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Are you always in control?

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To take a look at some of the messages in the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy.

Preparation and materials

  • None required, although you could display some images from the films as the students come in and sit down.
  • Have available the theme tune for The Hunger Games and the means to play it at the end of the assembly (check copyright). 


  1. Imagine the scene: a small child sets up an elaborate railway track and places a train and two coaches at a crossroads. He then purposefully starts to move with another train round the track, eventually crashing the trains into each other on purpose, saying, ‘I done a big crash!’ He then proceeds to rescue the coaches. The master of all that lies before him in his imaginary world, he controls everything. He chooses what happens, when and how.

  2. The ancient Greeks believed that the gods controlled their every movement. They thought they were simply at the will of the gods they either pleased or displeased and that their destiny was literally in the hands of the gods.

  3. In The Hunger Games books and films, the theme of control is central. The Capitol created the Hunger Games in the first place in order to control and punish the districts for a rebellion.

    The Hunger Games are a competition in which two ‘tributes’, a boy and a girl, are chosen from among the young people aged 12 to 18 in each district. The competitors have to kill one another, the last tribute standing being declared the winner. 

    None of the tributes has a choice, each being chosen during the ‘reaping’, and both they and their families know that it is highly likely that they will die. This is one way in which the rulers of the nation of Panem seek to keep and maintain control, through fear.

    The arena is controlled by the games makers – gods, if you like. They create the weather, the terrain and the rules. They are like the small boy with the train or the Greek gods, creating situations in which things happen to the individuals so that they will meet one another and this will, hopefully, force a battle and then tributes will die. For example, one incident in the first Hunger Games story is a fire. The fire is created in order to force the contestants together. It also gives the TV audience something to watch. The fact that the rules are changed by those in control and the tributes need to behave in a particular way also spells out that they are being controlled by people around them and beyond them. 

    This level of control also feeds into one of the tribute’s, Katniss’, relationships. She is someone who does not form relationships easily and protects herself from others in case they hurt her. She, however, has no idea of the impact that she has on other people. 

    Think about what makes you build the relationships that you have. Is it necessity? Do you have to work with someone in a group situation that you don’t like, for example? 

    Katniss and Peeta – the other tribute from Katniss’ district – are forced into relationships with Haymitch and Effie, both of whom, in a normal situation, they wouldn’t have chosen. Katniss builds a relationship of necessity with Gale, too, but comes to really care for him. Peeta develops a relationship with the career tributes, partly to ensure his survival, but mainly to protect Katniss. Katniss, in turn, develops a relationship with Rue, which gives them both comfort and friendship in a seemingly friendless environment. Katniss also plays out a ‘star-crossed lovers’ relationship with Peeta, out of necessity. She makes the whole of Panem, and him, believe that she is in love with him. For Peeta, this isn’t a game, though – he truly loves Katniss and always has done.

  4. Is it compassion that is at the root of your relationships? Do you begin by feeling sorry for someone and then become a friend because you want to help them? Do you build your relationships based on reciprocity, what someone can give you or what they can do for you? Do you build your relationships because they are ‘forced on you’?

  5. We have relationships with our parents, our siblings and other members of our families. These relationships are expected of us and we maintain them or not as we see fit. Katniss has a very uneasy relationship with her mother, partly due to the fact that, if it wasn’t for Katniss, it is very likely they would have starved.

  6. Even though our environment is not as extreme as that in the Hunger Games or the post-apocalyptic world within which they occur, we may well see places where our lives parallel these fictional ones.  

Time for reflection

Let us think about where we have control in our lives and how that impacts others. Do you like to have control all the time or are you happy to relinquish it when you need to? 

Let us think about our relationships. How are the formed? Why do we form them? What can we do to make them better and more meaningful? 


Theme tune for The Hunger Games

Publication date: May 2014   (Vol.16 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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