Story Theme: Child Soldiers
The use of children as soldiers is a persistent reality of combat, and a bitter reality across the globe. In the past decade, children have been used in warfare in over 21 major conflicts across the world, and even today, many hundreds and thousands of children are serving in rebel or regular military forces.
The military use of children generally takes four forms. Children may be combatants. They may act in supporting roles, such as reconnaissance. They may be used as human shields. Fourth, they are often used for propaganda. Young girls are drafted to serve as ‘wives’ to soldiers or officers, with or without their will.
The Hunger Games trilogy extensively explores the use of children in conflicts. Although the characters in the series demonstrate their capabilities as formidable warriors – both in terms of fighting skills and their mindsets – the series portrays the tragedy of the loss of a generation that such warfare brings. In the Hunger Games series, and especially in Mockingjay, children are used in all four military roles.
District 13 uses Katniss Everdeen for propaganda. She is turned into the Mockingjay, As Mockingjay, Katniss serves as a rallying point for the rebel cause. She stars in propaganda material for the districts, and also for the Propos that are broadcasted over the Capitol during rebel raids.
Arguably, the Capitol also uses propaganda. During the Hunger Games, the Capitol anthem is played every night, along with the names and photographs of dead tributes. This is as if to imprint upon the next generation of District inhabitants, that the Capitol has absolute control over their lives and fates.
The Capitol uses children as human shields, during the final assault of the rebels. Children from the Capitol are herded up and led to President Snow’s palace, while being told that they are being led to a safe bunker. In reality, they are used as human shields for protecting the palace. Many such children die during rebel raids on the Capitol.
Children are used in combat roles in conflicts worldwide, because they are easy to train, indoctrinate and need less food. Modern weapons are easy to operate, and children who have lost their families in conflict, or have been brainwashed into fighting, are armed with sophisticated weapons for fighting. Child soldiers are highly motivated, need little food, and make excellent fighters. The Hunger Games are a macabre exploitation of the fighting abilities of children, which the citizens of Capitol see as entertainment.
In Mockingjay, many who fight for the rebel cause are below 18 years of age. Most young rebels mentioned in the books experience combat. Gale undertakes combat and rescue missions inside the Capitol. Even Katniss, despite being used for propaganda, also fights in battles. During raid on the Capitol, she and Gale bring down numerous Capitol bombers. During the fighting in the Capitol, Katniss also kills a civilian woman.