The Hunger Games is a story about children murdering children for the entertainment of a privileged class. It’s a story about rulers who utilize fear and violence to control and effectively enslave a vast workforce that lacks a voice and true representation. Panem is a classic dystopia, a horrifying nightmare vision of humanity’s future that is unlikely to be realized.
Yet the purpose of dystopian fiction is to present a future that is unlikely but nevertheless possible, as a means of provoking questions about the current structure and trajectory of society. What is it about our world that would prompt Suzanne Collins to put forward The Hunger Games as a conceivable outcome for humanity?
The details are different, of course, but the gap that exists between the elite citizenry of the Capitol and the working classes of the districts is equivalent to the massive gap that exists between the wealthiest few and the impoverished many of our world. People may not have to fight for their lives in a massive arena controlled by heartless gamemakers*, and they may not be chained to the fate that is assigned to them based on their geographical location**, but that hardly matters when you consider the current war against social services that’s playing out in governments across the world. Everyday people are finding it harder to make ends meet, and social safety nets are eroding at such a pace that they’re unable to catch the growing number of people falling through the cracks.