Hunger Games Story Theme: Genetic Modification

The Hunger Games trilogy dwells upon genetic modification. With genetically engineered animals such as the jabberjay, mockingjay, tracker jacker and wolf mutts, monkey mutts and even genetically engineered roses, the trilogy explores the ethics and consequences of toying with Nature. The Hunger Games looks at the use of technology by those in power, to create fear and control the masses.

Tracker jackers are genetically modified wasps, developed by the Capitol and placed around the districts. They have gold colored bodies and live in huge swarms high among the trees. Their venom is potent enough to kill most people in a few stings, or at least to cause severe hallucinations that alter memories and perceptions. They deform their victims with green sting marks as big as plums. This is a commentary on the use of genetic engineering as a weapon of mass control.

genetic modification hunger games

President Snow’s Genetically Modified Roses

Jabberjays are capable of mimicry. They were created by the Capitol to spy on rebels and transmit their messages. However, when rebels outwitted the Capitol by transmitting false messages, the all-male jabberjays were released into the wild to die off. To their surprise, however, the jabberjays mated with female mockingbirds to create mockingjays.

Mockingjays thus became a symbol of hope and of the rebel cause. In Mockingjay, it is apparent that the bird holds great significance for the rebels of District 13. District 13 convinces Katniss to be their mockingjay and lead the rebels to victory.

This has a historic parallel in Joan of Arc, who inspired French troops and led them to victory against the better equipped and better trained English army.

The mockingjay also symbolizes the idea that Nature cannot be controlled. Life cannot be contained, but finds ways to break out and continue its march.

The genetic modification of crops by modern agricultural companies finds a parallel in President Snow’s roses. The genetically enhanced roses have a lingering scent, and Katniss finds herself haunted by them.

The garden of these genetically modified roses will be important in Mockingjay, because Katniss Everdeen kills both President Coin and President Coriolanus in the rose garden.

Like the scent of roses, the effects of genetic mutation can be lingering and profound. There are fears that GMO crops and genetically modified animals could be used as tools of control by agricultural companies and by governments.

This concern finds a parallel in The Hunger Games. In the first movie, Katniss, Peeta and Cato have to fight off muttations that are made from the DNA of dogs and dead Hunger Games players – wolf mutts. In Mockingjay, we will get to watch lizard-like muttations that are sent to destroy a rebel squad. In the books, they are described as being four legged, but capable of standing on two legs, with long, sharp talons and as big as humans. They have pale skins and are made from human and lizard DNA. Katniss describes them as having a scent like President Snow’s genetically enhanced roses, making them potent psychological weapons.