Millennialism and Apocalypse in The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games occurs in a post-apocalyptic world, where the reader is unsure exactly what led to the current state of affairs. Either Panem is the only country remaining or there is no communication with the outside world. In addition, the environment has been severely degraded and the Capitol subjugated the Districts for many years. The reader does know about the Dark Days, where a rebellion led to the death of many and the creation of the Hunger Games, but outside of that, the author gave the reader very little concrete information about how the world ended. In Appendix A of Gresh’s book, The Hunger Games Companion: An Unauthorized Guide to the Series, the author discusses some of the possibilities that could have created Panem as it currently stands. The author ruled out genetic warfare because the people themselves are not mutated, she also ruled out alien invasion, and much more. She looked at the possibility of nuclear war, chemical warfare, and biological warfare in depth, but still did not think those were the most likely cases. Gresh’s conclusion was that the post-apocalyptic society of the Hunger Games was most likely caused by global warming that led to environmental issues and eventually war. Based on Katniss’s thoughts about the state of the environment in District 12 and the remembrance of the Dark Days, the text supports Gresh’s theory of events, although it does not outright confirm it.

Panem vs. The United States  – Blue Dots Represent the New Coastlines as a Result of Global Warming

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However, regardless of how the world was created, it is clear that Katniss resides in a post-apocalyptic world. On Tuesday, we had a guest lecture with Dr. Krebs, who talked about the differences between millennialism and apocalypse and how they applied to the Hunger Games. She described both as end of the world theories, but apocalypse theories tend to have religious or divine reasoning, although there is overlap between the two theories.

The Rapture Imagery

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We also talked about the different kinds of Millennialism: avertive (we can stop it), progressive/post-millennialism (doesn’t require the world to end, they just want to make it better), catastrophic/pre-millennialism (catastrophic event leads to a new world order), Christian Dispensationalism (God will smite the world but Christians will be okay), Hierarchical v. Demotic (demotic – revolution from the bottom about justice and equality), nativist (colonial powers influence on indigenous groups), and environmental.

Environmental Disaster Effect – Global Warming

PS: Does it make those new coast lines from the image above stand out more?

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Several of these different groups of Millennialism can be seen in the Hunger Games. The Avertive Theory is constantly practiced by President Snow. He coerces people into serving him and following his rules and regulations because of the fear of catastrophe if they do not. Snow sells the idea that by following his rules, people are averting the end of the world as they know it.

President Snow Talking to Seneca about the Dangers of Hope

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Catastrophic millennialism is implied throughout the book when Katniss, and other characters, talk about how Panem became the way it is. That includes the vague comments about environmental damage and how previous generations did not take care of the future, the talk of the Dark Days, the alleged destruction of District 13, and much more. Most of the people in Panem have accepted that the Hunger Games and disparity is simply a fact of life in the new world order of Panem.

The Dark Days

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The idea of Demotic Millennialism is also clearly shown in Mockingjay, when the rebellion is working to try and create a better system in Panem. Coin’s motives may not have been pure, but many of the members of the rebellion simply wanted a system that would allow the people to survive and thrive instead of suffering. People hoped for a better government that would allow the Districts to grow, to expand on their industries, and to have an open relationship with the Capitol and the other Districts. Whether or not this is achieved by the end of Mockingjay, the reader does not know for sure. However, with the death of Coin and Snow, the reader is left with the hope that President Paylor will allow a better system to form. In class, we also talked about a couple of different real world movements – the Taiping Rebellion, the Raelian movement, the Turner Diaries (in that they influenced some of the movements) and more. I see a lot of similarities between the Taiping Rebellion and the Mockingjay Rebellion.

Taiping Rebellion

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The Taiping Rebellion was led by a man who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus, and he and his followers led a massive civil war in China. He was trying to create the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in Southern China, and at the height of the rebellion, this movement led 30 million people. However, where I see most of the similarities between this and Mockingjay was in what it sought to accomplish. The rebellion sought common property, equality for women, and also freedom to practice Christianity instead of the accepted Chinese religions of the time. In Mockingjay, the people are seeking less disparity between the Districts and the Capitol and more freedom to work and live in different parts of Panem. In both cases, the rebellion also sought to overthrow a system that they saw as corrupt and to instill a different type of governmental system.

Mockingjay Rebellion

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After that, we talked about cults and how charismatic people cannot choose to be charismatic, people have to choose them and believe that they have something to offer. The survival of their movement is dependent on their ability to deal with challenges, such as explaining why prophecies fail if they do, being able to create and maintain an alternate lifestyle, and dealing with conflict from the rest of society. This aspect is also quite relevant in the Hunger Games series. Snow is clearly a charismatic leader, he uses his charisma to keep the people from questioning the system, but when it starts to fail, he grasps at his power and charisma to try and retain control. However, because so many people no longer followed him, he was unable to maintain his charisma, and therefore, he was unable to kill the rebellion or stop it before it started.

President Snow

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Coin, on the other hand, lacked charisma in many ways. Her power was centralized in a District that was desperate for a leader and tightly managed to keep control. However, she did not possess the ability to inspire people to fight or to lead without tight control and military power. Because of this, Coin perceived Katniss as a threat to her authority and power and did not want her to have any real power in the rebellion. She designated her the role of figurehead because she needed her to consolidate power for Coin, but the book indicated that she hoped that Katniss would be killed once the rebellion was strong enough to survive without her.

Alma Coin – Fan Art Interpretation

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Katniss had a lot of charisma, although she never really saw it or acknowledged it. The people of Panem were inspired by her rebellious acts, even though she was simply trying to survive. She claims in the Hunger Games that she doesn’t know how to make people like her, and that was quite true, but by refusing to try and instead just fighting for what she believed was right, much of the nation of Panem learned to love and respect her. If she had been able to hold any real power in the rebellion, she would have made Coin obsolete. Even after she realizes that Coin is just as bad as Snow and kills her, Katniss is still well respected, which is why instead of punishing her, she is found to be mentally ill because of all that she went through and simply sent back to District 12 to live a quiet life, which is all she wanted in the first place.

Katniss Everdeen!

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After seeing all three and reading the books, which would you initially think would be the best leader? I am guessing most people would pick Katniss or Snow.

The Three Leaders

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PS: Check out the photo challenge posted earlier this week  and see if you can figure out what drink goes with what Hunger Games Character!

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