Study Guides

Appalachia in The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

by Tina L. Hanlon

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2008. Catching Fire, 2009. Mockingjay, 2010.

Prequel: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, 2020.

Beware: Spoilers Below

Appalachian Coal Fields | Hunting & Black Market | Folk Medicine | Folk Music | Exploitation | Hunger Games | Related Stories | Links | More Quotations
Hunger Games coverIntroduction. The best-selling Hunger Games trilogy and prequel are set in the futuristic country of Panem, after North America was destroyed by "the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what sustenance remained" (The Hunger Games, p. 18). The trilogy's teenage narrator, Katniss Everdeen, lives in District 12, "the smallest, poorest district" (Mockingjay, paperback p. 264). Once, early in the first book, she says she heard at school that District 12 is located in what was Appalachia. Although there are few other explicit references to Appalachia, this page outlines links I have found between Appalachian traditions and details in these novels. See below for more overview of the Hunger Games. If you have other ideas about connections between District 12 and Appalachia, or know of others who have written about this topic, please send your thoughts to Tina L. Hanlon.
Book cover

As an essay, this analysis is now published in the book

Of Bread, Blood, and The Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy
McFarland's Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy series, 2012.
Edited by Mary Pharr and Leisa A. Clark.

The five topics below, which link the novels with Appalachian cultural history, are discussed in the published essay in more detail.


Appalachian Coal Fields in a Future World. In Catching Fire Katniss observes, "'It's all that coal dust, from the old days'.... It was in every crack and crevice. Ground into the floorboards" (p. 131). The workers in District 12 are coal miners. Like the other eleven districts, it provides a commodity so that the rulers in the Capitol (located in the Rocky Mountains) can live in luxury, while most people in the districts struggle through lives of deprivation, like many Appalachian mining families in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. (The Latin root panis, or bread, emphasizes the use of hunger to oppress the people of Panem.) During the years of rebellion and war, Katniss relives her father's death in a mine disaster and worries about her friend Gale being forced to work in dangerous mining conditions, at the mercy of officials who would like to destroy him.

Hunting and Black Market. Katniss' father had taught her to hunt and gather food. Hunting illegally and selling some of what they gather on the black market enable Katniss and her friend Gale to feed their families after their fathers are killed in coal mine disasters. Her agility with a bow and other hunting skills help Katniss survive the Hunger Games to become a celebrity exploited by the government, then a leader in a rebellion. In the end, after District 12 has been firebombed and most of its residents killed, Katniss and other survivors return to live off the land. Elizabeth Baird Hardy discusses the flora and fauna of Appalachia and District 12 in some detail , as well as Katniss' Appalachian self-reliance and survival skills, in her chapter of the Critical Insights book edited by Whited (see below).

Folk Medicine. Katniss' mother, who was the daughter of an apothecary and left the merchant class to marry a miner, knows folk medicine and all kinds of healing methods. Her daughter Prim learns about healing from her and their skills are needed before and after the rebellion, since modern high-tech medicine is not available to most workers in Panem as it is for affluent citizens and tributes in the Capitol. Although Katniss does not have the healing skills of her mother and sister, her knowledge of plants is helpful during the Hunger Games. Lana Whited wrote in her review of the first film, "The role and efficacy of Katniss’s mother is a major difference between book and film, where Appalachian themes and images are concerned. Katniss’s parents made a perfect match: he knew how to find useful plants in the wild, and she knew what to do with them. Together, they compiled their own reference book of edible and curative plants." 

Folk Music. Songs that Katniss remembers from childhood and learned from her father have emotional and symbolic functions in the trilogy. When Rue dies in the first book, Katniss sings a very old lullaby about suffering, love, and hope that she remembers from home, and her children repeat the song at the end of the last book. Folk songs become especially important while Katniss is recovering in isolation from severe injuries during the rebellion in Mockingjay. “Hour after hour of ballads, love songs, mountain airs” pour from her (p. 376). During a wartime wedding in District 13, the only fiddler from District 12 to survive with his instrument attracts attention, and others from their mountain district demonstrate their dancing skills along with Katniss and Prim. The fictional ballads in the novels are comparable to traditional British-Appalachian ballads. "The Hanging Tree" became a hit song after Jennifer Lawrence, playing Katniss, sang it in the film adaptation The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 (2014). "Strange things did happen here" is one of the lyrics.

Exploitation by Outsiders and Mass Media. In addition to exploiting miners and their families to provide resources for the nation, the Capitol manipulates Katniss for propaganda purposes, and then the rebellion uses her as a figurehead as well. Appalachia has a long history of being stereotyped in both negative and positive ways by mainstream society. It is both idealized and denigrated in a number of television programs, documentaries as well as fiction. One network dropped plans to create a 21st-century reality show based on "The Beverly Hillbillies, because of protests from Appalachia. Elizabeth Baird Hardy, who has written about these issues of stereotypes and treatment by mainstream media in the regions and the novels and films, discusses "the ways in which it has been stereotyped and labeled as a land of violent, inbred alcoholics and barbarians. Ironically, both District 12 and Appalachia suffer from stereotypes largely created by the very mainstream culture that looks down upon them, while both regions actually possess a rich and complex culture with a distinct worldview, sense of humor, musical and oral traditions, and unique perspective." Hardy uses a line from the trilogy about "overcoming the barbarism of your district" as a subheading in her essay "Where you can starve to death in safety': Appalachia and The Hunger Games" (see References below).

The Hunger Games. Katniss becomes involved in the annual "games," an ordeal designed to keep the population under control by demonstrating that they are helpless, reminding the districts of the Dark Days when the Capitol put down rebellions and destroyed District 13. The reaping, a day of celebration which opens The Hunger Games, includes a public lottery in each district. One male and one female adolescent from each district are chosen to fight in a survivalist ordeal in a vast arena, which continues for days or weeks until the winner is the last one alive. During days of preparation and training, the twenty-four "tributes" are pampered, dressed in lavish costumes, and interviewed like celebrities. The Latinate names of Katniss's flamboyant assistants remind us that these games are like the bloody spectacles in the arenas of ancient Rome. The games and related activities are fully televised, so that viewers who can afford to provide assistance can become sponsors who send supplies to anyone they choose during the games. At age twelve children enter the lottery and for the next six years their name is entered more times for each additional year of age. They may request tesserae, as Katniss and Gale have done to provide more food for their families. Each of those gives them an extra entry in the lottery in exchange for a payment of grain and oil. Although Madge, the mayor's daughter who is Katniss' acquaintance at school, mentions that she could be chosen, people understand that the children of well-connected citizens are not likely to be selected. Before the novels begin, District 12 has had only one victor in the Hunger Games, Haymitch Abernathy, who lives in comfort in a victor's home but became a slovenly drunk as his reaction to the horrors he endured. Katniss survives two rounds of Hunger Games in the first two books, before learning how much the 75th anniversary game, called the Quarter Quell, is affected by growing rebellions against the Capitol.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a prequel published in 2020, reveals the origin of the Hunger Games. Its protagonist is Coriolanus Snow as a young man long before he becomes the ruthless President Snow. In the 10th Hunger Games, he reluctantly becomes a mentor to Lucy Gray Baird of District 12, a member of a group of musicians called the Covey.

A Few Other Stories with Similar Themes

Note: Since young adult dystopia is one of the most popular genres of fiction at the time of the Hunger Games books and films, many articles compare this trilogy with other recent novels not listed here. Of Bread, Blood, and The Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy includes discussion of the series in relation to Shakespeare's Henriad, the Harry Potter and Twilight series, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, and other works of fiction and popular culture. Most of the references below are older works that I was familiar with and stories that Collins has identified as influential. The discussion guide by Rockman, linked below in the next section, lists other historical and literary references. An essay by Tina L. Hanlon about literary antecedents and influences appeared in 2016 in Critical Insights: The Hunger Games Trilogy (Grey House).

"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, 1948. A chilling short story about the annual lottery in a seemingly ordinary American town, a ritual that ends with a stoning. (In a 2010 interview, Suzanne Collins named Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle as one of the books she rereads.) Some characters hint that this might be an old fertility ritual, that having the lottery in June was thought to make crops grow well in summer. The reaping in the Hunger Games seems closely connected with this story, except that only teenagers are entered in the lottery for the Hunger Games and then the tributes are required to kill each other.

1984 by George Orwell, 1949. British dystopia set in a future of global wars. This novel made popular images of constant electronic surveillance and mind control by Big Brother. The Hunger Games are fully televised and in Panem the Capitol has many methods of watching and controlling citizens. (In a 2010 interview and elsewhere, Suzanne Collins named this as one of the books she has reread many times.)

Lord of the Flies by William Golding, 1954. A modern dystopian Robinsonnade (with parallels to Defoe's Robinson Crusoe), in which some of the schoolboys stranded on an island after a plane crash during World War II turn savage. Their shifting relationships as they struggle for survival in the jungle have parallels in the Hunger Games, which also resemble more recent survivalist "reality TV" game shows with contestants competing on islands and participating in other artificial adventures. (In a 2010 interview, Suzanne Collins named this as one of the books she rereads.)

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is a short story by Ursula K. LeGuin. Sometimes called a work of philosophical fiction, it explores the morality of sacrificing one innocent young life for the greater good of society. First published in 1973, the story appeared in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. New York: Harper & Row, 1975.

River of Earth (1940) and Sporty Creek (1977) by James Still. Set in the Great Depression, these books are among many novels about the effects of life in Appalachian coal towns on poor working families in the twentieth century. Both novels have especially dismal views of Kentucky coal towns at a time when employment in the mines was unreliable, with work stopping and starting based on market forces and corporate decisions far away from the mines. See details at James Still's Books for and about Children: Bibliography and Study Guide.

The Miner's Daughter by Gretchen Moran Laskas (2007). The narrator is a 16-year-old girl in a West Virginia coal town in the 1940s. Both her parents have health problems and her father's illness results from working conditions. This historical novel includes the founding of Arthurdale, a new town established by Eleanor Roosevelt under the New Deal, for West Virginia homesteaders who need jobs, decent homes, and schools—an idealistic experiment that was not able to provide social justice for all. The novel also describes environmental damage caused by pollution in the coal town, while the narrator and her brother enjoy taking refuge in the woods. See Appalachian Fiction for Children and Young Adults.

Germinal by Émile Zola (1885) is a novel that Collins told Tina Jordan she has read often. Zola's masterpiece is about a coal miner in northern France who endures a harsh environment and oppressive working conditions, and loses his job after leading a strike, but develops faith that workers will eventually unite and overthrow tyranny.

Battle Royale by Koshun Takami is a 1999 Japanese novel that has been much compared to the Hunger Games trilogy. The popular story has also been told in manga format and film adaptations. "A 9th grade class is forced to fight each other to the death on a reality television program, demonstrating the lengths to which the government will go to prevent school violence" (WorldCat). See discussion of the connections in the NYT article by Dominus, listed below, which says that Collins never read this novel.

Greek myths and history. Some of the names and traditions of the murderous games played out in an arena are clearly based on stories from the ancient classical period. In the NYT article by Dominus, listed below, Collins noted that she was influenced by the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, and that the historical figure Spartacus, who led a rebellion of slaves and gladiators, was her inspiration for Katniss' career. Other critics have compared Katniss to Artemis (named Diana by the Romans), who loved to hunt and had extraordinary skill with bow and arrow. When Tina Jordan asked Collins about her favorite books in childhood, she said, "I've had a lifelong love of mythology, so I'd have to top the list with Myths and Enchantment Tales, by Margaret Evans Price,… and D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths."

Robin Hood legends. From ballads in the 15th century to many modern books and films, Robin Hood has appeared as an outlaw in Nottingham Forest in England, attacking representatives of the state and Church, robbing from the rich to give to the poor, in opposition to medieval laws that prevented ordinary people from using lands owned by the king to feed their families.

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, 1874. Collins named Katniss Everdeen after Bathsheba Everdene, Hardy's heroine in one of his most popular novels of rural life in southern England. After inheriting a prosperous farm, Bathsheba dares to manage it herself but has personal and professional problems managing her own life in the rural community and her relationships with very different men who love her. In her 2010 interview with Tina Jordan, Collins said, "The two are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts."

Lucy Gray poems in Lyrical Ballads, 1800 edition. William Wordsworth's English Romantic poems provided the name for a District 12 musician who is a main character in the Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Snakes and Songbirds. In "Lucy Gray" she is a lost moor child who "sings a solitary song / That whistles in the wind."

Links and References

Note: Some of the blogs and other web pages that speculate about and try to map out the location of places in the Hunger Games novels reveal limited knowledge of Appalachia. The emphasis on coal towns does not restrict the location of District 12 to West Virginia, for example. There are few specific geographic or cultural details tying scenes to particular places in the U.S. Readers ask why Collins (who is not Southern) reads these novels with a Southern accent but did not use dialect in the written novels. However, even if Collins had been interested in establishing regional identity through dialects, since the trilogy is set in an unspecified future time, hundreds of years after coal mining began in the Appalachian region, the speech of citizens in District 12 would not be identical to Appalachian English today. In commenting on the first film, released in 2012, writers who speculate about why the filmmakers chose western NC for filming of District 12 don't always realize or acknowledge that in the first book Collins identifies Appalachia as the past name of District 12.

Beagley, David. "Review: Of Blockbusters and Bestsellers." The Looking Glass: New Perspectives on Children's Literature, vol. 16 (Sept./Oct. 2012). Online journal review of Of Bread, Blood, and The Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy, and Genre, Reception and Adaptation in the "Twilight" Series (Ed. Anne Morey, Ashgate, 2012).

Bird, Elizabeth. "Review of the Day: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins." "A Fuse #8 Production." School Library Journal 28 June 2008. Has links to other blog reviews and many reader comments.

Bird, Elizabeth. "Why Can't Katniss Have an Accent? The Role of the Southerner in American Children's Literature." "A Fuse #8 Production." School Library Journal 20 Sept. 2010. Includes video clip of Suzanne Collins reading from the first chapter of Mockingjay (imitating a Southern accent for Katniss' voice). Bird notes that other award-winning novels for children and young adults do have heroines with Southern accents (although not usually in their film adaptations), but in movies and television, sometimes bad guys and women are identified with Southern accents, and we are used to not hearing much dialect diversity.

Britton, Richard Miles. "Appalachia in Science Fiction: Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. MA Thesis. Appalachian State University, 2015. From the abstract: "In literature, science fiction and Appalachia seem to exist in two separate—even opposing—worlds. Science fiction is a genre typically devoted to technology and an imaginary future. The Appalachian region, on the other hand, is often celebrated for its roots in tradition and history. Yet there are a number of literary works where science fiction and Appalachia not only cross paths, but converge. Using an ecocritical approach, this study focuses on two recent science fiction texts set in southern Appalachia...their treatment of place, otherness, and the impact of human modernization and technology on the postapocalyptic futures envisioned in the works. The emotional power of these novels, similar to other science fiction works set in Appalachia, lies in the startling and often uneasy convergence of tradition and innovation, of past and future—of what was, is, and may be— and all that can be lost along the way."

Burke, Brianna. "'Reaping' Environmental Justice through Compassion in The Hunger Games." Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. 22 (Summer 2015), pp. 544-67. Available online. This article describes "a speculative fiction novel that tackles two of the most pressing environmental issues of our time: the global food system and hunger. Addressing these problems through a grotesque gladiatorial spectacle, the novel repeatedly emphasizes that food is a social and environmental justice concern, showing that how we view the natural world—as 'raw materials' to be consumed, manipulated, or contaminated according to our desires—extends to both our domestic labor practices and our use of marginalized human beings globally. Through a fast-paced, action-packed plot, Suzanne Collins indicts the global food system where agribusiness and control over the methods of growth, agricultural knowledge, land rights, and cash cropping have prevented the poor from having any power over or access to the food they produce. Then, through the main character, Katniss Everdeen, the novel illuminates how many of us have lost the basic knowledge of how to catch, forage, or even grow our own food and argues that if we regain this knowledge, we can challenge the systems of power currently working to patent and regulate one of our most basic necessities." "Combined with Collins's argument about the global food system, her statement that compassion is the ultimate anti-capitalist force results in an overall message that is anything but typical for young adult literature." 

Collins, Suzanne. “The Last Battle: With ‘Mockingjay’ on Its Way, Suzanne Collins Weighs in on Katniss and the Capitol.” Interview by Rick Margolis. School Library Journal, vol. 1, Aug. 2010. Accessed 6 Feb. 2016. Collins discusses parallels between Katniss and the jabberjay in relation to Katniss as a survivalist and District 12 as an area that the Capitol doesn't worry about as a threat, so law enforcement is lax.

Dominus, Susan. "Suzanne Collins's War Stories for Kids." The New York Times Magazine 8 Apr. 2011. Based on a rare personal interview, the article discusses the author's family history and her views on war, popular culture, absent parents. Collins stressed that she was writing books about war for adolescents, not an allegory of adolescence.

Dreher, Kwakiutl L. Review of Of Bread, Blood, and The Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy. Journal of Popular Culture 46 (Aug. 2013), pp. 909-912. Available online through library services.

Ford, Clementine. “Literature’s Feistiest Feminists: How Thomas Hardy Paved the Way for The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen.The Telegraph 20 Apr. 2015. Accessed Feb. 7, 2016.

Gresehover, Ehren and Tammy Oler. "Hunger Games Tourism: Visit Scenic District 12 in North Carolina." Slate 27 Mar. 2012. The Slate Group, a Division of the Washington Post Company. Slide show in online publication of abandoned mill town, Henry River, NC, where District 12 scenes in The Hunger Games were filmed. The Lionsgate film directed by Gary Ross (co-scripted by Suzanne Collins) was released Mar. 23, 2012. See also Slate review of the film by Dana Stevens, 22 Mar. 2012, and other articles on the books and film in this site.

Hanlon, Tina L. "Coal Dust and Ballads: Appalachia and District 12." Of Bread, Blood, and The Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy. Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy series, no. 35. Ed. Mary Pharr and Leisa A. Clark. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012, pp. 59-68. This AppLit page provides an outline of this essay. Goodreads page on this book. Other reviews of this book are listed above and below.

Hanlon, Tina L. "Lotteries and Scapegoats: Literary Antecedents and Influences on The Hunger Games." Critical Insights: The Hunger Games Trilogy. Ed. Lana A. Whited. Ipswich, MA: Grey House/Salem Press, 2016. One of the books that Collins identified as being influential is Germinal by Émile Zola, about a nineteenth-century miner in northern France. One portion of this essay compares examples from Appalachian fiction with Katniss' life in District 12 and Panem. Elizabeth Baird Hardy discusses other aspects of Appalachia in her essay in this volume (see below).

Hanlon, Tina L. “Struggles for Life, Liberty, and Land: Mining Communities in Appalachian Children’s Books.” Southern Quarterly: A Journal of Arts and Letters in the South, vol. 54 (Spring/Summer 2017), pp. 94-113.

Hardy, Elizabeth Baird. "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, First Thoughts on a Sad, Familiar Song." Hogwarts Professor: Thoughts for Serious Readers. 22 May 2020. Blog entry by a resident of NW North Carolina with photos related to themes of the novel, including birds and snakes. "At its heart, this prequel is exactly what is purports to be, a ballad. In a technical sense, a ballad is simply a narrative song, a song that tells a clear story, with distinct characters.... Even more than the pieces of actual ballads that are woven throughout the novel, its ballad theme is clearly revealed in its plot elements that are pure ballad stock."

Hardy, Elizabeth Baird. "EBH: Don’t go down in the Hole – Coal Mining Life in District 12 and in Present-Day Appalachia." Hogwarts Professor: Thoughts for Serious Readers. 14 April 2010. Blog entry with interesting comments on Appalachia and District 12, including consideration of stereotypes and treatment by mainstream media.

Hardy, Elizabeth Baird. "Let the Hunger Games Filming Begin!" Hogwarts Professor: Thoughts for Serious Readers. 2 Feb. 2011. Blog entry by a resident of NW North Carolina, with photos and interesting observations about places in Appalachia that would be appropriate settings for the upcoming film adaptation of The Hunger Games.

Hardy, Elizabeth Baird. "Where you can starve to death in safety': Appalachia and The Hunger Games." Critical Insights: The Hunger Games Trilogy. Ed. Lana A. Whited. Ipswich, MA: Grey House/Salem Press, 2016. "Hardy identifies the physical, cultural, and historical elements of Collins’ narrative that allow readers to locate Katniss’s home region on a real map, while also examining how traditional stereotypes of Appalachian people are manifested in the series" (from About this Volume by the editor).

Jordan, Tina. "Suzanne Collins on the Books She Loves." Entertainment Weekly 13 Aug. 2010. Short interview.

Mason, Amelia. "The Hidden Roots of 'Hunger Games' Hit Song? Murder Ballads, Civil Rights Hymn." THEARTERY. 90.0 WBUR: Boston's NPR News Station. 10 Dec. 2014 (accessed 10/29/15). Mason's detailed analysis of the hit song after release of the third film includes audio of "The Hanging Tree" from the film Mockingjay Part 1, by Collins and the folk-pop group The Lumineers; Jean Ritchie singing the folk song "Hangman"; and "We Shall Overcome." Mason notes that "There is a certain irony, too, in the massive commercial success of a song that owes its life and its meaning to a story that, by pitting a tyrannical and ostentatious upper class against an impoverished working class, displays more than a little discomfort with capitalism." 

Modisett, Cara Ellen. "Movies in the Mountains." Blue Ridge Country 9 July 2012. Article on the business of making movies and related tourism in the Appalachian mountains, including the recent Lionsgate film The Hunger Games, filmed in western North Carolina.

Parsons, Rachel. "Appalachian Girl Power: A Review of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games." The Princesston 7 April 2012. Review by a native of Mercer County, WV, an undergraduate at East Tennessee State Univ. For a class assignment, Parsons wrote this enthusiastic, thoughtful review of Katniss as a strong Appalachian heroine. This review is also linked in Parsons' blog Mountain Girl Writes (accessed 10/30/15).

Poe, Jim. "A Look at Appalachian Culture and History in 'The Hunger Games.'" The Times West Virginian 15 Nov. 2015. Fairmont, WV. This detailed newspaper article, published before release of the last Hunger Games film, reviews analysis by academic experts on Appalachia and the trilogy: Elizabeth Baird Hardy, Tina L. Hanlon, and Lana A. Whited, and a young West Virginia writer, Rachel Parsons (see Parson's 2012 article above.)

Quinn, Annalisa. "'The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake' is a Lackluster Sequel to 'The Hunger Games.'", 20 May 2019.

Rockman, Connie. “Discussion Guide: The Hunger Games Trilogy.” Scholastic, Inc., 2015 (accessed 29 July 2015). 12 pp. Includes much good background information, ideas for discussion, a page on "Historical and Literary Connections," and suggestions for further reading, but the discussion guide does not mention Appalachia or coal or mining.

Tan, Susan. Review of Of Bread, Blood, and The Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy. The Lion and the Unicorn 37 (Jan. 2013): 102-105. Available online through library services such as Project Muse.

Tanabe, Karin. "In 'The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,' Suzanne Collins Reveals the Origin of the Hunger Games." The Washington Post, 26 May 2020. "Hunger Games fans know that District 12 was Katniss’s district and that she was anything but stunted. Same can be said of Lucy Gray Baird. Though lacking that killing-machine vibe, she’s a singer with charisma to spare, crooning her way into hearts and making pronouncements such as, 'I’ve got a song that was made for this whiskey voice.' She’s basically the Stevie Nicks of the Hunger Games, and Coriolanus, who has survived on smiles, knows what a powerful weapon charm can be....For those who lapped up the trilogy and have been waiting 10 long years for answers — to questions like 'Which unhinged savage came up with kids killing kids?' or 'What’s the meaning behind the song "The Hanging Tree"?' — Collins has them."

This is Teen. “Suzanne Collins Answers Questions about The Hunger Games Trilogy.”Online Video. Sept. 2, 2010. Web. 20 Feb. 2012.

Whited, Lana A. "Coal Miner’s Daughter as Reality Show Contestant: Review of The Hunger Games by Gary Ross." Journal of Appalachian Studies, vol. 18 (Spring/Fall 2012), pp. 326-31. Available online through library services such as JSTOR. Review of the film adaptation of the first book, co-written and directed by Gary Ross. Whited discusses Katniss as being "more authentically Appalachian" in the novel than on screen, with qualities such as "self-sufficiency, blatant boldness, and loyalty to kin," resourcefulness, and fearlessness. "The role and efficacy of Katniss’s mother is a major difference between book and film, where Appalachian themes and images are concerned. Critical Insights coverKatniss’s parents made a perfect match: he knew how to find useful plants in the wild, and she knew what to do with them. Together, they compiled their own reference book of edible and curative plants."  Whited also notes that "Ultimately, the film reflects what many consider to be the dominant theme in Appalachian studies: modernization, or, the machine v. the landscape."

Whited, Lana A., ed. Critical Insights: The Hunger Games Trilogy. Ipswich, MA: Grey House, 2016. Appalachia is discussed in essays by Elizabeth Baird Hardy and Tina L. Hanlon (see both above). This book also contains some discussion of teaching The Hunger Games in a variety of contexts.

More Quotations

Note: Page numbers are different in hardback and paperback editions. Unless noted as paperback, page numbers on this page are from hardback editions.

"Our part of District 12, nicknamed the Seam, is usually crawling with coal miners heading out to the morning shift at this hour. Men and women with hunched shoulders, swollen knuckles, many who have long since stopped trying to scrub the coal dust out of their broken nails, the lines of their sunken faces. But today the black cinder streets are empty. Shutters on the squat gray houses are closed. The reaping isn't until two" (The Hunger Games, p. 4).

"Even hundreds of years ago they mined coal here. Which is why our miners have to dig so deep" (The Hunger Games, p. 41).

"The coal dust makes everything look especially ugly" (Catching Fire, p. 101).

Effie Trinket comments to Katniss and Peeta about "How you've both successfully struggled to overcome the barbarism of your district." Then Katniss thinks, "Barbarism? That's ironic coming from a woman helping to prepare us for slaughter. And what's she basing our success on? Our table manners?" Effie adds, "Everyone has their reservations, naturally. You being from the coal district....Well, if you put enough pressure on coal, it turns to pearls" (The Hunger Games, pp. 73-74).

"I can't let the Capitol hurt Prim. [Prim is Katniss' younger sister.]
       And then it hits me. They already have. They have killed her father in those wretched mines. They have sat by as she almost starved to death. They have chosen her as a tribute, then made her watch her sister fight to the death in the Games. She has been hurt far worse than I had at the age of twelve" (Catching Fire, pp. 122-23).

"As the days pass, things go from bad to worse. The mines stay shut for two weeks, and by that time half of District 12 is starving. The number of kids signing up for tesserae soars, but they often don't receive their grain. Food shortages begin, and even those with money come away from stores empty-handed. When the mines reopen, wages are cut, hours extended, miners sent into blatantly dangerous work sites. The eagerly awaited food promised for Parcel Day arrives spoiled and defiled by rodents. The installations in the square see plenty of action as people are dragged in and punished for offenses so long overlooked we've forgotten they are illegal....I can't help thinking that everything he [Gale] sees will only strengthen his reserve to fight back. The hardships in the mines, the tortured bodies in the square, the hunger on the faces of his family" (Catching Fire, pp. 132-33).

When the black market warehouse is burned down: "The heat from the flames melts the surrounding snow and a black trickle runs across my shoes. 'It's all that coal dust, from the old days,' I say. It was in every crack and crevice. Ground into the floorboards. It's amazing the place didn't go up before" (Catching Fire, p. 131).

"She can sense things before anyone else. Like a canary in one of your coal mines....'What's that?'... 'It's a bird that we take down into the mines to warn us if there's bad air, .... It stops singing first. That's when you should get out. But if the air's too bad, it dies, yes. And so do you.' I don't want to talk about dying songbirds. They bring up thoughts of my father's death and Rue's death and Maysilee Donner's death and my mother inheriting her songbird. Oh, great, and now I'm thinking of Gale, deep down in that horrible mine, with President Snow's threat hanging over his head. So easy to make it look like an accident down there. A silent canary, a spark, and nothing more" (Catching Fire, pp. 338-39).

"Almost nothing remains of District 12. A month ago, the Capitol's firebombs obliterated the poor coal miners' houses in the Seam, the shops in the town, even the Justice Building. The only area that escaped incineration was the Victor's Village. I don't know why exactly. Perhaps so anyone forced to come here on Capitol business would have somewhere reasonable to stay. The odd reporter. A committee assessing the condition of the coal mines. A squad of Peacekeepers checking for returning refugees" (Mockingjay, paperback p. 3).

"Burning. Still burning, I think, numbly. The fires at the coal mines belch black smoke in the distance. There's no one left to care, though. More than ninety percent of the district's population is dead. The remaining eight hundred or so are refugees in District 13--which, as far as I'm concerned, is the same thing as being homeless for ever" (Mockingjay, paperback p. 7).

"The citizens of District 12 had no organized resistance movement of their own. No say in any of this. They only had the misfortune to have me. Some survivors think it's good luck, though, to be free of District 12 at last. To have escaped the endless hunger and oppression, the perilous mines, the lash of our final Head Peacekeeper, Romulus Thread. To have a new home at all is seen as a wonder since, up until a short time ago, we hadn't even known that District 13 still existed" (Mockingjay, paperback p. 7).

In Mockingjay, Katniss has conflicting feelings about Gale's proposal to blow up the Capitol's army inside a mountain called the Nut, in District 2, the only district still controlled by the Capitol and President Snow. At first Katniss thinks, "I want everyone in that mountain dead. Am about to say so. But then... I'm also a girl from District 12. Not President Snow. I can't help it. I can't condemn someone to the death he's suggesting.... 'The Nut's an old mine. It'd be like causing a massive coal mining accident.' Surely the words are enough to make anyone from 12 think twice about the plan.
      'But not so quick as the one that killed our fathers,' he retorts. 'Is that everyone's problem? that our enemies might have a few hours to reflect on the fact that they're dying, instead of just being blown to bits?'
       'You don't know how those District Two people ended up in the Nut,' I say. 'They may have been coerced. They may be held against their will. Some are our own spies. Will you kill them, too?'" (paperback p. 239)

      "I imagine the hell inside the mountain. Sirens wailing. Lights flickering into darkness. Stone dust choking the air. The shrieks of panicked, trapped beings stumbling madly for a way out, only to find the entrances, the launchpad, the ventilation shafts themselves clogged with earth and rock trying to force its way in. Live wires flung free, fires breaking out, rubble making a familiar path a maze. People slamming, shoving, scrambling like ants as the hill presses in, threatening to crush their fragile shells....
      On the day my father died, the sirens went off during my school lunch. No one waited for dismissal, or was expected to. The response to a mine accident was something outside the control of even the Capitol. I ran to Prim's class. I still remember her, tiny at seven, very pale, but sitting straight up with her hands folded on her desk. Waiting for me to collect her as I'd promised I would if the sirens ever sounded. She sprang out of her seat, grabbed my coat sleeve, and we wove through the streams of people pouring out on to the streets to pool at the main entrance of the mine. We found our mother clenching the rope that had been hastily strung to keep the crowd back....
       The lifts were screeching, burning up and down their cables as they vomited smoke-blackened miners into the light of day. With each group came cries of relief, relatives diving under the rope to lead off their husbands, wives, children, parents, siblings.... I knelt on the ground and pressed my hands into the cinders, wanting so badly to pull my father free. If there's a more helpless feeling than trying to reach someone you love who's trapped underground, I don't know it. The wounded. The bodies. The waiting through the night.... And then finally, at dawn, the grieved expression on the face of the mine captain that could only mean one thing" (Mockingjay, paperback pp. 242-43).

"My father. He seems to be everywhere today. Dying in the mine. Singing his way into Peeta's muddled consciousness. Flickering in the look Boggs gives me as he protectively wraps the blanket around my shoulders. I miss him so badly it hurts" (Mockingjay, paperback p. 246).

After the bombing of the enemies inside the Nut: "A young man staggers out from the station, one hand pressed against a bloody cloth at his cheek, the other dragging a gun. When he trips and falls to his face, I see the scorch marks down the back of his shirt, the red flesh beneath. And suddenly, he's just another burn victim from a mine accident" (p. 250). When she confronts the man, she can't give him a reason not to shoot her. She says, "We blew up your mine. You burned my district to the ground. We've got every reason to kill each other. So do it. Make the Capitol happy. I'm done killing their slaves for them" (p. 251).

"I come from a mining town. Since when do miners condemn other miners to that kind of death, and then stand by to kill whoever manages to crawl from the rubble?...The rebels are not your enemy! We all have one enemy, and it's the Capitol! This is our chance to put an end to their power, but we need every district person to do it!... Please! Join us!" (pp. 252-53)

"We learn to keep busy again. Peeta bakes. I hunt. Haymitch drinks until the liquor runs out, and then raises geese until the next train arrives. Fortunately, the geese can take pretty good care of themselves. We're not alone. A few hundred others return because, whatever has happened, this is our home. With the mines closed, they plow the ashes into the earth and plant food. Machines from the Capitol break ground for a new factory where we will make medicines. Although no one seeds it, the Meadow turns green again" (p. 452).

Complete List of AppLit Pages on Fiction for Children and Young Adults

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