The Hunger Games Literary Analysis Essay

Write an essay about The Hunger Games in response to one of the possible topics later in this document. Your essay should use logical reasoning and specific textual examples to explain and support your argument. Essays should be in an academic format, contain a clear argument/thesis statement, and demonstrate your best in-text citation, syntax, and grammar skills. 

What kind of essay is this? An analysis paper about a literary work. 
When you write an argument about/analysis of a work of literature, your goal is to forward your own interpretation about one particular aspect of that work. You make an argument that explains how one part of the text works, and why and how that matters. Besides developing a focus that is narrow—note the word “one”—the essay must explain why and how your interpretation matters to the understanding of the text—that is where the analysis happens. 

The key question in literary analysis is: “why and how does this topic/idea/interpretation matter to the text AND the reader’s understanding of the text?” 

The why and how it matters almost always comes back to how the plot makes the characters grow. Remember Lisa Cron’s definition of story. A story is about how what happens affects someone in pursuit of a difficult goal, and how they change because of it. The writer of the analysis doesn’t have to focus on the main character to conduct this kind of analysis. Katniss’ forced change leads to others changing as well, and the plot wrecks everyone, no exemptions.

For this essay, writers will:

Use standard essay structure, a strong thesis statement, and clear paragraphs beginning with topic sentences. The number of body paragraphs will be determined by your specific topic.

Not summarize more than small bits of information. Summary always serves the purpose of your analysis. Assume the reader of your essay has also read the book, and jump right into your argument as if your reader already knows what happens—because we do one way to avoid summary is, whenever you quote or start to summarize, stop and ask: why or how does this information matter to my argument? This means having a strong argument in your thesis and topic sentences can help you avoid summary. 

Your introduction and conclusion should not summarize the book, either. Since you are making an argument about a particular topic in the essay, they should frame the book through that topic. 

Cite examples and quotes from the book to support your interpretations; this is not a research essay so you don’t (necessarily) need outside sources. Other sources may actually distract from your argument, so chat with Cherri first about what you think is necessary to support your argument.

Use your own words. All of the words in this essay should be your own or should be short, quoted passages from The Hunger Games. A literary analysis is all about the source text, and your essay should be source-text dense. However, if you include a source, you must have a reason. don’t let the reader guess.

Not quote from websites that summarize or interpret the text for you (including but not limited to: Bookrags, Cliff’s Notes, Spark Notes, Shmoop, Wikipedia, Gradesaver, Enotes.) Not only have I read much of this (and a lot of it’s bad), but it doesn’t read like your writing, thus it is very visible. The plagiarism checker will catch it, too.

Use MLA in-text citations when quoting The Hunger Games. Quotes from books should be integrated into the sentence so “the part of the quote you need for your essay looks like this” (9). The only thing inside the parenthesis is a page number or chapter number if using digital copies (ch 2). If you only cite The Hunger Games, you do not need a Works Cited page. If you cite any sources other than The Hunger Games for this essay (—don’t—), you should do a Works Cited page. 

Organize examples chronologically and/or thematically. The idea is to put the claims and evidence in the most logical order, so the reader can best be persuaded.

Use examples from the beginning, middle, and end of the text. Part of what you are demonstrating in this essay is that you read and understood the book. This means your quotes and examples should be spread throughout the text.

Possible Topics

There are so many possible topics. You’re welcome to select your own, but you must run it by me first. Whatever topic you choose, keep your focus on the book. Don’t pick a topic that will have you running off doing research or making comparisons to contemporary events or texts. Stay with Katniss in Panem. 
Choose one of the following prompts about which to write your essay.

What/who do you think the primary antagonist(s) is(are) in this novel? How do they work against Katniss and/or other characters in the text?

One of Katniss’ struggles in this novel is between independence and interdependence? She wants to be completely independent, but her survival requires her to collaborate with (and care for) others. Why/how/where does she struggle, and why does this matter?

What is the role of love in this text? Define how you’re thinking of love in this context (not a dictionary definition please), and consider why it is complicated for Katniss.

Why do the people of Panem participate in the barbaric rituals the Capitol has forced on them? How does the government make the citizens complicit in their dystopia? 

Dystopias and utopias exist together at the same time. Life is grand for some, which is large because so many others are oppressed, dehumanized, and exploited. Where do you see this relationship at work in the text (and how and why does it matter, of course)? (Here is a handout defining some terms that might be helpful in understanding dystopia.)

Choose one or more symbols and explore its role in the setting, character development, and/or the conflict of the novel. When you write a symbol analysis, you both explain how the symbol works in the text AND why and how it matters to understanding the novel.

Female Katniss and male Peeta are the primary protagonists of The Hunger Games. These characters have reversed gender roles, Katniss taking on traditionally masculine responsibilities with Peeta relegated to the feminine. There are very few times gender is mentioned in this novel at all, and it’s never referenced the way we think about it in contemporary life. There are a number of ways to think about this topic. Pick one of the following or make up your own. 

To what extent does Peeta’s symbolic emasculation work with or against the dystopic view Suzanne Collins presents? 

What do you make of the fact that Collins’ mentions of gender are so infrequent they are negligible? 

Why does it matter that Katniss is the hunter, provider, and clever mastermind? 

The teenage years are a time when young people develop hormonally and expend a lot of energy thinking about/having/avoiding sex. In the world of The Hunger Games, Katniss is largely oblivious to her own sexuality, and is either ignorant about her own romantic entanglements, or is excellent at denial. She’s completely chaste for a large part of the novel—with good reasons that have nothing to do with morals or religious beliefs. 

Even within the arena, where social norms are suspended, author Collins has replaced the sexual exploration that traditionally takes place in young adulthood, with violence and aggression. The plot consists of teens killing one another because their government is making them, rather than coupling with each other because of affection and attraction.  
There are many ways into this complicated topic. What do you make of this dynamic?

There are many discussion questions that would also work as essay topics. Check those out if none of the above appeal to you.

It’s worth repeating: an analysis essay isn’t about what happens. That’s a plot summary. The essay is an argument about why what happens matters. That argument answers one or more of the following questions.

The basic formula of your essay and your paragraphs is essentially: This matters for this reason supported by this evidence.

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