Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

May 7, 2012

Using The Hunger Games as a Teaching Tool (Spoiler Alert)

Here’s a lesson to use with The Hunger Games—either the bestselling novel or the more recent hit film. The plot centers on a fictional dystopia and the story of sixteen-year-old Katniss who lives in District 12, a poor area of Panem with her mother and younger sister. Katniss supports her family with fresh meat that she gets with her bow and arrow just outside of an electric fence meant to keep her inside and wildlife outside.

Every year, a male and female youth are randomly selected from each district to go to the Capitol to engage in the Hunger Games, a fight-to-the-death competition televised for the whole country, but especially for the entertainment of the well to do in the Capitol. When her sister is selected to fight, Katniss volunteers to take her place, and thus she travels to the Capitol with Peeta, the male from her district. The Hunger Games take over the rest of the story.

Part of the appeal of this series to young people is its portrayal of teens in an adult world who are able to see past hypocrisy and understand people and things for what they are. They are also brave enough to risk their lives for one other and their loved ones. Ultimately, Katniss and Peeta challenge their national authorities by refusing to be controlled by the rules of the Hunger Games.

Although the people in the book are not religious, many moral questions arise throughout the trilogy. You may want to discuss these issues in class related to the first book.

Discussion Questions for The Hunger Games

  • Katniss disobeys the law by going outside of her fenced-in district to find food for her family.

  • Is this an example of breaking a just law or an example of disobeying an immoral law?

  • How does District 12 resemble areas of the U.S. during this recession?

  • What are some adjectives you would use to describe Katniss’ feelings for her sister, Prim?

  • Would you take the place of a more vulnerable child (sister, brother, or other) if you were in the same situation as Katniss? Why or why not?

  • Does Katniss display any of the theological or cardinal virtues? If so, how and when?

  • What are some of the contradictions that Katniss and Peeta encounter when they go to the Capitol?

  • Does any of the media attention given to the twenty-four contestants remind you of television today?

  • Do you see tendencies towards non-violence among the twenty-four contestants? How would you describe the strategy that Katniss takes during the Hunger Games? How would you describe Peeta’s strategy?

  • Does Katniss’ decision to pretend to fall in love with Peeta in order to encourage further support in the game, lying?

  • Which contestants retain their humanity throughout the story?

  • Do the rules of the game change the immorality of killing? Do the rules change the culpability of those who choose to kill?

  • Was Katniss and Peeta’s final act in the games heroic, immoral, or smart?

  • Does Katniss buy into the actions of the country’s government throughout the film?

  • How is she able to recognize its faults having been surrounded by it since birth?

The New York Times Education section has an article called “The Odds Ever in Your Favor: Ideas and Resources for Teaching ‘The Hunger Games,’” providing additional resources for using this book in class

You may also with to share the commentary of Fr. Robert Barron on the Hunger Games from his Word on Fire site.

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