Panem’ Social Contracts: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Essay (Critical Writing)
Updated: Jun 1st, 2020
The first example of a social contract in Panem is the need to be disarmed. Katniss expresses the intensity of the social contract when she claims that “my bow is a rarity” (Collins 3). Her father had the ability to make and sell bows. Her father was afraid of the severe penalty, being executed publicly (Collins 3). It is a social contract when the Capitol provides security for all the other districts. On the other hand, people living in the districts are not allowed to own simple weapons like bows and arrows. It is unnecessary because the Capitol has more sophisticated equipment that only requires the pressing of buttons to kill. The people sacrifice the liberty to own weapons, and to defend themselves. They are allowed to live peacefully by the Capitol, so long as they follow the rules.
The second example of a social contract in Panem is the need to keep quiet about Capitol’s governance. Katniss expresses that “I avoid discussing tricky topics, like reaping, or food shortages, or the Hunger Games. Prim might begin to repeat my words, and then where would we be?” (Collins 3).
Rebellion is unlikely to happen when people are prevented from discussing issues that make them irritated with the Capitol. It prevents the occurrence of new ‘Dark Days’. Repression happens in all districts as it can be noted that people in one district are not supposed to know what happens in the other districts (Collins 103). Katniss claims that “even though the information seems harmless, they don’t want people in different districts to know about one another” (Collins 103). The people in the districts forego the freedom of speech and expression so that they can live peacefully with the Capitol. People have no freedom to criticize the government. Criticizing the Capitol’s method of governance may cause an uprising.
Another social contract in Panem involves the people in districts submitting all of their work benefits to the Capitol. Rue explained to Katniss when she thought that they had enough to eat because they came from an agricultural district. She says, “Oh, no, we’re not allowed to eat the crops” (Collins 102). Katniss explains that in the coal district, the only coal they can obtain is through filling their boots when they get out of the mine (Collins 102). In the quota system, the Capitol accumulates all the wealth. It distributes food to the districts the way it pleases. In most cases, the people in the districts are given just enough to keep them alive. The people in the districts forego the right to acquire wealth and make personal investments. As a result, the people in the districts are poor and frequently die of hunger or malnutrition. Their deaths are reported to be caused by other diseases such as tuberculosis to cover up the ongoing starvation.
Another social contract is the ‘reaping’ that leads to the Hunger Games. Each year a boy and a girl are offered from each district for the Hunger Games. Reaping refers to selecting randomly those who will fight in the Hunger Games. It shows the districts’ submission to the Capitol instead of real wars (Collins 10). The reaping agreement is also supported by a social contract known as the ‘tesserae’. The ‘tesserae’ allows a teenager to obtain more to eat at the expense of increasing the chances of being selected. It is evident when Katniss exclaims that Gale’s name appears 42 times in the ball that holds the names (Collins 10). It is like a rotary, the more you enter, the higher your chances of being chosen.
As a result of the reaping of teenagers, Panem exists peacefully because the Capitol fully expresses its dominance through the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are also considered a representative of what would have occurred if the districts were to engage in a real war. It is considered a little suffering for the greater good. The people in the districts lose their right to choose whether to engage in the games or not. They are forced to attend assemblies where teenagers are chosen. The people in the Capitol do not undergo the reaping process because they are the victors of the ‘Dark Days’ (Collins 23). It is a social contract that allows them to enjoy watching the Hunger Games when none of their family members is at the risk of being killed.
Social contracts also exist at the district level. One of the social contracts at the district level is the concept of the ‘Career Tributes’. It is practiced in District 1, District 2, and District 4 (Collins 48). These districts have looked at the positive side of winning the Hunger Games. It includes receiving gifts from the Capitol. Other districts do not care because all they want is to get rid of the game. For example, District 12 does not care to train people because they hate the whole process. The districts that train tributes work to increase the chances of their trainees surviving in the arena. These districts have agreed to train their tributes despite the fact that they hate the game too.
Career tributes make the districts appear as if they enjoy the game. The districts forfeit their open displeasure when they choose to train tributes. It creates mixed feelings because they value that which they have greatly disliked. Their gains include grains and oil that the Capitol offers to them when they become winners.
Another social contract at the district level exists among the leaders in District 12 and the hunters. The leaders purchase games even though the Capitol has banned hunting. Katniss explains that “most of the Peacekeepers turn a blind eye to the few of us who hunt because they’re as hungry for fresh meat as anybody is” (Collins 3). The mayor in District 12 liked to buy wild turkeys caught by Katniss. It spared her and Gale public beatings in spite of being mentioned several times. The greater good is that peacekeepers maintain a low number of hunters and trade for game meat. The hunters are able to obtain food and other items they need by engaging in barter trade. The hunters forego the right to sell their catch in the open market. They also sell their products at a lower price than expected.
One of the social contracts criticized by Collins is the quota system of contributing to the economy, which appears to be communism. The bugged conversations are a critique of states that listen to the personal conversations of their citizens.
Collins is more effective in addressing the issue of intercepted personal communications by using ancient messengers such as birds as opposed to advanced technology. As a result, the matter appears primitive. She is able to effectively critique how the Capitol uses all the wealth it derives from the other districts. She has effectively used humor to ridicule the Capitol’s beautification. Her critique is effective by showing that the districts forfeit all their rights for the sake of one item, peace.
Collins, Suzzane n.d., The Hunger Games. Web.
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