Minimalists in Fiction: District 13

“My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me.”

– Katniss Everdeen, in Mockingjay

Mockingjay is the third book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Trilogy, a dystopian sci-fi story of post-apocalyptic North America, now called Panem.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, Panem is comprised of the wealthy and tyrannical Capitol and 12 districts. The Hunger Games is a televised event sponsored by the Capitol.

A boy and a girl from each of the 12 districts are chosen by lottery for participation in the Hunger Games. The Capitol forces the children, all 12-18 years old, to fight to the death in an outdoor arena until only 1 remains.

“I’m going to be the Mockingjay.”

– Katniss Everdeen, in Mockingjay

Not surprisingly, the districts are, to say the least, unhappy with this arrangement. They have many other complaints against the Capitol as well.

In Mockingjay, District 13, which had previously been thought to have been destroyed, attempts to unify the districts in a rebellion against the Capitol.

The rebels ask Katniss Everdeen, who has participated in and survived the Hunger Games twice, to be the “Mockingjay,” the symbol of the revolution against the Capitol.

“They’re so frugal with things here, waste is practically a criminal activity.”

– Katniss Everdeen, in Mockingjay

In Mockingjay, we find Everdeen living in District 13, a self-sufficient underground city with few resources. For obvious reasons, residents must live simply and frugally.

“But once I saw Fulvia Cardew crumple up a sheet of paper with just a couple of words on it,” says Everdeen, who narrates all 3 books, “and you would’ve thought she’d murdered someone from the looks she got.”

“District 13, where there were more than enough clean, white living compartments, plenty of clothing, and three meals a day.”

– Katniss Everdeen, in Mockingjay

Unfortunately, as Everdeen goes on to say, “The compartments had the disadvantage of being underground, the clothing was identical, and the food was relatively tasteless. . . .”

Life in District 13 is highly structured. Each morning, residents receive temporary tattoos on their forearms, providing them with a schedule for the day. When to eat. When to work. When to go above ground for exercise and sunlight.

There are no options in either the type or amount of food. Each meal is scientifically designed to give each person the exact amount of calories he or she needs.

Clothing is government-issued, and everyone wears the same grey pants and shirts. Residents have few personal possessions.

“But even a quiet celebration causes a stir in 13, where they seem to have no holidays at all.”

– Katniss Everdeen, in Mockingjay

It’s obvious that people don’t enjoy living in District 13. They’re starved for festivities and special things of any kind. When the dining hall serves beef stew, a rare treat, Everdeen points out how much difference tasty – not just nutritious – food makes.

All around the dining hall, you can feel the rejuvenating effect that a good meal can bring on. The way it can make people kinder, funnier, more optimistic, and remind them it’s not a mistake to go on living. It’s better than any medicine.

Luckily, most of us can simplify only so far as we want to, and we don’t have to eat and wear whatever we’re given.

How do you feel about District 13?

District 13 has such strict rationing of everything from food to time outside to keep the population as a whole as healthy as possible.

How much of what you have would you be willing to give up to help those with less?

Are there any ways you’d be willing to further simplify your life to help a cause that’s dear to your heart? Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comments.

Also, my thanks to Lois, who blogs at Living Simply Free, for telling me about the minimalist tendencies of District 13.

4 thoughts on “Minimalists in Fiction: District 13

  1. Hello Christy, “How much of what you have would you be willing to give up to help those with less?” A very challenging question, and I won’t attempt to give a precise answer. I do agree that we all need to be willing to put limits on our “stuff” and our usage of our planet’s resources. I like this quote: “Live Simply, So that Others May Simply Live.” – Mahatma Gandhi
    I also refer you and your readers to my post “Why Minimalism? What’s Wrong With More?”
    Thank you for yet another fun and informative post!

  2. You are welcome. 🙂 I really enjoyed these books this one in particular which had me looking around at my own home and being grateful for the things I have such as my art. While I don’t see the current economic problems and over population causing us to live like district 13 any time soon it did cause me to wonder which items may become hard to find in the years to come.

    • We can only hope we don’t end up like District 13, but certainly living more sustainably will help prevent (or at least delay) it.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.