Sample Essay on Food Symbolism in “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins


Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins reveals the mishandling of children by adults who force them to entertain them by fighting each other to death. Collins gave detailed descriptions of every meal that Katniss ate each day, and most of the foods are symbolic. The foods have a deeper meaning as they symbolize the events that surround the characters such as Katniss, her sister Prim, and their mother.

The breakfast meal served to Katrina and Gale on the reaping day when she became a tribute comprised of bakery bread, goat cheese with basil leaf, and blackberries. A goat is a symbol of both sacrifice and hatred and demonstrates Katniss’s sacrifice in saving her younger sister and the hatred that Katniss and Gale have for Capitol, thus hoping for their names not to be on the list of the participants. Moreover, Katniss ends up going to the Capitol (the most hated place) to represent her sister. Prim was one of the female tribute selectees in the upcoming event, but Katniss volunteered to go instead “I volunteer!” I gasp. “I volunteer as tribute!” (Collins 22) which was a significant sacrifice as there was no guarantee that she would not lose her life in the process. More servings of goat cheese and milk happened towards the end of the games as Peeta and Katniss hid in the cave to foreshadow their close win which would repay their sacrifice in the Hunger Games. A goat represents hatred that Katniss had for Capitol and the sacrifice she made by taking her sister’s place in the Hunger Games and in emerging a winner.

A blackberry symbolizes bad omens and foreshadowed the bad luck that Katniss faces in having to represent Prim in the Hunger Games while fish symbolized good luck and Katniss’s female power when she overpowers others in the games. It is through Katniss’s great participation in the Hunger Games that her mother and sister becomes lucky to experience a better lifestyle. The blackberries foreshadowed the turn of events where Katniss was forced by her love for Prim to represent her in the dangerous games and the fish Katniss gave to her mother and sister represents good luck and the female dominance of Katniss.

Bread symbolizes human survival and transformation and foreshadowed Katniss’s victory in the games that would change her life and that of her family. After her father’s death, Katniss became the family breadwinner and would go hunting to provide for her mother and sister, and her responsibility made her refuse to run away with Gale “I don’t know how to respond. This idea is so preposterous” (Collins 9). After the game, Katniss would no longer be the poor girl living in District 12 but a hero. Katniss does not know how to handle the transition and feels lost between maintaining her old self and embracing her new identity. Further transformation emerged in Katniss’s relationship with Peeta. Katniss had no intimate feelings towards Peeta but pretended to be in love with him for the sake of winning as advised by Haymitch, their sponsor. As the two head home after the game, Katniss discloses to Peeta that she was never affectionate with him but only did it for the cameras thus transforming to her old self. Both human survival and transformation were evident in the novel through Katniss’s hardships in the Hunger Games and her eventual win that transformed her life from a poor village girl to a heroine.

Basil is a symbol of best wishes and hatred and represented the warm regards that Katniss’s family extended to her when she left her home to participate in Hunger Games. On the other hand, basil symbolized the hatred for Capitol.


A goat in the Collin’s novel symbolizes the sacrifice Katniss makes for her sister Prim and the hatred she feels for Capitol. Blackberries represented the bad omens that befell Katniss by volunteering to represent Prim in the Hunger Games. Fish is a sign of good luck and represented Katniss’s victory. Bread is a sign of transformation and foreshadowed Katniss’s transition from a poor girl to a heroine. The foods in the Hunger Games are symbolic of the experiences of the characters throughout the novel.






Work Cited

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York, NY: Scholastic Press, 2009. Print