The Hunger Games

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Love, Loyalty, and Compassion Theme Analysis

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.
Love, Loyalty, and Compassion Theme Icon

In the harsh environment of the Hunger Games, it is normal for tributes to form temporary “alliances” for strategic purposes, only to eventually kill their allies when the time comes. Yet though the Games turn tributes into brutal competitors who know only that they must kill or be killed, Katniss forms not alliances but relationships. First, she volunteers for the Games in place of her little sister, Prim. Because District 12 has a history of losing the Games, Katniss is essentially volunteering for a death sentence, showing that she cares more about her little sister’s life than her own—a revelation that immediately draws the attention of those in the Capitol, who aren’t used to seeing the inhabitants of the districts sacrifice for one another. Next, she breaks from common practice of tributes when she teams up with Rue, the smallest of the tributes, and tries to protect her despite the nature of the Games. This, in turn, prompts Thresh, a competitor from Rue’s district, to show mercy on Katniss.

Katniss certainly employs strategy in winning the games, but by treating her sister and at least some of the other tributes as people worthy of love and care, Katniss, in a sense, breaks the Games. Once she has created these relationships of caring, the logic shifts from how to kill each other to how to beat the Games themselves, which translates directly into beating the Capitol at its own game. This effort comes to a head in the last moment of the Hunger Games, when Katniss’s relationship with Peeta—a relationship founded on the love Katniss inspires in Peeta; and on Katniss’s own willingness to kill herself rather than kill Peeta—finally breaks down the structure of the Games. By preparing to eat the poisoned berries, Katniss and Peeta demonstrate that they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for one another, and this tragically noble display shows that there’s undeniably more to them than just bloodlust and survival instinct—their loyalty forces the Gamemakers to change the rules. And because the government gathers strength by dividing up its residents and pitting them against each other, the way that Katniss’s fierce and yet compassionate behavior encourages people to form groups willing to sacrifice themselves (as opposed to killing each other) is directly threatening to the Capitol’s control.

Love, Loyalty, and Compassion ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Love, Loyalty, and Compassion appears in each chapter of The Hunger Games. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Love, Loyalty, and Compassion Quotes in The Hunger Games

Below you will find the important quotes in The Hunger Games related to the theme of Love, Loyalty, and Compassion.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Leave? How could I leave Prim, who is the only person in the world I’m certain I love? And Gale is devoted to his family. We can’t leave, so why bother talking about it?

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Gale, Primrose Everdeen
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to two key characters, Gale and Prim. Katniss has been friends with Gale for her entire life--they're hunting partners. Prim is Katniss's little sister, whom she adores. Katniss often fantasizes about leaving her home in District 12, since her life there is hard and miserable. But she always comes back to the same facts: she loves Prim (and Gale, who would leave with her, loves his own family) too much to abandon her for her own selfish reasons. Our knowledge that Katniss loves Gale and Prim helps to humanize Katniss: like plenty of young, adventurous people (i.e., the people who would read the book), Katniss daydreams about journeying far away from home, but she's also deeply loyal to her family and friends.


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I protect Prim in every way I can, but I’m powerless against the reaping. The anguish I always feel when she’s in pain wells up in my chest and threatens to register on my face. I notice her blouse has pulled out of her skirt in the back again and force myself to stay calm. “Tuck your tail in, little duck,” I say, smoothing the blouse back in place.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Primrose Everdeen
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Katniss talks about her feelings of helplessness. Katniss has always been enormously close with her little sister, Prim, and she protects her from every possible danger. But since Prim is a child, she's required to enter in the annual Hunger Games lottery--i.e., she's required to risk competing in the bloody Games themselves. Katniss isn't strong enough to protect Prim from being selected for the Games--she's simply not powerful enough to fight the authority of the government of Panem, and the lottery of the Games.

The passage is also important because Katniss displays some of the poise and self-control that will later serve her well during the Games. Although she's incredibly frightened on behalf of her sister, Katniss doesn't let her fear show: taking care of someone else ("tuck your tail in") makes Katniss more, not less, calm.

Chapter 2 Quotes

But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become someone precious. At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means goodbye to someone you love.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Primrose Everdeen
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Almost from the beginning of the book, Katniss is portrayed as a martyr and a heroine. Katniss sacrifices her own life (or at least gravely endangers it) by volunteering to take her little sister's place in the Hunger Games. She's frightened of being killed (as nearly everyone in the Hunger Games will be), but her love for her sister outweighs her own fear of death. In short, Katniss is a martyr, willing to die on behalf of her sister, as well as the community of District 12 as a whole (by volunteering for the Games, she's temporarily protecting the other people of her community from harm).

The passage is also an early sign that Katniss is dangerous to the government of Panem. Notice that nobody else in Panem volunteers to take Katniss's place: unlike Katniss, they're too frightened to endanger their own lives. In other words, Katniss's love for her family makes her brave and selfless, while the rest of the community's fear makes them meek and obedient to the government. Katniss is exactly the kind of person the government doesn't want around: a strong, unintimidated young woman who'll fight for Prim, even if it means fighting the government itself.

Chapter 4 Quotes

A kind Peeta Mellark is far more dangerous to me than an unkind one. Kind people have a way of working their way inside me and rooting there. And I can’t let Peeta do this. Not where we’re going. So I decide, from this moment on, to have as little as possible to do with the baker’s son.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Peeta Mellark
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Peeta offers Katniss some cookies that his father baked. As Katniss realizes, Peeta is genuinely trying to befriend Katniss prior to the beginning of the Hunger Games tournament. Katniss was wrong to assume that Peeta was trying to "play" his competitors--he really is a kind, likable guy. But Katniss continues to hold Peeta at a distance. Even if Peeta is a likable guy, Katniss refuses to befriend him.

As Katniss explains it, she refuses to let Peeta "root inside" her. Put a different way, Katniss doesn't want to develop any sympathy for Peet--there's a strong possibility that she'll have to kill him at some point during the Hunger Games. In order to save herself the guilt and self-hatred, Katniss decides to ignore Peeta as much as possible: she doesn't want to grow attached to one of her future victims.

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 18 Quotes

I can’t stop looking at Rue, smaller than ever, a baby animal curled up in a nest of netting. I can’t bring myself to leave her like this. Past harm, but seeming utterly defenseless. To hate the boy from District 1, who also appears so vulnerable in death, seems inadequate. It’s the Capitol I hate, for doing this to all of us.

Related Characters: Katniss Everdeen (speaker), Rue
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Katniss's friend Rue is killed by a competitor from District 1. Rue's death is important to the plot of the novel for a number of reasons. First, it reminds us that Katniss, in spite of her ability to kill, is fundamentally a kind, sympathetic person, who only entered the Hunger Games in the first place because of her love for Prim, her sister. In Rue, Katniss seems to find a counterpart to Prim--a young, innocent girl--and so when Rue dies, Katniss seems almost as grief-stricken as if Prim had died.

Furthermore, Rue's death is important because it challenges Katniss's ideas about the Hunger Games themselves. So far, Katniss has been willing to participate in the violence of the Games: she knows full-well that the Capitol is just trying to breed anger and hatred between the districts, but she still wants to survive and return to her family. In this scene, Katniss is tempted to blame the boy from District 1 for Rue's death, but instead, she forces herself to see the big picture: Rue is only death because of the Capitol itself. In other words, Katniss doesn't "take the bait." Instead of doing what the Capitol wants—fighting with the other districts, and strengthening the Capitol's authority—she recognizes who her real enemies are: the Capitol and the Gamemakers.