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    The Idea of Constant Surveillance in The Hunger Games and Foucault’s Concept of the Panopticon

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    The Hunger Games is an incredible young adult novel about a post- apocalyptic world in which children ranging from the ages of twelve to eighteen are forced to fight to the death. There are many huge issues throughout the book but one of the largest concepts in the book is the idea of constant surveillance. No matter where they are, the people are always under the impression that they are being watched. This idea crosses over to

    Foucault’s concept of the Panopticion. In Bentham’s architectural master plan for a building, it allows everyone to be watched without seeing the watcher. This creates a huge sense of paranoia and fear. This is shown throughout The Hunger Games when Katniss Everdeen is always worrying about what she says and what she does because she believes she is always being watched.

    In The Hunger Games, Katniss always operates under the idea that someone is watching her every action. She is also a little self-centered in the idea that she believes she often holds the cameras attention, and by the cameras, the countries. The setup of the Hunger Games makes it so that every tribute can be seen, everywhere they go, and at any point in time. The cameras will usually focus on the most exciting and interesting thing that is happening.

    Even though she knows this, Katniss still believes she has the focus of the cameras. She already believes that she is being featured when she begins her initial trek through the woods. “Being in the woods is rejuvenating. I’m glad for the solitude, even though it’s an illusion, because I’m probably on screen right now.” (p88) She is all by herself in the woods at the time and cannot see any of the cameras around her. Yet she still believes that she is being watched. This same concept is the whole idea of the Panopticon.

    The idea is to separate each prisoner, mental patient, school child, or worker, and give them solitude. But similar to solitude in the Games, it is only an illusion. The architectural design of the Panopticon allows the people in the central watch tower to watch the people without being seen. The people in the watch tower are the same as the cameras in the Games. They are an invisible entity that is always there. The Panopticon separates each person into cells so they are by themselves. They have no one to talk to, and in the case of prisoners, no one to conspire with. This is so that all the people in the cells have to do is their work, or to serve out their time.

    The main reason for the central watch tower is so that there could be very few guards, or none at all. There could be no guards and the prisoners would still behave. They would behave because they wouldn’t be aware that they are not being watched. They would be so used to having someone possibly watch them without actually knowing if they are being watched, that they would behave the same throughout the day.

    No matter if there are one hundred guards, or none at all. Having the availability of being watchedconstantly will make a person behave differently. This is easy to see in the Games when Katniss must hide her emotions because she believes she is being featured and she cannot allow potential sponsors to see weakness. “I have to bury the real pain because who’s going to bet on a tribute who keeps sniveling over the deaths of her opponents.” (p175) Katniss must stay strong in the face of the cameras, no matter what inner turmoil she has going on. She must stay strong because she is being watched.

    The way The Hunger Games is written, we only get to see Katniss’s perspective of things. The reader can discern certain things about the other characters and their times in the games, but there is no in depth information about them. Katniss does not know about anything that is happening with the other competitors except for when she physically interacts with them in the games. This is similar to how the Panopticon is set up. Each person is kept separate from all of the other people in the cells. They are not kept separate in the games, but stay separate by choice. This idea shows even better with the hotel that the tributes must stay in.

    The hotel is set up the same way but with a few differences. Each district is given a different level and are unable to travel between the levels. The districts can represent the people in the cells in the Panopticon. They are unable to see each other, yet they know that they are there. This way, there can be no friendships, no conspiring, and no distractions. They cannot talk to each other except when they are in the training facility. Before and after the games, the tributes are also being watched in the hotel. “We make idle chitchat… but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being watched constantly.” 

    Katniss is afraid to talk about anything real because she is concerned that she is being watched. This is why the dividing walls of the Panopticon are not even completely necessary. When a person believes they are being watched constantly, they are unable to discuss things of great importance or conspire in any way.

    The capitol has set up the districts in a similar manner as the Panopticon. There are twelve individual districts, each with very limited knowledge about the others. They are constantly watched and because of this, are kept under control. Katniss only talks to Gale about the Capitol when they are in the woods, because there are eyes and ears everywhere.

    Even in the little district of twelve. She allows him to rant because she worries that if he didn’t rant in the woods, he might end up saying something outside of the woods. There is no way for the people to talk to any of the other districts so any thoughts of an uprising are just thoughts because there is no way to put them in to practice.

    The Capitol uses a Panoptic set up for the country. They watch the people constantly and because of this, keep firm control over the districts. The people in the districts are so afraid about saying anything bad against the Capitol, that even hushed whispers make people nervous. The Panopticon is a great comparison to The Hunger Games because it has a very similar set up and is a way to keep control over people without threating their well-being. The Capitol’s goal is to keep the people in the districts down-trodden, yet leave them with enough to survive. They succeed in this.

    The Capitol creates strong feelings of paranoia and fear and rule by controlling these emotions. Being watched affects the people of Panem strongly and will keep them in line.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    The Idea of Constant Surveillance in The Hunger Games and Foucault’s Concept of the Panopticon. (2023, Mar 24). Retrieved from

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