The Hunger Games: Newest Generation of Dystopian Literature

By Bryanna Cappadona

For most, Suzanne Collins’ internationally best selling novel, The Hunger Games is a book so famous that almost everybody seemed nose-deep in that black and gold hardcover at some point.  For others, The Hunger Games is a cultural phenomenon – a piece of literature that set a standard for the newest dystopian trend amongst authors and novelists around the country.  Finally!  Something new we all can read after years of trying to accept the vampire-romance genre that Twilight so rudely imposed on us!

Collins’ trilogy takes place in a post-apocolyptic North America in a nation called Panem that consists of a Capitol and states known as “Districts”.  While some Districts live luxurious lives, most people of Panem live in poverty.  Heroin Katniss Everdeen is a teenaged girl that is thrown into the Hunger Games as a victor – a nationally televised event where children from each district must fight each other to their deaths, all for the amusement of the Capitol.

While Collins certainly started this dystopian trend, America, however, is no stranger to dystopian literature.  Since the 1950’s, great American authors have been writing of about imagined and troubled worlds with totalitarian governments or degraded states.  It seems that dystopian books are relaunched into pop culture when the parameters of the book reflect the current negative state of our own country.  Or simply, new dystopian novels begin to breed when times are tough here in the good ol’ U.S of A.  Whether that is a result of financial crisis, political turmoil or anxiety/fear – that depends on the certain period in time.

Goodreads.com created an excellent timeline that draws out the exact moments in history when dystopian literature relaunched into pop culture, and what national crisis drove authors write about certain dystopian themes.  The main periods Goodreads.com targets are:

1930’s-1960’s: Fear of the State
   -Inspirations: WWII, communism
   -Prominent novels: 
    A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932), 1984 by George Orwell (1949)

1980’s: Body Anxiety
   -Inspirations: The Cold War, identity
Prominent novels:
   The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985), V for Vendetta by Alan Moore & David Lloyd (1988)

Today: Young Adult/Romance
   -Inspirations: 9/11, War on Terror, obsession with pop culture
   -Prominent novels:
   The Uglies by Scott Westerfield (2005), Divergent by Veronica Roth (2011)

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