More than ten years after the first movie’s release, The Hunger Games remains one of the most popular franchises ever. The novels were written by American author Suzanne Collins and offered a unique mix of dystopian future, young adventure, and rebellion against dictatorships. Thus, when they were adapted into the first movie, everything matched perfectly with the audience in those years. One of the most significant moments is undoubtedly the ending of the first movie, when Katniss and Peeta are asked to fight so that one only survivor will remain: Katniss breaks the Capitol’s plan, proposing to Peeta to eat the poisonous nightlock berries and die together, as an act of disobedience to the rules imposed by the games. Let’s explore the meaning of this decision: you have it carefully explained in this article.
You can watch the official trailer for the 2012 movie The Hunger Games here on Youtube.
The Hunger Games ending explained: Katniss, Peeta, and the nightlock berries as an act of rebellion
While the plot in The Hunger Games develops, a message arrives to the book’s readers and the movie’s spectators: the televised battle among the tributes is both an assertion of the authority of the Capitol over the population and a form of entertainment/distraction. By watching the Hunger Games on TV, people are recurrently reminded that they are subjected to authority: the games are a reminder of the catastrophic consequences that occur if people get the idea that they could rebel against the Capitol. At the same time, the act of watching has an important purpose of control and distraction: a yearly ritual that helps to perpetuate power and control.
Katniss and Peeta don’t want to comply. They won’t allow the games to change them. The three-fingers salute used by Katniss becomes a symbol of their resistance: the tributes of District 12 are participating in the games, they are trying to survive, but they won’t give up their values, they won’t join the sick mechanism of fight and survival. For this reason, they show love, respect, and grief (when Rue dies), impersonating the human feelings that make them different from the logic of the hunger games.
The ending of The Hunger Games is their opportunity to state their position. During the games, the Capitol explained that two tributes of the same district could become winners as a couple, as an exception to the one-survivor rule. This was a way to increase the entertainment for the population, as this rule would feed the love between Katniss and Peeta inside the battle. But as soon as they remain the only survivor, the Capitol revokes the exception. It’s a betrayal: after their love served its entertaining purpose, now the Capitol want them to fight against each other.
Peeta shows his simplicity: the rules are rules, and they need one survivor, so he asks Katniss to kill him. But here, Katniss grabs the chance to act against the authority. If one survivor is what the game needs, it will be precisely what Katniss will deny to them. She proposed eating the deadly nightlock berries together, so they would both die, and the games will have no survivor, no winner. Ultimately, no purpose.
This decision represents a massive threat to authority. If the Hunger Games end with no winner, the population will feel somehow betrayed in the promises made by the entertainment mechanism. There will be no heroes to praise, no hope to believe in. The consequences could be disastrous. That’s why Crane acts quickly and announces them as both winners right before they eat the berries.
The act of rebellion moved by Katniss and Peeta was successful. And the existence of two survivors still represents a failure for the Capitol: now the population can interpret what happened as a defeat of the authority by the hand of two clever tributes. This is why Katniss is now an enemy of power, and from here, the events of the following chapters of The Hunger Games can continue.
The ending of The Hunger Games, with Katniss and Peeta surviving after threatening to kill themselves with the nightlock berries, is the way the plot has explained to us what resistance really means. When the rules and mechanisms we are subjected to are evidently wrong, we must defend the other set of rules that guides our actions: the universal principles that make us humans.