice but to play along in the hopes of receiving more supplies.

For the time being, Katniss is still mostly acting out of self-preservation: she clearly feels genuine sympathy for Peeta, but she also accepts that helping him will be beneficial for both of them. The most complicated part of their budding romance/friendship is that it's always very public, and it's always tinged with acting and keeping up appearances.

Chapter 26 Quotes

“Listen up. You’re in trouble. Word is the Capitol’s furious about you showing them up in the arena. The one thing they can’t stand is being laughed at, and they’re the joke of Panem,” says Haymitch.

Related Characters: Haymitch Abernathy (speaker), Katniss Everdeen
Page Number: 350
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta manage to become the first co-champions of the Games. Instead of playing along with the "kill or be killed" philosophy of the Hunger Games, they agree to commit suicide together, forcing the Gamemakers to declare them both champions (the Gamemakers know that it's better to have two champions than to have none, especially when they're such crowd favorites).

Although Katniss and Peeta have acted out of a desire for survival, as well as love and sympathy for each other, they've unleashed forces far bigger than they could have imagined. By disobeying the rules of the Hunger Games, they've challenged the authority of the Capitol itself. Put a slightly different way, Peeta and Katniss have proven that the Capitol is "enslaved" to the Hunger Games in much the same way that the competitors themselves are. The Capitol is so dependent on the successful completion of the Hunger Games that they have no choice but to submit to Peeta and Katniss's demands.

After a life spent living in the government's tyranny, Katniss has finally found a way to fight back. By keeping up the act of a romance with Peeta, and by gambling that the Capitol would rather have two champions than none, Katniss has saved her life and protected Peeta's life, too.