Guest Post: ‘The Capitol’ is ‘Capitol Hill’

From Sharon Jackson in Australia, an allegorical point that deserves our full attention:

Re Point (2) in Suzanne Collins: Writing “War Stories”?, where John said, “It’s an interesting question because the evil regime she has set up in the Capitol is a picture of the US as the world sees us…”

Living in part of the rest of the world, I can easily see this in the book. That was indeed how I read it the first time, which admittedly was a long time ago (when Meyer first recommended CF on her site). And given that the US is the nation with a “Capitol Hill”, (since the rest of the English-speaking countries spell ours with an a) I think the connection is blatantly obvious for this reading of one allegorical interpretation of the story.

If we look at the books from this perspective, the series is a warning to Americans that they can’t expect to have all the perks of living in a First World country while the majority of the rest of the world suffers in poverty (etc) for them to have it. Collins is also teaching her readers that “token”, highly visible and fiercely promoted wars (like the Hunger Games/the wars in Iraq) where the US “steps in” against so-called injustice, will not appease the anger and frustration of the populations of the countries the US is fighting for/with/against/in. Collins is warning that if the US does not do something about the underlying injustice of imbalances in resources, these countries, like the Panem districts, will ultimately rise up against the Capitol and fight for a more even distribution of resources. Collins is warning those in the US that this war is inevitable, and it will be brutal. And she is warning her readers in a way that they should ultimately be able to empathise with those outside the US who one day (I think this prediction for Mockingjay is sound) bring the attack to the Capitol itself.

In your quote above, Collins said that “the ethical ambiguities of war” are introduced to our children/teenagers “too late”. I think this series does a fine job of introducing those ethical ambiguities to Collins’ readers because the heroine, and indeed all the “good guys”, are actually from outside the allegorical US, which in real life is the self-styled “hero” of our age. This is one reason why President Snow might have made that comment about there being forces at work that Katniss knows nothing about, and Panem being more fragile, but in a different way, than Katniss realises.

Perhaps this is one reason why the rest of the world is ignored or invisible in the novels, as STS pointed out. Panem is a world in its allegorical entirety, including countries representing the major nations by way of their resources/export products, or lack thereof. Thus the novels do not need to include reference to the rest of the world directly. Unless … can anyone say, “sequel trilogy”?

At least, that’s what I read in the books!

Thank you, Sharon!

The question for discussion, serious readers, is, “Is Suzanne Collins holding up a story-mirror to American readers in which we/they are supposed to recognize our/their reflection in the lives of Capitol citizens?”


  1. Absolutely! For sure Collins’ Capitol is her picture of how the world sees the US, and just like in the HG, we have some Cinna’s who are unhappy about it and want to change it. But in addition to the political parallells, I think Collins’ point about our addiction to media and how easily we allow ourselves to be controlled by it are of equal importance and part of the cause.

  2. Remember Swift’s adage about political satire’s ability to protect an author from blowback the caricatured person might give: Satire is a mirror in which only the person portrayed cannot recognize his reflection.

    How delightful that the US reading audience, in identifying with Katniss and hating the Capitol citizens, is learning about our own excesses and addictions, and, in Collins’ vision, the inevitable rebellion and comeuppance. The heroine is less an American Appalachian than a story stand-in for a Chinese coal miner or Thai factory worker or South American poppy farmer?

    This is hysterical, historical satire.

  3. “Is Suzanne Collins holding up a story-mirror to American readers in which we/they are supposed to recognize our/their reflection in the lives of Capitol citizens?”

    She could be.

    Of course she could be holding up a mirror to all of the west as well. After all, Australia, UK, France, etc. are all “first world countries” – a horrid post-war title. I like the idea of a story-symbol mirror, but why isolate it to the US simply because it has “The Capitol”?

    Alternatively, a WESTERN reading would render “The Capitol” as “Capitol Hill” – as in THE Capitol Hill – not the American one. Mythology anyone?

    The Hill of Zeus, Mount Olympus, was also referred to as “Capitol Hill” or “THE Capitol.” This is the place where the gods resided, aloof and distant from the people except for those handful of strange trace encounters for strange reasons. There, at the capitol, they played with humans as toys, doing what they wanted, and getting involved in everyone else’s business whenever they wanted, however they wanted, for their own pleasure. This is not the Christian concept of God, but rather the prankster-god that inspired much of the early deism of the states, and therefore the framework of much of society. Greek mythology undergirds much of western society in general, so there’s no reason for it to rest in specific on America.

    THG symbolism hits all of us, as rich oppressors, square in the chest – enough to make us stop talking and bite our tongues, or as Collins would have it, our cheeks. I’m starting to taste the blood, and it calls me to some sort of action.

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