In The Hunger Games, social inequality occurs at all levels: throughout the nation of Panem, among the twelve districts, and among the inhabitants of any given district. It is this inequity that breeds strife and creates the main conflicts of the book. In Panem, for example, wealth is heavily concentrated in the hands of those living in the Capitol, and the result is that they can’t even comprehend the lives of the poor. The citizens of the Capitol don’t realize that the inhabitants of the districts are just as intelligent as they are—and just as capable of feeling—because they lead such drastically different lives. It’s this lack of understanding that allows the citizens of the Capitol to dismiss the suffering of the Hunger Games as entertainment: they don’t view the tributes as real people. They see them, via the “reality TV” of the Hunger Games, as a means of entertainment.
Among the districts, District 12 is known for being one of the poorest, and this affects Peeta’s and Katniss’s chances in the arena as well. Some of the other tributes have had the resources to train for the competition, and this advantage extends not only to combat, but also to winning sponsors who can provide food, water, and healing kits during the Games. This setup suggests that the disadvantages of being underprivileged tend to follow the poor even after they’ve left their initial circumstances behind.
Finally, the way that tributes are selected to be in the Games is perhaps the most obvious indicator of social inequality. Even though the lottery is random in theory, the tesserae system makes the poor more vulnerable. In exchange for extra rations of food and oil—tesserae—children can enter their names into the reaping additional times. Because the children of poor families need tesserae in order to survive and support their families, they’re more likely to be picked than the children of wealthier families.
Societal Inequality ThemeTracker
Societal Inequality Quotes in The Hunger Games
Gale knows his anger at Madge is misdirected. On other days, deep in the woods, I’ve listened to him rant about how the tesserae are just another tool to cause misery in our district. A way to plant hatred between the starving workers of the Seam and those who can generally count on supper and thereby ensure we will never trust one another.
“At least, you two have decent manners,” says Effie as we’re finishing the main course. “The pair last year ate everything with their hands like a couple of savages. It completely upset my digestion.” The pair last year were two kids from the Seam who’d never, not one day of their lives, had enough to eat. And when they did have food, table manners were surely the last thing on their minds.
I realize I detest Haymitch. No wonder the District 12 tributes never stand a chance. It isn’t just that we’ve been underfed and lack training. Some of our tributes have still been strong enough to make a go of it. But we rarely get sponsors and he’s a big part of the reason why. The rich people who back tributes—either because they’re betting on them or simply for the bragging rights of picking a winner—expect someone classier than Haymitch to deal with.
Days of hunting and gathering for this one meal and even then it would be a poor substitution for the Capitol version. What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button?
The Capitol twinkles like a vast field of fireflies. Electricity in District 12 comes and goes, usually we only have it a few hours a day. Often the evenings are spent in candlelight. The only time you can count on it is w hen they’re airing the Games or some important government message on television that it’s mandatory to watch. But here there would be no shortage. Ever.
Almost all of the boys and at least half of the girls are bigger than I am, even though many of the tributes have never been fed properly…The exceptions are the kids from the wealthier districts, the volunteers, the ones who have been fed and trained throughout their lives for this moment.