Machiavelli infamously asked that republics resort to notable executions every ten years. This would satisfy popular hatred of the ambitious under pretense of justice. & prevent the people from growing complacent by arousing their fear of death, recalling the terror of the beginning.
This story is set in a future world united after a massive war. Seventy plus years have passed; none remain who knew the war. It was the last – & therefore the greatest – war. How has perpetual peace come? Every year, 24 young boys & girls are selected by lot, unless they volunteer, in order to fight each other to the death. One always emerges alive, a champion. The organizer of the games says they commemorate the horror of war, but also bring people together: The only thing people have in common is fear of violent death. They come together in political association to avoid it. Nothing is said of any political purpose or end except survival.
These 24 youths, two each from twelve districts, are called Tribunes. They come from the people, but may rise among the few rulers of the world-country. In some districts, they are raised for this war & volunteer; in most, they are selected by chance. Apparently, gov’t favors mean higher chances of selection. The people know they all may face punishment; they are relieved when they survive & go back to their mean condition with newfound ability to endure it.
The man who organizes the games inherited that power from his father. He loses it because he has not even gone to see the people over whom he has such power. He thinks he can arrange things to his liking without looking to what is necessary. His father understands that one rising from among the people may unite with the people against the few. He also seems to understand how important it is to govern by conspiracy, without attracting much attention. The boy is too conventional. He dies because he cannot change the way things are done when it threatens him.
Everyone keeps saying: May the odds be ever in your favor. That is impossible: your good luck is someone else’s bad. It is the sign of the weakness of the many: they fear chance. They emphasize the limits of human action. The few tribunes we see take matters in their own hands. The rulers above all do this, ruling, they think, above the power of chance.
The tribunes look to a cornucopia for their resources. It is not a goat’s horn brimful of fruit. It is a scientific device. That is the basis of our power, for life & death alike. This is the most significant modification of everything said before.
An extraordinarily popular film with the young girls.