Panem Brings to Life Marx’s Manifesto

The Hunger Games

By: Caroline B. Period 1

A story that’s been told all over the world, standing as not just a box office hit but also a New York Time’s best seller, The Hunger Games has not only shot Jennifer Lawrence into the spotlight but also brought to life the fictional world Suzanne Collins drew out in her mind. However, while many watch the movies or read the books for entertainment about a dystopian world, those that look closer can relate this popular story to one of Karl Marx, author of the Communist Manifesto. As he describes the world driven by the bourgeoisie, the proletariats are illustrated as the majority force that will take down this government. As Marx portrays this class struggle and eventual uproar, these same roles are seen taken in a similar fashion by the divisions within The Hunger Games: the ruling Capitol of Panem and the district people below. As the Capitol of Panem’s own methods lead to its ensuing downfall, The Hunger Games overall provides a concrete example that proves the theory Marx makes in the Communist Manifesto.

As stated by Marx in the Communist Manifesto, the driving force behind the world’s history is simply “the history of class struggle”, which is portrayed in a similar way in The Hunger Games. All in all, Marx stresses the fact that there has been no absence in history of people in opposition to each other, separated by the invisible line between the classes. In Marx’s view, each time a class rises to overthrow their oppressor or on the other hand rises to put down the oppressed, the end result is always either the reconstruction of society or the downfall of both classes in contention. When compared to Suzanne Collin’s story, a similar picture can be seen as well. After the fictional downfall of the world, its apocalypse, a new world was formed that became Panem. Since its foundation, the Capitol rose to power, assuming the throne of the people in charge. Likewise, when Panem came into existence, another offshoot from the Capitol was the thirteen working districts below them. Therefore, Panem established another example used to support Marx’s view of history being of constant class struggle, for the Capitol stands clearly as the oppressor with the lowly people of the districts as the oppressed, a contention that stood unwavering and firm until the 74th annual Hunger Games.

In a similar fashion to the parallels between the class struggle described by Marx and the class struggle depicted by Collins in The Hunger Game, the Capitol ruling body epitomizes the bourgeoisie described in the Communist Manifesto to a degree, specifically its political sway and its objectives. While the bourgeoisie was the end result of a long line of expansion in the growth of markets, its foundation resides on the development of production and exchange. Through its establishment and cemented influential, powerful status, the bourgeoisie gained for itself political sway. While this identity is possessed by the bourgeoisie, it also transcends to the Capitol of Panem. Running the districts below them serves the main function of the Capitol, like a slave master to its slaves. On a closer level, the work and labor of the districts reveals the similarity of the Capitol to the bourgeoisie in its need to develop production and exchange as each district works to produce and yield a variety of goods from electronics to fishing or lumber and textiles to agriculture. All in all, the Capitol thrives off of the wide variety of goods and services it produces through the districts’ labor-force.

Due to the Capitol’s strong hold on the districts on Panem, similar to that of the bourgeoisie, values once held high, like family and work, have been stripped. Just as the bourgeoisie “put an end to feudal patriarchal [and] idyllic relations” for the proletariat, the relations among the districts have received this same treatment. An emphasis is put in The Hunger Games on the strict boundaries of the districts which limits the communication between Panem as a whole greatly to little or no communication. Therefore, as seen in the Communist Manifesto, the only communication that seems to exist for Panem is for the sole purpose of exchange and trade between the districts and the Capitol. More so, by quoting Marx, the bourgeoisie not only strips the “sentimental veil” of the family but also “reduc[es] the family relation to a mere money relation.” Likewise, all jobs, even those once honored, are transformed into simply wage laborers. Stemming from this notion, the society of Panem adopts a similar value on family and work due to the extreme need to survive. As most people of Panem suffer extreme poverty, every objective one has is in some way pointed toward a way to survive. Therefore, family and work intertwine as members of the family, even children, work hard just to bring money to provide for the family, and all jobs are created to do hard labor that ultimately provides for the Capitol.

With the Capitol of Panem revealed more and more like a dystopian version of the bourgeoisie outlined in the Communist Manifesto, the major key point Marx makes that is clearly emphasized in The Hunger Games is the agglomeration of the population that ultimately leads to the power’s own demise. While the division of Panem consists of the Capitol and thirteen districts, each district embodies the actions of the bourgeoisie stated in the Communist Manifesto of once scattered populations bound now by district lines pushing them together. In the end, when the close proximity of the people of each district is added to the oppression and hard working conditions they face, the dystopian proletariat, or the district people of Panem, are “furnish[ed] with weapons for fighting the [dystopian] bourgeoisie” or the Capitol with the hope Katniss instills upon them as the final push. With this push, the districts see their sign to come together as districts to form one union to fight the Capitol. All in all, both the proletariat and the districts of Panem stand as revolutionary classes truly because they each have a true reason to fight: the dire poverty and unequal distribution of wealth in Panem and the exploitation of the laborer and loss of individuality of the proletariat.

While the Capitol can be seen as a modified version of the bourgeoisie, the districts too can be seen as a modified version of the proletariat. Just as the proletariat’s revolution comes in stages with a majority overthrowing a minority, the people of Panem too represent the oppressed majority whose revolution comes in stages where Katniss Everdeen plays the role of the catalyst to get the war started. Marx both outlines and simplifies the overall struggle of the proletariat into distinct stages: first between individual workers, then the “workpeople of the factory,” and then trades against the bourgeoisie. These stages of the proletariat overall progress as the people become less and less scattered and more unified. A similar illustration is drawn for the districts of Panem. Just as the proletariat developed in various stages, the people amongst the districts developed in a similar way to become the revolutionary class they are. At first, the individuals fought the Capitol, but eventually they realized their attacks were misrepresented. As a result of this enlightenment, individual districts tried their best to overthrow the Capitol, but the realization came that they were essentially powerless scattered. Thus, the final stage the people of Panem made was the joining together as districts of Panem as the majority to overthrow the minority that is the Capitol. Overall, this final stage was stimulated by Katniss Everdeen and the heroine role she played during the Hunger Games that gave hope to the people that the Capitol could be stopped. Therefore, just as the proletariats’ development is described in stages with the majority hoping to overthrow the minority, it becomes clear that the people of the districts within Panem have the possibility of following in the proletariat’s footsteps as long as they rise to the occasion with the idea of hope as their drive.

Just as many have read the Communist Manifesto and millions have either watched or read The Hunger Games, their popularity is not the only thing they share in common. Both prove to tell the tale of two battling classes in opposition, one the majority and the other the minority, and the majority revolts to take down the oppressing class.  While many go to read or see The Hunger Games for an action-packed story underlying with romance and the need to survive, one can look at the theory Marx builds in the Communist Manifesto becoming reality in The Hunger Games.

 

Bibliography

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York:  Scholastic Press, 2008.

Future Publishing Limited. “New logo for Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” New logo for Hunger Games: Catching Fire. http://www.creativebloq.com/graphic-design/hunger-games-catching-fire-new-logo-11121311 (accessed April 30, 2014).

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6 thoughts on “Panem Brings to Life Marx’s Manifesto

  1. Caroline- Love your blog! I love how you used the modern day Hunger Games to demonstrate Marxists ideologies. I think by using that demonstration, people are more likely to understand how Marx’s perfect society would be. It makes your paper quite interesting! Great job!

  2. It’s always interesting to compare something we learned about in class with a popular trending book or other element. I think you did a good job reading deeper into Marx’s thoughts and coming up with your own commentaries and comparisons.

    I, too, agree with all the comparisons of the bourgeoisie and proletariat that you pointed out in both economies. Your blog gives more background on the economy of Panem, how the main function of the Capitol runs like a slave master to its slaves, and how it functions on exchange and trade, which mirrors what Marx has to say about the bourgeoisie and proletariats and how they function. You also talk about the family in relation to money in both societies, which are all elements I didn’t focus on until reading your blog. It makes me look at the book, The Hunger Games, differently and gives me more insight into both the readings.
    – Kim R.

  3. This was really creative!!! I am never going to think of the hunger games the same. This was really interesting!
    -jackie g

  4. This was so interesting to read about being a fan of the Hunger Games Series. It is things like these that make me wonder if maybe Suzanne Collins had attempted to base her books upon the readings of Karl Marx. The correlation between the two authors when talking about how both of the minorities in the series and the reading are wanting to overthrow the majority in control is so interesting. Knowing how Suzanne Collins finishes her trilogy with the city of Panem being overthrown, maybe it was her way of finishing off what Karl Marx wrote. Overall this is so interesting to me and offers a great insight on both of the readings. -Rachel P

  5. This was interesting being that I have just recently watched the hunger games movies first time. It was interesting to get a different perspective of the classes, especially since I have just recently been exposed to the story. I love the way you took the society that in the hunger games and compared it to the teachings of Marx and communism. It was enlightening to read your blog because it gave me a different perspective on both Communism and the society of the Hunger Games. Thinking of the Capitol as the bourgeoisie was something that would have never come to my mid.
    Camy A.

  6. Caroline! I love how you blog relates the traditional ideologies of Marxism with a modern day trend. Your insight on class struggle and how when both social classes face off there will either be destruction or reconstruction is spot on and shown through the story of The Hunger Games. Something that I began to think about after I read your blog was that Suzanne Collins intended for the novel to be an insight into the future and the direction of our society, but she got the inspiration and the basic principles of the Panem society from the past. This only reminds me how easy it is for a history to repeat itself, especially when it comes to social classes. I enjoyed your insight into both readings and now look at Panem society in a whole new way.
    -Madeline L. P. 1

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