I have a theory that a good book is composed of good names.
Authors consistently prove me right, choosing names for their characters that seem to predict enchanting plot twists and endings that leave you breathless. I believe it's the first responsibility of an author -- choosing their characters' names, hinting at the destiny of every protagonist and villain.
Hitting theaters next month, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins boasts a name field unlike any other. In this Dystopian world of Panem, the Hunger Games are played in an open arena where only one Tribute will reign victorious. Collins based The Hunger Games on the Roman myth of the Centaur and the annual virgin sacrifice. Ancient Roman appellations like Aurelius, Cinna, Octavia, and Flavius all make an appearance in the fashionable, power-hungry Capitol. It begs the question: Like Rome, will The Capitol fall?
Katniss is called the Girl on Fire after debuting several, fiery ensembles created by her personal stylist. Though it is only a nickname, the practice of using a child's name to represent their district is quite common. In case the odds were ever to fall against them, every district would be able to follow their Tribute as they fought to the death in the Arena.
The tributes in other districts also represent their commerce through name. Tributes Glitter and Cashmere could only hail from District One, the purveyors of high quality items only just below the elite Capitol in wealth.
Wiress and Beetee (Book Two: Catching Fire) are harsher names, a little odd, until you realize District Three is known for their factories, electronics, and explosives. I always thought of a sound a machine might make when I read Beetee's name.
District Four is known for fishing, and are represented by the handsome Finnick and elderly Mags in Catching Fire's Quarter Quell. Finnick can be shortened to pet-form Finn, which brings to mind the fin of a fish. Mags is a diminutive of the Greek name Margaret, which means Pearl.
District Eleven is known for its agriculture and orchards; Rue and Thresh are their tributes. The Rue flower symbolizes young death, while threshing is a violent process that separates wheat from chaff -- a perfect choice for a Tribute who is expected to pulverize his competition.
Collins also withheld many of her names, killing Tributes before we could ever learn their identity, further illustrating their tragic expendability in the world of Panem.
As for the heroes, Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and Primrose, their names are richer, more layered in meaning and ripe with foreshadowing.
Peeta, a diminutive of Peter, means rock, a perfect choice for Katniss's love interest; he is her stronghold on and off the battlefield. Gale means storm, which leaves the reader wondering what will happen when the torrent is unleashed. Katniss and Primrose are both nature names, one a root, the other a beautiful flower. Katniss's father taught her that she would never be hungry if she found herself.
If you want to read more about my thoughts on The Hunger Games, visit my book blog, The Mod Podge Bookshelf, or follow me on Twitter @modpodgebooks!