When writing The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins incorporated historical information to lay the foundation for the characteristics of Panem. In chapter 16 of Mockingjay, Collins writes about District 12: “We may have been the smallest district in Panem, but we know how to dance.” District 12 is said to be located in Appalachia because of the presence of coal. Both Appalachia and The Hunger Games portray significant musical themes that are important to the trilogy.
As a child, Katniss and her father would sing ballads together just like people in Appalachia would sing ballads to each other to tell stories. “The Hanging Tree” is one song in Mockingjay that suggests rebellion and teamwork amongst the people of Panem. This song was banned by the capitol because of its underlying themes. Katniss stated that she didn’t understand the true meaning of the song until after her father died and she grew older. The Hanging Tree itself seems like a trap that calls people to come for safety. There is a lot of confusion between running to the tree for actual safety versus running to the tree to reach your death.
The first stanza of the song asks “are you, are you coming to the tree?” This in concrete terms could literally be asking if you’re coming to the safe haven. In more abstract terms, this could ask if you’re ready to rebel and join a side. The song also mentions, “strange things did happen here” which could mean multiple things. The Hunger Games itself is a perfect example of the “strange things” the Capitol punishes the districts with every single year. The most important line of the song is “no stranger would it be, if we met at midnight in the hanging tree.” This could mean two different things. It could mean that if strangers rebelled together, they would not be strangers anymore. It could also mean that it is not uncommon for people to sacrifice themselves while fighting for what they believe in.
Just like in Appalachia, ballads are used mainly to tell a story. This simple tune is catchy for The Hunger Games but it serves a greater purpose by expressing a reoccurring theme in Mockingjay.
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