Symbolism is the practice of representing things by symbols, or of investing things with a symbolic meaning or character.

A symbol is an object, action, or idea that represents something other than itself, often of a more abstract nature. Symbolism creates quality aspects that make literature like poetry and novels more meaningful.

What new ideas do you think about when you watch the film? How does it relate to your prior knowledge of films or books that you have read? Think about the symbolism and what that suggests.

The ideas we CREATE from ‘reading’ a film is a unique experience.  Remember, although when we view a text it is a shared experience, our reactions to it may be quite different depending on the associations we make (how it connects with things we recognise from something we have previously watched or read).


is a symbol of Katniss’s family and district that brings hope. It is also a symbol of communication for those from District Eleven as they used the Mockingjays to send messages to each other when they were working. It is a symbol of hope which President Snow thinks is VERY dangerous!  President Snow: “Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.”

Katniss giving Prim the Mockingjay pin

Dialogue in the movie


Katniss herself is a symbol of hope. Her strength and skill helps her win the Games against the odds. The odds are in her favour. She brings courage to the districts which is why President Snow views her as a threat.


Reminds us that this is a society that is controlled by the capital. They live in a totalitarian society with no freedom and no democratic say in anything they do. Every aspect of their lives is controlled and dictated. Katniss breaks out to go hunting in the woods using her bow and arrow (one of you cleverly associated Katniss with Robin Hood the heroic outlaw who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Katniss does this for her family. Her connection with Robin Hood is that she is at odds with society and tries to bring humanity and feeling to an otherwise cold and callous games – Well done! Keep the thoughts coming)

The extreme long-shot of the fence shows how they have no freedom as it infers that it encompasses the entire perimeter of District 12

The medium-shot of Katniss going through the fence foreshadows her later challenge of the authority of President Snow. She has the courage to leave the District and go in to the Meadow to hunt for food for herself and her family. Her strength and courage and willingness to break the rules is reinforced by the boundary sign. The high voltage sign shows that the fence is electrified which is similar to how animals are kept in their individual fields. They are treated like animals but instead of being farmed for the Capitol people to eat, they make various products that keep the Capitol people supplied with all the goods they need. In District 12 they supply the coal and in District 11 they supply all the fruit from their orchards.

the fence

Katniss going through the fence

High voltage sign

No access beyond this point sign


They resemble Nazi Storm Troopers – or indeed, the Storm Troopers from Star Trek another Sci-Fi movie/ tv programme.

They act cold and callous and very indifferent to the suffering of the people of the districts (well some, as Katniss and Gale trade with some of them), certainly, the ones we see appear this way.

Look at the clear detail (below) of the Peacekeeper, the shot slightly moves to reveal he is watching the children going past on their way to the Reaping, but we can only see a blur of movement as the children are out of focus. This implies that the children are literally a blur to him as they mean nothing. This suggests the cruelty of the Peacekeepers.

peacekeeper in focus children blurry - they are all just a blur to him.

coldness of the guards

Mannerisms Definition:

1. A distinctive behavioral trait;

2. Exaggerated or affected style or habit, as in dress or speech.

The coldness of the mannerisms of the guards, they treat the people from District 12 with utter contempt. Remember the close up of the oppressive hand black-leather clad hand that demands Prim’s hand to take blood? This event of getting them to line up to be ‘processed’ is similar to how they dealt with people that were about to be sent to concentration camps – they too were selected to be killed (where they were shot, or gassed ….or worse still, experimented on)

They sit in towers that echo/symbolise/ resemble the towers situated around the perimeter fence of a Nazi concentration camp. It further symbolises the oppressive nature of The Reaping where we get to focus on the ‘concentration camp feel’

The actual background of the ‘stage’ or platform that Effie Trinkett (from the Capitol) speaks from is reminiscient (this is another way of saying that is symbolises) of the type of background seen when Hitler used to speak during Nazi rallies, North Korean, and other similar situations in Dystopian films such as ‘1984’ and ‘Equilibrium’. See section four to learn more about this.



These symbolise power. They offer the power to kill and the power to persuade the game maker to let the two of them live.

Poisonous berries- Night lock. (Represents deception, harsh, rebellion)

– Nightlock berries were found by Peeta and killed Foxface

– Katniss saved them hoping to use on Cato, but instead used them to rebel. She was going to kill herself and Peeta since there could only be one winner.


Katniss starving

Taken from the Flashback scene where Peeta sees hungry and desperate Katniss lying in the mud in the pouring rain. She notices him at the bakery door. She looks run down and desperate after spending the day looking for food to feed her family. Peeta throws her some burnt bread as he notices her desperation. This is before she begins to hunt.

This website explains the significance of bread to Katniss and her family’s survival

by Stacey Tuttle

Peeta Mellark’s family had enough to eat.  They were bakers and always had fresh bread to eat.  They were the lucky ones though.  People around them were starving to death.  Times were tough in District 12 where they lived.  So tough that Katniss Everdeen had been looking in trashcans, desperate to find anything to eat—with no luck.

Katniss had no hope left.  She collapsed, resigned to give up.  Her mother and little sister were at home, starving to death as well, waiting on Katniss to come home with something to eat, something to keep them alive.  But Katniss had nothing—she had nothing to trade and no money to buy, and even the trash cans were empty…offering her nothing.  She was so poor and dirty she wasn’t even able to walk into the bakery for a look….. Peeta saved her life.

He becomes a christ like figure. Peeta saw the signs of starvation and hopelessness in Katniss.  He had compassion on her.  He knew that if he didn’t do something, she (and her family) would die.  So, he sacrificed himself to give life-saving bread to Katniss.  He knew what it was going to cost him—he knew his mother wouldn’t approve.  But he willingly took that beating from his mother, from someone he loved, so that he could offer food, salvation and hope to Katniss.

sniffing the bread

The significance of bread is shown in the opening meadow scene when Gale gives some bread to a shocked Katniss. She sniffs it in a way that suggests it is a rare occurrence to have such a luxury. In a shocked but happy voice she says:  “Oh, my God! Is this real?”. This also reveals Gale’s feelings for Katniss as he is willing to give her something so rare and not give it to his family.

Gale Hawthorne: Oh, I forgot. Here.
[Gale takes out a bread roll from his bag and gives it to Katniss]
Katniss Everdeen: Oh, my God! Is this real?
Gale Hawthorne: Yeah! It better be. It cost me a squirrel.
[she splits the bread in half and gives a piece to Gale; as they are about to eat the bread]
Gale Hawthorne: Happy Hunger Games.
[Katniss jokingly does a fake British accent]
Katniss Everdeen: And may the odds be ever in your favour.
[they eat their bread in silence for moment]
Katniss Everdeen: How many times has your name entered it?
Gale Hawthorne: Forty two. Guess the odds aren’t exactly in my favour.



Like Caesar Flickerman, Effie symbolises all that is wrong in the capitol. (look at the contrast section for more information on her

This is the soundtrack to The Reaping and pictures…you can hear Effie Trinkett’s silly voice and her ridiculous ‘I just love that’ whilst she is mouthing along to the propoganda video. She has no idea what life is like for the people in the district and represents the views of the people in the Capitol.

“That is mahogany!” Effie not really understanding the reality of life as usual. Effie is more concerned about the table than the fact that they are facing certain death. Just like the people of the Capitol who only see the lives of these tributes as a means of entertainment for them.

Despite the plush nature of the Capitol, with their abundance of colour, clothing, soft furnishings and accessories, there is still something cold and harsh about the setting, that reflects their cold and harsh personalities. Haymitch says to Katniss on the train ‘Oh look at you! You just killed a placemat’ reflects the fact that there are  pretty surfaces and underlying brutality. The brutality and killing of the games serve to keep the people of the districts quiet and prevent them from revolting against their horrific treatment. The people of the Capitol need this brutality to pay for their lifestyle, so in effect the brutality pays for the pretty surfaces (at a huge cost to the people of the district).

“You really want to know how to stay alive? You get people to like you!” Haymitch is well aware, as is Cinna that Katniss has to get people to like her. See the section on the THEMES: Appearance versus reality.

CINNA (see characterisation)


Is a symbol of HOPE as he is different from the other people that Katniss encounters in the Capitol. He is the creator of ‘The Girl on Fire’ and the reason Katniss trusts Haymitch when he says she has to become a part of ‘The Star Crossed Lovers’

Caesar Flickerman

Caesar is a minor character and is a symbol of all that is wrong in the society of the Capitol,  that they have been conditioned to behave in an abhorrent way towards the District people. His character. and Effie Trinkett’s character, are a representation of the Capitol peoples lack of empathy and connection with the reality of what is happening in the districts. They are so brainwashed by the Ideology (belief system) of the privileged in the Capitol that they cannot understand what it is like to live in the districts and be subject to the will of the Capitol people. They cannot see the inhumane treatment of the district people and how they, the people of the capitol, treat them in a cruel and unjust way. There is no empathy, which means to walk in another persons shoes and see things from their point of view.

Their excitement of the Games and the brutal murder of the Tributes is highlighted when Katniss is watching previous Game footage during the journey to the Capitol:

caesar   tribute killer  brutal killing

Katniss in horror at what she has to come switches off the telescreen.

when katniss



Symbolise their deception of the Capitol in order to survive in the Games. Katnis is not in love with Peeta but he is with her.

The fakeness of their relationship is highlighted by her fake smile at the end when they return to District 12 after using the relationship to help them win.  Look at the incongruity of her smile. This shows two things, she is not happy about being in the limelight and she is not happy with the relationship with Peeta. This proves she is not in love with him.

Fake smiles at the end to keep up the persona

The picture below is of President Snow at the end. This is the cliffhanger shot at the end. President Snow is watching footage of Katniss and Peeta arriving back in District 12. He is trying to work out if she is making up the relationship. He is not convinced by her performance. His chewing of his thumb reinforces the idea that he feels threatened by her challenge to his authority.

President Snow watching at the end.

You’ve got to be kidding look aimed at Haymitch who has just sent her soup for Peeta with a message ‘ You call that a kiss’
Katniss realises Peeta may die when he says ‘they already found me’. After he says that he doesnt get sponsors, she says ‘ I’ll think of something’ and she gives Peeta a kiss. This proves she is playing in to the ‘star crossed lovers’ persona as it is a way to manipulate both sponsors and the audience.

you're having a laugh


This scene highlights the fact that everything is watched by a viewing public – it’s only a gameshow! 1 minute and 30 seconds in and we are shown Gale’s reaction to the ‘Star-crossed lovers’. This is something that Katniss is doing for survival…she has made it look real, you can tell by Gale’s poor sad devasted face and his mannerisms when he looks down as he can no longer watch.

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