That’s what Jeremy Madden, Aspen Daily News Columnist wonders and investigates in a recent article. He makes a lot of interesting observations but ultimately is left in the same place the rest of us are – wondering where exactly the Capitol is and what the nation of Panem really looks like since Suzanne Collins has declined to comment on what city or cities served as inspiration for the world of The Hunger Games.
It is the description of this capitol city and its residents that has attracted my attention. And the more I read about this “fictional” capitol and the Panemians who inhabit it, the more I think Aspen just may be Panem, the capitol city in “The Hunger Games.”
Early in the book my interest regarding Aspen was peaked when Katniss travels via high-speed rail to the capitol. That is when we first learn more about the location of her homeland and the capitol. “In school, they tell us the capitol was built in a place once called the Rockies. District 12 was in a region known as Appalachia.”
After disclosing that the capitol is in the Rockies, Collins continues with a more precise description of where the capitol lies. “I realize we must be in the tunnel that runs up through the mountains into the capitol. The mountains form a natural barrier between the capitol and the eastern districts. It is almost impossible to enter from the east except through the tunnels.”
Obviously, the author is describing something similar to the Johnson and Eisenhower tunnels that run for miles through Rocky Mountains on I-70. This narrows it down to Colorado, west of the Continental Divide. Then, when Katniss finally arrives in the capitol city, Collins feeds us a little more information about the capitol through the eyes of Katniss. “The cameras haven’t lied about its grandeur. If anything, they have not quite captured the magnificence of the glistening buildings in a rainbow of hues that tower into the air, the shiny cars that roll down the wide paved streets, the oddly dressed people with bizarre hair and painted faces who have never missed a meal.” Oddly dressed people … bizarre hair … never missed a meal. Clearly, the author is talking about Aspen.
The commonalties of the capitol of Panem and Aspen don’t stop there. Much like Aspen, stylists are very important in the capitol, and when Katniss describes what she thinks her stylist might look like she clearly is describing the elite of Aspen. “Most of the stylists they interview on television are so dyed, stenciled and surgically altered they’re grotesque.”
As the book unfolds we learn that the capitol of Panem and Aspen have more in common. Much like Aspenites, residents of the capitol are disliked by the lesser folks not lucky enough to live there. We also cannot forget that each community produces nothing, but draws resources from far away lands to support itself. But wait, there’s more. In Aspen and the capitol, the citizens both like to sleep late. And much like in Aspen, the residents of the capitol are portrayed as gluttonous, shallow and aloof when compared to the rest of the districts. Just as the children of Aspen enjoy certain privileges, the children of the capitol city enjoy the ultimate privilege and are exempt from the Hunger Games.
Even the whole story of the Hunger Games is analogous to the Aspen area. With the capitol residents representing Aspen’s wealthy elite, the 12 districts are the local yokels just trying to make ends meet. Just look at District 12. It is one of the furthest outlying districts and happens to be home to Katniss. The district is known for coal production and area residents refer to it as the “Seam.” That sounds comparable to Silt or Rifle, which have plenty of coal seams.
What do you think? Where do you imagine The Capitol to be?