The book is set in a futuristic dystopian society where a powerful government controls the lives and resources in 12 different districts. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, from District 12, is the main character of the story. Her father died in the coal mines - the specialty of District 12 (each of the 12 districts has its own industrial specialty). She lives with her mother - a healer, and her little sister Primrose (nicknamed Prim). Everyone in this country of Panem lives below the poverty line because all the profit goes to the government (metaphorically called the Capitol.) Each year, as a reminder of the rebellion of District 13 (nonexistent anymore), two "tributes" are chosen from each district to compete in "The Games." The objective of those games is for people from different districts to go into an enclosed imitation of an environment, be given certain weapons/survival kits, and kill each other off until only one person is left alive - that person is the winner.
Katniss Everdeen - The 16-year-old protagonist and narrator of the story. Katniss is normally quiet in school and does not bother with gossip and social matters. She lives with her mother and younger sister, Primrose, in the poorest district of Panem, District 12, which is in charge of mining coal for the capitol. Her looks are typical for those from the Seam (the slums of District 12): long black hair, which she wears in a braid; olive skin; and gray eyes. Five years before Katniss became a tribute in The Hunger Games, her father was killed in a mining explosion, and her mother fell into a depression. In order to provide for her family, Katniss began to hunt in the woods, just as her father had taught her. In the process, she becomes friends with Gale Hawthorne. When it comes time to draw the tributes for the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss' sister Prim's name is drawn, but Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place, along with the male tribute from District 12, Peeta Mellark. When she is introduced with the other tributes, her dress is "set on fire" by her stylist Cinna. This gives her the nickname "The Girl On Fire", which is used recurrently during the trilogy. During the Games, Peeta expresses his love for her on live television, which Katniss assumes is a ploy to gain attention from rich sponsors, later as they grow closer to each other, it appears that the love is genuine. Halfway through the Games, a new rule is instituted so that both tributes from a District can become winners. However, when only Peeta and Katniss are left, the rule is reversed, in an attempt to force one of them to kill the other, ensuring a more-dramatic ending. At that time, Katniss decides that both of them should eat poisonous berries called nightlock, killing themselves, and ensuring the Hunger Games have no winner. As a result, the Games are ended, and both Katniss and Peeta are declared winners, which humiliates the Capitol. This choice makes Katniss a symbol of rebellion for the Districts.
Peeta Mellark - the male tribute from District 12. He is described as being "medium height with a stocky build,"having "ashy blond hair that falls in waves over his forehead" and blue eyes. He is the town baker's son and is talented in baking breads and icing cakes, which proves to be an unexpected asset to him in the arena, when he can camouflage himself effortlessly. His mother is a nasty woman, described as a "witch" by Katniss. He tells her that she has more faith in Katniss than in himself. He has two older brothers, neither of whom care for him as much as Katniss cares for her little sister, Prim. His father, Mr. Mellark, is the town baker. He is described by Katniss as a decent wrestler in the Training Center. Upon arriving in the Capitol, it is discovered that Peeta has an instinctive ability to perform on camera and manipulate public sentiment. He is a brilliant liar and covers for himself and Katniss on multiple occasions. He has harbored a secret love for Katniss since they were five, at the beginning of their school year when he heard her sing. He is rarely moody or upset, and generally takes things lightly. Peeta saved Katniss's life when she was eleven years old by giving her bread when her family was starving, which resulted in the nickname Katniss uses often to describe him, "the boy with the bread." The two never talked until the Games. During The Hunger Games, Peeta declares his love for Katniss during the interviews. In the arena, she first tries to kill him then heals him after an injury. When they both win the Games, he is devastated to find out that Katniss may have been playacting being in love for the cameras.
Gale Hawthorne - an 18-year-old boy who is Katniss's best friend and hunting partner. Like Katniss, he has black hair, olive skin, and gray eyes. His father died in the same explosion that killed Katniss's father. While hunting, the pair combined their respective talents, his at trapping and hers at archery, to become a highly effective team. Their success makes them fixtures at District 12's black market, the Hob, where they trade their illegal game for other valuable items. Gale has three siblings: Rory, Vick and Posy. Gale does not accept the authority of the Capitol and even suggests half-seriously that he and Katniss flee to escape selection for the Hunger Games. Gale is in love with, and fiercely devoted to, Katniss, although she does not know it at the time. He kisses her after a hunt one day, in the second book, and the two are never really the same again.
Haymitch Abernathy - "paunchy, middle-aged man" who was the victor of the 50th Hunger Games. Back 24 years before the series begins, he became the victor for District 12, at the 50th Hunger Games. When he was 16, Haymitch was reaped for the second Quarter Quell, where four tributes from each district were forced into the arena. He became an ally to a girl named Maysilee Donner, but later was forced to watch her die. During the games, he had also found his way past a wall of shrubbery and to the edge of the arena, where a force field that flung whatever was tossed at it back blocked the participants from exit. When the games came down to him and another tribute, the girl threw her weapon at him, leaving the two of them without weapons. However, the force field sent the weapon back at her, killing her, leaving Haymitch the victor. Within two weeks of his victory, Haymitch's mother, younger brother, and girlfriend were killed by President Snow, as punishment for Haymitch using the force field to his advantage. Since President Snow had no one close to Haymitch that he could hold over him, Haymitch is instead "held up as an example" of what happens to those who defy the Capitol. After winning his games, he became an alcoholic and had spent almost all of his intervening life intoxicated to the point of embarrassment. Being the only surviving Hunger Games champion from District 12 (one of only two in the history of the games), Haymitch was forced to mentor all of its tributes. Therefore, he acted as a mentor for Peeta and Katniss before they entered the Games. He is often sarcastic and anything but sober, which Katniss finds highly irritating. However, when pushed, he emerges as the pair's greatest advocate and shows himself to be highly canny as he guides his protégés in a cleverly designed, highly unorthodox strategy aimed at ensuring the survival of both tributes. Although she disliked him greatly at first due to his drinking and his harshness, Katniss later realizes that he is tired of seeing children placed under his care for the Games only to die, and also that he cares a lot about Peeta and Katniss. After being in the arena, she realizes that drinking was his form of escape from the nightmares caused by his experiences as a tribute. Primrose Everdeen - nicknamed "Prim", is Katniss's younger sister. She was 12 years old in The Hunger Games. Like her mother, she has blond hair and blue eyes. Her name is chosen at the reaping for the 74th Hunger Games, and it is in order to save her that Katniss volunteers in her place. Primrose also elicits a promise from Katniss that she will do all that she can to win the Hunger Games, which provides impetus to Katniss's actions. In the Hunger Games, Prim is thoughtful, sweet, and somewhat delicate in spite of all she has been put through at a young age. Prim reminds Katniss of her friend Rue in The Hunger Games.
President Coriolanus Snow - The main antagonist of the series, President Snow is the autocratic ruler of the Capitol and all of Panem. Though seemingly laid-back, this hides a sadistic and psychopathic mind. He initially appears in The Hunger Games when he crowns Katniss and Peeta as victors. President Snow is described as having very puffy lips, which are most likely the result of an appearance-altering operation that is very popular in the Capitol. Katniss describes him as exuding a smell of blood and roses. It is revealed that the smell of blood is due to mouth sores he got from one of the poisons that he used to kill people in his monomaniacal efforts to control Panem. He drank the poison in order to allay suspicions, then took the antidote, but they could not cure him of the sores. He also smells strongly of genetically enhanced roses. He always wears a white rose in his lapel to cover the scent of blood. The strong smell invariably makes Katniss gag. Snow claims he only kills for a purpose, and he promises Katniss he will always tell her the truth. Whether these assertions are true or not is left up to interpretation by Katniss.
Mrs. Everdeen - Katniss's mother. She was raised in town as the daughter of an apothecary, and subsequently had a fairly comfortable life. She gave it all up to marry Katniss's father and move to the Seam, where she lived in impoverished and starvation-level conditions. She goes into a deep depression when Katniss's father dies in a mining accident.
Madge Undersee - The mayor's daughter and Katniss's friend. She and Katniss were always thrown together at school, both being solitary in nature. Madge is the one who gives Katniss her mockingjay pin, which becomes a symbol of rebellion and is featured on every book cover. Katniss later learns that the pin had belonged to Madge's aunt, Maysilee, a Tribute in the 50th Hunger Games who teamed up with Haymitch.
Mayor Undersee - Madge's father. He is the mayor of District 12 and likes to buy strawberries from Katniss and Gale, knowing that they broke the law and picked them in the woods. He is always on the stage in front of the justice building for the drawing of the names for the Hunger Games.
Delly Cartwright - A girl from District 12 whom Katniss describes as being "the friendliest person on the planet." She is Peeta's friend, and they have both shared many childhood memories together, including making "dough girls and boys" with the dough from Peeta's father's bakery and drawing animals with sidewalk chalk. Peeta lies in the first book and says that the Avox serving them in the Capitol is a "dead ringer for Delly".
Mr. Mellark - Peeta's father. Kind and soft spoken, resembling Peeta, he does not appear except when he trades with Katniss and Gale and when he visits Katniss before the 74th Hunger Games to give her cookies. It is later revealed that he grew up with Katniss's mother, Mrs. Everdeen, and even loved her.
Mrs. Mellark - Peeta's mother. Very stern and strict, she only appears in the series once, when she beats Peeta, making her presumably abusive also. Peeta mentions that he likes his father more than his mother once. Katniss calls her a "witch" on several occasions, and hints that Mr. Mellark only married her because he could not have the woman that became Mrs. Everdeen.
Greasy Sae - An old woman who sells soup at the Hob, with whom Katniss and Gale would often trade. She starts up a collection to sponsor Katniss and Peeta during the 74th Hunger Games.
Hazelle Hawthorne - Gale's mother. A very self-reliant woman, after her husband is killed in a mining accident, she takes up work doing people's laundry. After Gale is caught poaching and publicly whipped, people stop using her services for fear of being punished for associating with her. She gets a new job cleaning Haymitch's house sometime after that. She was a good friend of Katniss.
Rory, Vick, and Posy Hawthorne - Gale's younger siblings. The book states that Rory is twelve, Vick is ten and Posy is five. Posy was born just after the mining accident in which Gale's father died, and her favorite color is pink.
Tributes in the 74th Annual Hunger Games
Glimmer - As a Career tribute, she teams up with Cato, Clove, Marvel, and the tributes from District 4. She is from District 1, which specializes in making luxury items. She is described as very beautiful, being tall with long blond hair and emerald green eyes. She dies, along with the girl from District 4, when Katniss drops a tracker jacker nest on the Career alliance. Afterwards, Katniss retrieves her bow and arrows. Marvel - His name is unknown to Katniss; throughout The Hunger Games he is simply known as "the boy from District 1". In the top 8 he kills Rue when he stabs her with a spear in her abdomen, and Katniss shoots an arrow through his neck in retaliation.
Clove - She is arrogant, strong, and can use many weapons, especially knives, and she is known to not ever miss her target. She has a special hatred of Katniss because of her high training score. Katniss attempts to kill her with the tracker jacker nest. Like Cato, she enjoys killing, as evidenced when she captures Katniss at the Feast and plans to give her the most torturous death possible. Before she can continue to cut Katniss, Thresh catches her and dents her skull with a rock, which kills her. Cato - Katniss considers Cato to be her and Peeta's most fearsome opponent because of his size and strength, skill with many weapons, and savage pleasure in killing. Like most Careers, Cato has complete confidence in his abilities and expects that he will be the victor. Katniss believes he is not completely sane after seeing his reaction to the destruction of the Careers' food supply. He is the last tribute to die. During the finale of the Games, he is pushed off the Cornucopia to the wolf muttations—fearsome creatures created in the Capitol—who prolong his death to the point that, when Katniss finally shoots him, he is nothing more than a gnawed and bloody hunk of meat.
"Foxface" - The female tribute from District 5. Katniss gives her the nickname "Foxface" after seeing her on TV when they announce the contestants of the Hunger Games, describing her as "a girl that looks like a fox." Katniss shares this nickname with only Rue and Peeta. Foxface's real name is never revealed. Foxface is the second to last tribute to die, after Thresh's death but before Cato's. Clever and evasive, she uses ingenious strategies, such as hiding in the Cornucopia at the Feast, in order to survive. She avoids contact with other tributes, but relies on them for food; she steals just enough food to survive, but not enough to arouse suspicion that any food is missing. She dies after surreptitiously stealing some of Peeta's food. Unfortunately, the food was a type of poisonous berry called Nightlock. Katniss believes her to have been the smartest of all the tributes, and later remarks that "If, in fact, we had been setting a trap for her, she'd have sensed it and avoided the berries." She is unusual in that she, despite coming in fourth in the Games, is thought to have made no kills, probably as part of her strategy.
Rue - She and Katniss become allies. She is 12 years old, with dark brown hair, skin, and "golden brown" eyes. She is similar in size and demeanor to Katniss' sister Prim, which is a major factor in Katniss' decision to team up with her. She is the oldest of six children and worked in the orchards for her district, which specializes in agriculture. She excels at tree climbing and can also leap from tree to tree with relative ease, a skill which earned her a seven from the Gamemakers in training. Her love of music inspires her to teach Katniss a simple four note melody which she used to signal quitting time in the orchards back home. Katniss and Rue use this melody as a signal call to each other to let them know they're both safe as the Mockinjays repeat the tune when it's sung to them. Rue also brings attention to Katniss's mockingjay pin— the pin is what led Rue to trust Katniss, because of the mockingjay's symbolic significance. Katniss tries to give Rue the pin, but Rue tells her to keep it. While Rue is acting as a decoy and Katniss tries to destroy the Careers' food, Rue runs into trouble with the boy tribute from District 1, Marvel. He spears Rue through her abdomen, causing Katniss to kill him with an arrow. Katniss sings to Rue as she dies, and covers her with flowers, before letting the hovercraft retrieve her. Katniss's actions are rewarded by a gift of bread from District 11. Rue's particularly poignant death contributes to the protests that District 11 holds during the Victory Tour. Thresh - Thresh has the same dark brown skin and golden brown eyes as Rue, but is not otherwise similar in appearance. Katniss refers to him as a "physical wonder" as he stands easily over six feet tall and is very well-built, possessing "muscles like an ox" which give him immense strength. Thresh is quiet and solitary, answering with single words during his interview wih Ceaser Flickerman. During training, the Careers, recognizing his strength, invite him to join their alliance during the Games but he turns them down. He receives a ten in training, tying him with Cato and having the joint second highest score after Katniss. It is highly unlikely that Thresh participated in the bloodbath at the Cornucopia and instead is revealed to have located a wheat field in which he stays for the majority of the games. No one wants to go into the tall grass after him and he is left alone. At the feast, he overhears Clove taunting Katniss about how they killed his District partner, Rue. Enraged, he grabs Clove just as she was about to kill Katniss and kills her by smashing her skull with a rock. He lets Katniss live after she explains how she was allied with Rue and sang to her as she died and decorated her corpse with flowers. Thresh then leaves, taking his pack and the District 2 pack to ensure Cato will chase after him and not Katniss. Thresh is then revealed to have been killed two days later, supposedly by Cato, but the details are unknown.
Katniss Everdeen Peeta Mellark
The Capitol Staff
Effie Trinket - A capitol-born chaperone who got stuck with District 12 in the Hunger Games, particularly to Katniss and Peeta, carrying out such tasks as drawing the tributes' names at the reaping and escorting them to the Capitol. At first, she detests her association with District 12, trying to be promoted to a better, richer district. Effie later becomes attached to her District 12 acquaintances. Effie has bright pink hair that appears to be a wig. She seems totally oblivious to the misfortunes of District 12, although whether this behavior is intentional is unknown. She is very strict about manners and is always punctual.
Cinna - Katniss's stylist, responsible for her public appearance. After designing the spectacular outfits of the opening ceremony, which include igniting Katniss and Peeta's costumes with synthetic fire, he nicknames Katniss, "the girl on fire." Cinna is in his first year as a stylist for the Games, and he specifically requested he be assigned to District 12. His audacious designs immediately win over the audience in favor of the District 12 tributes. Despite (or perhaps because of) his professional interest in image, Cinna proves to be better than most at seeing through the superficial spectacle of the Games to their barbaric core, "using [her] outfits as a vehicle to express potentially dangerous ideas." He and Katniss establish an easy, comfortable relationship and he demonstrates a genuine concern for her well-being. Cinna is very different from the other inhabitants of the Capitol; he does not use surgery to alter his features, wears simple black clothes, and leaves his hair its natural dark brown color, close cropped. His only evidenced feature is a slight touch of gold eyeliner that brings out the gold flecks in his eyes.
Octavia, Venia, Flavius, - Katniss's prep team. They are residents of the Capitol and sport the usual altered appearances of Capitol residents, including orange corkscrew hair and purple lipstick (Flavius), pea green skin (Octavia), and aqua colored hair and a face etched with gold tattoos (Venia). Katniss assumes that they are very dull-witted, and care only for their appearance.
Lavinia (Avox Girl) - Servant girl whose tongue has been cut out for being a traitor. She has red hair, porcelain skin, and striking features. Because of her inability to speak, Katniss does not know her name or anything about her. Katniss recognizes her from when she and Gale witnessed the girl's capture and the death of her friend, and Katniss later speculates that she is a runaway from the Capitol.
Portia - Peeta's stylist for the Hunger Games. Very little is known about her and her styling team.
Caesar Flickerman - A popular Capitol reporter who is famous for conducting interviews for the Hunger Games for more than 40 years. Described as wearing a "ceremonial suit, midnight blue dotted with a thousand tiny electric bulbs" and having a heavily powdered face and hair that the color changes every year as does the tributes, giving every different games a different color, he is somewhat freakish in his appearance to Katniss's District eyes. He is easygoing with most, if not all people, and is excellent at making the tributes "shine."