The Hunger Games & the Indian Caste System Essay
The Hunger Games & the Indian Caste System
In a story that has an underlying theme of class and poverty, The Hunger Games and their twelve districts can be compared to India’s caste system. Both are hierarchies based on social status. The districts in The Hunger Games include the Capitol being at the top of the chain, with districts one through twelve falling below in numerical order. Going down the order, each district gets more and more poor. Following along with that, the Indian caste system also categorizes each caste by career type. That is, if a family or person falls into a specific caste.
Those who do not are considered outcasts. In The Hunger Games, a similar organizational system is used. Each district is classified by careers as well. There is a district for mining, agriculture, and so on. The “untouchables” of the Indian caste system could easily be compared to the “avoxes” of the capital. Women also do not play much of a role in the caste system, as they are required to have lower paying jobs and stay true and pure for their future spouses. Women, however, are allowed to marry up a caste if they do desire. The Hunger Games was written in 2008 by author Suzanne Collins.
The novel can be translated into multiple different themes, including government control, gender roles, and the class system. Government control is evident throughout the story as the Capitol runs the games each year to prevent the districts from rebelling against the Capitol. The contestants are playing for keeps, with their life of course, and are forced to hate each district throughout the games as they kill one another. As for gender roles, Katniss defies the norm and proves to be a strong woman who does more than your stereotypical woman does.
She took care of the family at home while still making the money and bringing home the food for her mother and sister. Lastly, the class system goes hand in hand with the theme of government control. If the Capitol and the districts, the idea of the wealthy and the poor would not be as strong and would not necessarily exist throughout the novel. Because the Capitol has so much money, they undermine the rest of the districts. Some districts are more favorable than the others to the Capitol s they may have more money and are overlooked by the Capitol when they let their potential tributes train as “careers” in order to survive longer in the games. (Collins 8)
The caste system in India has been around for thousands of years, tracing back to 1200 BCE. Throughout the caste system, there are different levels and castes that sort people by the careers and jobs they were born into. Each caste is called a varna and the entire system can be sorted into four varnas. The first, Brahmans, are the most educated class and typically hold priests. Secondly, Kshatriyas are those that are considered leaders, rulers, and warriors.
Next, the Vaishyas are the people who trade and are considered to be more of the common class. The final caste, the Shudras, falls below and includes all of the servile laborers of the system. However, underneath all four of these varnas, there is another class that was added by the society itself. (History of the Class System) This class is the “untouchable class” and each member has a job that revolves around cleaning the dirtiness from different areas of the culture. Some of these jobs include cleaning toilets and removing trash from different facilities (Narula 188).
They are the scum of the culture and in turn, their jobs represent just that. The caste system can be seen in The Hunger Games throughout each of the districts. There are far more than four districts, however, both class systems are based off of the same premise. The Capitol represents the top of the system and controls each of the twelve districts. District one creates luxurious items for the Capitol to use. District two creates weaponry and supplies the “Peacekeepers” which are basically the police of Panem, while district three creates the technology and electronics that the people use.
These three could be related to the higher varnas in the Indian caste system. Collins writes about training for the games, “the exceptions are the kids from the wealthier districts, the volunteers, the ones who have been fed and trained throughout their lives for this moment…we call them the Careers (Collins 94). ” As previously stated, the Careers illegally train for the games and the Capitol pretends it is not happening. This makes these teens more educated the rest of the districts, much like the top, educated varna of the caste system. As a whole all of the districts perform some sort f servile labor.
They are slaves to the Capitol and are not allowed to do anything that does not involve pleasing the leaders in the Capitol. District twelve could be considered to be one of the lowest castes of Panem. They are the poorest of all the districts and are seen to be the losers with no chance at all in the games each year. In a sense, they are nothing but a joke to the rest of the society. However, the special caste of the “untouchables” could be related to the Avoxes referenced in the novel. When asked in the novel what Avox is, Haymitch replies “someone who committed a crime.
They cut her tongue so she can’t speak…she’s probably a traitor of some sort (Collins 77). ” Andrea Hampton explains, “The Brahmans at the top of the caste were considered pure. However, they could be polluted if they were to come into contact with an untouchable or if they were to accept food or gifts from them (Hampton – The Untouchables). ” Katniss continually worries that if she were to help the Avox in anyway, she, too, would be punished. Avoxes are considered to be the lowest of all, living only to serve the people of the capitol, and to be unable to have a voice.
An opposing point of view could argue that while there are similarities between the districts and the caste system, it is the only connection that could be made. Collins represents women in a much better light. Katniss is a strong woman who holds the father figure role of the family by “putting food on the table for four years (Collins 89). ” Women in the caste system typically serve their husbands or at worst, in the lower classes “a significant percentage of the women forced into prostitution in rural areas or sold into urban brothels (Narula 15). At the same time, women are allowed to improve their social caste by marrying a man who is of a higher caste (History of the Caste System).
It could be viewed as just the opposite in The Hunger Games, Katniss’ father did so within his own district. “My mother’s parents were part of the small merchant class that caters to officials, Peacekeepers, and the occasional Seam customer…she must have really loved him to leave her home for the Seam (Collins 8). ” It may not have been an entirely different district, but it was still considered two different social classes.
The Hunger Games is a standout novel by itself but by looking at it through other perspectives, it becomes that much greater. The caste system of India is a critical lens that takes the idea of the districts to an even bigger level. It’s possible for even the untouchables to find a way to be related to in the novel. Women may be portrayed much differently in the novel than they are in the caste system, but there are similar ideals between the male and female marriage, as depicted by Katniss’ mother and father.