Extinction and War Themes in Mockingjay

The Hunger Games series is different from most other young adult literature. It’s not a love story that ends in the main characters living happily ever after. It is gritty, violent and dark. If anything, it is a story about the costs of conflict. Its lesson is that war affects everyone, most of all, those who are fighting in it. There is no glory for the heroes of a war, and they are as badly affected by it as anyone else.

hunger games themes

In Mockingjay, war breaks out between Capitol and the rebel districts. The Capitol has already launched air strikes and obliterated District 12. The rebel survivors of District 13 team up with rebels from other districts to start a war against the Capitol. The story features intense, bitter urban fighting. Even Katniss Everdeen, with Gale’s help, downs many Capitol bombers, and even kills a Capitol civilian, an act that leaves a bitter impression on her.

However, throughout the stories, warfare is measured and controlled. The Capitol does not bomb all rebelling districts, although it very well has the money and military might to do so. Instead, the Capitol chooses the strategy of using peacekeepers, and intimidating key leaders such as Katniss. Indeed, the Hunger Games themselves are a tool for control over the districts without using overwhelming military might. The Capitol conducts these games as a means of psychological warfare. They emphasize and reinforce their authority through this psychological weapon, so that large-scale force would not be necessary to control the districts.

The reason for this is revealed in Mockingjay. After the apocalypse that created Panem, the human population has been reduced to such low numbers that with the advanced technologies and weapons available, extinction is a very real possibility. Therefore, both the rebels and the Capitol are unwilling to use weapons or commit acts of warfare that risk reducing the human population to extremely small numbers.

During the Middle Ages, Genghis Khan used a strategy of obliterating entire cities. Although this seems excessive, destroying one city and every man, woman, child and domestic animal that lived there, was a psychological tactic that allowed them to conquer countries without having to conquer city after city. Thus, warfare and killing was actually minimized by this strategy. The Capitol seems to follow such a strategy for controlling districts, preferring to obliterate a single district, rather than invading and occupying them all.

Indeed, even District 13 was not destroyed entirely. Katniss learns that the Capitol and District 13 agreed to a peace treaty. The Capitol would announce that District 13 had been utterly destroyed, and District 13 would move underground, and keep a low profile, maintaining no contact with other districts, and no traces of its continued existence. District 13 is believed to be in possession of nuclear weapons, and protracted warfare with District 13 risks mutual destruction for District 13, as well as the Capitol. This peace treaty not only saved the residents of District 13, but also the population of the Capitol.