Character Names and their Meanings (Part 2)

Character Names and their Meanings – Capitol

President Coriolanus Snow:

‘Coriolanus’ is a play by William Shakespeare, based on the life of the Roman general Caius Martius Coriolanus. In Shakespeare’s play, Caius Martius is openly contemptuous of common people, believing that those who do not serve in the military have no right to bread rations. In Latin, the word for bread is ‘Panem’. After his courageous service in battle, he is elected as consul to the Roman senate. However, when a section of the common populace revolts, he denounces democracy, declaring that plebeians who criticize him are like “crows pecking at eagles”.

In the Hunger Games trilogy, President Snow is the tyrannical ruler of the Capitol. He also considers the life of civilians to be of no import, even using children as human shields after telling them that they are being taken to a safe bunker within his palace. Although he has the title of ‘President’, it is not known whether he was elected democratically.

His last name ‘Snow’, which symbolizes softness, and purity. As with the Roman Coriolanus, his name is an indicator that titles can often mislead us regarding the true character of a person.

Seneca Crane:

senecaSeneca Crane is the Head Gamemaker for the 74th Hunger Games. As Head Gamemaker for the Hunger Games, which are a psychological tool of suppression, he has a very important job. When Katniss and Peeta threatened to commit suicide together at the end of the 74th Hunger Games, and are both declared winners, President Snow sees this as a weakness on part of Seneca Crane, and has him executed. In the film, Seneca is locked in a room with a bowl of deadly nightlock berries.

In history, Seneca the Younger was an important Roman statesman, philosopher and dramatist, serving four Roman emperors. His name was caught in the Pisonian conspiracy, a plot to assassinate Emperor Nero. Although he is believed to have been innocent, Emperor Nero asked him to kill himself by opening his wrists. The causes and circumstances of his death thus have parallels with the death of Seneca Crane in the Hunger Games.

Character Names and their Meanings – Rebel Districts

Panem:

Panem is the setting for the Hunger Games. Panem is what remains of civilization after an unknown cataclysmic event wipes out most of humanity, and reduces much of the land to barren waste. Panem is a reference to the Roman phrase ‘Panem et Circensus’, meaning ‘Bread and Circuses’. The term was coined by Juvenal, and was an efficient system for controlling the masses and to keep them oblivious from real issues. The most pronounced manifestation of this policy were the gladiatorial games, held in massive arenas. The Hunger Games are like these gladiatorial games, meant to entertain the citizens of the capitol. That the ‘Hunger’ Games help control ‘Panem’ – bread – is a cruel irony.

President Alma Coin:

In contrast to President Snow’s appearance, President Coin is often described in pale, unpleasant colors. Her eyes are said to look like slush, and her skin pale. As President Snow has a foul odor, President Coin has a foul, sallow look to her. This is to hint that both are equally corrupt and evil, but in different ways. The word ‘Alma’ means ‘soul’. Coin hints at money. Thus, Alma Coin has a ‘soul made of money’, and will not hesitate to use those around her like chess pieces, playing them to advance her own profit.

Plutarch Heavensbee:

Plutarch Heavensbee is the Head Gamemaker for the 75th Hunger Games, and tries winning Katniss’ trust by showing her his watch, hinting at the design of the map. Katniss doesn’t trust him for a long time, till he is revealed to be the leader of the rebellion. In Mockingjay, he oversees many battles, controls war crimes and protects Katniss. After the assassination of President Coin, Plutarch Heavensbee testifies in favor of Katniss.

Plutarch was the greatest historian in ancient Rome. He was witness to the lives of many important Roman statesmen. He wrote about Roman, Greek as well as important barbarian leaders without bias. Like Plutarch Heavensbee, who experienced both sides of the conflict, Plutarch of Rome saw both sides of ancient Greek and contemporary Roman conflicts.

Character Names and their Meanings – More Rome-inspired Names

Cato:

cato hunger games movieCato the Younger was a Roman statesman of exemplary courage and moral character. He defended the ideals of the Roman republic and stubbornly resisted its transition to a dictatorship. When Julius Caesar came to power, he chose to commit suicide, rather than face the humiliation of Julius Caesar pardoning him. However, although he injured himself with his sword, he did not die quickly. He opened up his belly, and his intestines fell out, but he did not die. His servants rushed to call a physician, who tried putting his guts back into his belly and to sew it up. However, refusing to live, Cato opened himself again, and died.

In the Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins must have planned the gruesome death for the District 1 tribute Cato, which is why he, like his Roman namesake, died slowly and painfully. In the story, he is grievously injured by wolf muttations, who tear his body to pieces and leave him in great pain. After a long night of pain, Katniss finally takes pity on him, and dispatches him with an arrow.

Lavinia:

Lavinia is an Avox at the Capitol. The Latin word ‘vox’ refers to voice (for example, “vox populi” is ‘voice of the masses’). A- is a Greek root meaning ‘no’. Avox means ‘one who has no voice’ – an apt name, since Avoxes had their tongues cut out. Lavinia was an Avox who Katniss and Dale had seen getting captured. In William Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Titus Andronicus’, the daughter of the protagonist, Roman general Titus, is raped by his Goth enemies. To prevent her from telling the names of her rapists to anyone, they cut out her tongue, chop off her hands, and fix dead branches of trees in their place. Lavinia thus suffers a grave tragedy in her youth, and loses her voice, just as her namesake in The Hunger Games did. In Mockingjay, Lavinia is tortured to death, along with Darius, while Peeta is made to watch them suffer and die.

Titus:

In the Shakespearean play ‘Titus Andronicus’ (see ‘Lavinia’) Titus avenged his daughter by killing his daughter’s rapists, who are the sons of the Goth queen Tamora. Lavinia collects the blood from their slit throats in a pan, and this is turned into a pie, which Titus then tricks Tamora into eating. In the Hunger Games, Titus is a tribute who commits cannibalism on his kills. Because of the nature of his acts, the Capitol censors most of his kills. He is killed in an avalanche, presumably triggered by the Capitol to kill him. This is a message to other tributes that acts of sheer depravity will not be tolerated in the Hunger Games.