1. What role does debt play in the novel?
Debt, not of the financial sort necessarily but in the form of owing someone for their help, comes up multiple times in the novel. The most significant instance concerns Katniss’s first encounter with Peeta. Katniss was starving at the time, and Peeta essentially saved her life by giving her bread from his family’s bakery. Moreover, he apparently burned bread deliberately to help Katniss, despite knowing he would be punished as a result. Katniss describes how she has felt indebted to Peeta ever since. Thresh also brings up debt when he spares Katniss after learning about her alliance with Rue. He says they are “even” and no more is “owed.”
These feelings of indebtedness, Katniss suggests, stem from the experience of growing up poor. When Peeta expresses his surprise that Thresh let Katniss live, Katniss tells him he wouldn’t understand because he’s “always had enough.” What she implies is that Peeta has never been dependent on another person for either his or his loved ones’ wellbeing, so he can’t understand the feelings of debt associated with that experience. The tessera system plays into this mentality of indebtedness. The poor take extra food rations essentially on credit, which is paid back in the form of extra entries into the reaping. They often need the tessera in order to survive, so they take them knowing they will have to pay back what is essentially a debt later.
2. Does Katniss truly begin wanting a relationship with Peeta, or is she playing a role to gain a strategic advantage? Explain.
Though Katniss does begin to develop sincere romantic feelings for Peeta, she never appears to want their friendship to turn into a real relationship, and she primarily keeps up the romance with Peeta for the strategic advantage it provides. In numerous instances in which they kiss, Katniss thinks of what Haymitch would want to see rather than thinking that she actually wants to kiss Peeta, and only once does she say they shared a kiss that left her wanting another. In one of the most dramatic moments of their romance, Katniss tells Peeta he doesn’t have competition anywhere, referring to Gale, but even in this situation she thinks of what Haymitch would want her to say.
Just as tellingly, when they’re on their way back to District 12 Katniss makes it clear she doesn’t think she’s the type of person who can be in the sort of relationship Peeta wants. By all indications, she felt this way well before any romance began between them. Early in the novel, for instance, she thinks she could never get married and have children knowing that they might one day have to take part in the Hunger Games. Katniss’s feelings, in other words, have not changed, and she is still not interested in a relationship, perhaps with anyone.
3. Why does the author spend so much time focusing on the dresses Cinna creates for Katniss?
Given that Katniss’s life is at stake in the Hunger Games, the author’s focus on Katniss’s appearance at various times can seem frivolous. But as becomes clear over the course of the novel, appearances are extremely important to Katniss’s survival. The author’s focus on Cinna’s dresses subtly emphasizes this theme by forcing the reader to take notice of Katniss’s appearance. Katniss’s dress for the opening ceremony, we learn, makes her (and Peeta, who is similarly dressed) stand apart from the other tributes. The significance of this move isn’t fully clear until Katniss is in the arena and in need of sponsors. By making her stand out, the dress makes her popular, and this popularity is amplified by the public romance she shares with Peeta. Consequently, she becomes more likely to receive gifts, and these gifts actually turn out to be vital to her survival.
1. Is Haymitch a good mentor to Katniss and Peeta? Explain.
2. In what ways does Katniss’s hunting experience prepare her for the Games, and in what ways does it fail to prepare her?
3. How does Katniss’s role in her family affect her behavior in the Games?
4. What is Katniss’s greatest strength in the Games, and what is her greatest weakness?
5. Science fiction often uses a futuristic setting to comment on the present day. What does The Hunger Games suggest about the present-day United States?
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