“The Hunger Games” and Psychological Trauma

There is a scene at the end of the movie “The Hunger Games” in which Peeta and Katniss are staring out the window of a high-speed train. The two characters have just won a deadly competition in which twenty-four children fought to the death in a man-made, televised arena. The two both look to be in shock as they ask themselves the question, “what do we do now?”, and debate whether they start the process of trying to forget, or forcing themselves to always remember the horror they endured as members (and survivors/champions) of the Hunger Games.

The scene sticks with me because it seems to be a central question to the process of recovering from trauma. Should a person try to forget atrocities, in order to return to a “normal” life? Or is it necessary to always remember, in order to honor the experience and the way it has changed the individual? Where is the line drawn between actively forgetting and actively remembering? Especially when there are severe changes in context that call for intense emotional adjustment, it may be difficult to find an appropriate and healthy balance of forgetting and remembering. In the movie, Katniss and Peeta must endure the difficulty of emotionally processing the Games while simultaneously returning to their hometown, families and friends. In the second book of the Hunger Games series, Katniss struggles with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, such as debilitating nightmares. In our own society, combat military veterans returning to civilian life must adjust to civilian life while processing experiences of war. They too must adjust to a return to a once-familiar life with an identity scarred by trauma, and potentially deal with aspects of PTSD themselves.

I was struck by how realistic this moment on the train, between two fictional characters in a post-apocalyptic world, could be. Not only do horrors like those portrayed in “The Hunger Games” exist in our own world today, but this central question of remembering or forgetting exists for many people who have encountered those horrors. Indeed, any person who is forced to change after experiencing trauma must face the question.

Johanna Bond

Author: Johanna Bond

Johanna Bond is a master's student in the community mental health counseling program at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester.  She is from the Rochester area and graduated from Swarthmore College in 2010 with a degree in psychology and English.

6 thoughts on ““The Hunger Games” and Psychological Trauma”

  1. Johanna,
    I continue to thoroughly enjoy reading your blogs. You have great awareness, insight, and ability to make connections, and an amazing way of putting all that into words. Keep up the good work!

  2. I think that this entry brings up a good point.  Often, books and movies skip over recovery from traumatic events and characters return to their lives like nothing happened.  As you point out, Johanna, this is unrealistic; in the real world, people can’t suddenly decide that they are fine after they experience an emotionally devastating event.  I like your analysis and how you apply your counseling background to a modern movie like The Hunger Games.  Very interesting!

  3. I think you have a good point. But I think it’s better to procces than to forget. Because you will never forget such a thing and one day it will all come out.

  4. There are so many traumatic experience suffered in this world today, especially by women & children, not just soldiers.  Help from experts is sorely needed.  Victims/Patients should be given the choice on which path to choose – forget totally, learn from experience, etc.  If not left untreated, the effects could be devastating not only to them, but also to those around them.

  5. As a person who spent a career in the military, each person processes the experiences differently. One person may remember the killings. The other may be overjoyed they are home with their family and new life.
    I liken it to a normal distribution curve where the outcome of an event could be plotted by how an individual reacts to it. 9/11 is another great example. The survivors had different outcomes to the life changing event of that day. Each anniversary of 9/11 it brings back vivid memories of that day over a decade ago.
    Again, each person, even in exact similar circumstances will process the data differently.

  6. As a person who spent a career in the military, each person processes the experiences differently. One person may remember the killings. The other may be overjoyed they are home with their family and new life.
    I liken it to a normal distribution curve where the outcome of an event could be plotted by how an individual reacts to it. 9/11 is another great example. The survivors had different outcomes to the life changing event of that day. Each anniversary of 9/11 it brings back vivid memories of that day over a decade ago.
    Again, each person, even in exact similar circumstances will process the data differently.

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