Katniss Everdeen: The Girl who Lived On

Writing a review on the Hunger Games Trilogy in 2012 seems like old news, and it is. After all, they’ve released the movie franchise. So, why write a review then? I pondered this question as Myra, upon learning that I finally was reading the trilogy (much of it due to her nagging, lol) suggested that I write a review as it fit perfectly into our current theme on Girl Power and Women’s Wiles.  But rather than share my thoughts on the whole series, this post will take a turn and look into the character that is at the center of the trilogy—Katniss Everdeen.

There is much to be said about the book, its plot, its writing, its philosophy and socio-political stance, but I will let that all come unsaid and trust that the gazillion of reviews on this trilogy have already touched on these things. I will, with all intent, focus on the girl on fire (and maybe, just maybe slip in a few words about Peeta Mellark, my favorite character in the trilogy).

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

When I first met, Katniss Everdeen I wasn’t sure I liked her. I wasn’t sure her voice was strong enough for me to believe her. I hesitated and resisted her storytelling until maybe halfway into the book. Maybe because I had to readjust myself to peeking through the mind of a 16 year old that I struggled through the first few pages of the book. Twenty-eight is a long travel back to sixteen and the perception is over a decade different. However, I had to let go and readjust my lenses to find that Katniss Everdeen was a person I’ve most likely met.

Playing Adult

I’m a thesis away from being a Developmental Psychologist and as such, my immediate reaction towards this series is whether the characters are characteristically adolescents. Yes, the circumstances are quite different, most teenagers worry about high school (or college) not surviving or dying. However, Collins made Katniss who she was supposed to be, a conflicted teenager asked to carry a burden beyond her age. That image seems distant to most of us living in safe middle class worlds, but I realize that for the hungry and greater majority of a dystopian world set in the near future, this could be a slice of reality.  Therefore, what does a teenager forced to adulthood look like, they most likely look like Katniss (or maybe even Gale) —tough exteriors with very fragile interiors. This makes her accept the image of the mockingjay, but at the same time, it eats her up. For a child, no matter how much she wishes to stay strong and protect people, is a child. It is this quality, I think, that makes me hesitant about disliking her. She’s a girl I know too well.

The Girl who Loves

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

This image of Katniss, I think, made reading the book even more engaging. It’s wrong to say she was prepared for the reaping. She wasn’t. She was scared. Nevertheless, she was the parent in her household, her personal acknowledgement of her role made one thing clear to her and that was to protect her family. Was it brave to volunteer herself? It was, but it wasn’t what made her volunteer. So, rather than mangle that up and say that Katniss was a brave girl, I’d like to describe her actions in the reaping as Katniss’ capacity to love. It sounds so romantic, doesn’t it. However, when fleshed out, if she loved anyone at that point it was Prim. That was clear. She was still scared. She still questioned her decisions (if I remember it right), but her purpose was driven by that love. Yes, that is bravery. However, beyond bravery, I keep seeing a mother hen willing to fight for her children. So indulge me when I say Katniss is the girl who loves.

The Girl who Empathizes

Peeta Mellark would often throw the phrase that referred to this quality that Katniss had – but no one knew. I don’t remember it being given an actual name. To me it felt like that x-factor, most commonly referred to as charisma. However, when I think about it, I think of how Katniss is all heart. She doesn’t explain things in terms of justice or morality, that’s Gale and Peeta’s turf. While she listens to Gale and Peeta, it isn’t what compels her to act – what makes her act is what she believes to be true.

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Would hurting people feel right to her? Would acting in a certain matter feel right? Yes, she is crazy, but her power lies in her spontaneity. She moves people with her authenticity. She moves people with her heart. I find that if we were to dig deep she sees people as she would see her family. Her family is her anchor. Her values and her reaction to situations in the bigger scale are but a multiplication of what she would do to people she loved. She doesn’t see Capitol people, district so-and-so. She takes the time to remember names, to see the person and appreciate them for who they are. Because she knows them, she feels for them. One of the most touching scenes to me in the trilogy was her stand to defend her prep team from the abuse of District 13 soldiers and from Gale.  This characteristic makes her see the slight changes in Peeta’s weight as she watched him on TV. It’s the same when she stood there as a district 2 miner held her on gunpoint. As she emerges from her own personal concerns, we see her as the girl who empathizes.

The Girl who Lived On

There were moments I was frustrated at the way she falls into traps or how helpless and dramatic she could be, but it is during these moments that I needed to step back and retrace myself to adolescence. It is hard enough to carry the burden of protecting your family at 16, while at the same time struggling to survive a deadly game. However, it is a far greater burden to carry a ‘nation’ on your shoulder at such a young age. They manipulated her, used her and crushed her. There are many in the world that has been victim to such manipulation and pain. Poverty has been used by the powerful so many times to lure the poor to do things for them—from doing the dirty work to selling their bodies. It is then understandable how Katniss struggled to look beyond the comfort, the safety and to make a decision on what she believed in. Throughout the three books, we saw her grow up. We saw her as the metaphorical girl on fire to the girl who really burned. What, I believe kept every reader rooting for her was her ability to stand up and make amends. Katniss, once she knew what she needed to do, didn’t buckle down. She forged ahead. She stood by her decision, fought for what was right and accepted the consequences. As she would put it, she learned to live with the pain.

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Katniss grew up and we watch her struggle through the difficulty. Her challenges were extreme, but I imagine many teens going through similar difficulties. The beauty of Katniss’ character is she is a teen girl crushing on boys and worrying about kissing and all that, but she was also a girl who knew her strengths and her weaknesses, who knew how to fight it out and survive. She didn’t give up. She was the girl who lived on.

I appreciate the way Collins played out the romance. She didn’t make the ending like a spinning romance where they ran to each other’s arms. She allowed each character to heal and deal with everything.  She allowed Katniss to find her peace in a dandelion in spring.

Awards for The Hunger Games: PUBLISHERS WEEKLY’S BEST BOOKS OF 2008: CHILDREN’S FICTION, NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE CHILDREN’S BOOK OF 2008, AN AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION TOP TEN BEST BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS SELECTION, AN ALA NOTABLE CHILDREN’S BOOK, 2008 CYBIL AWARD–FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, 2009 CHILDREN’S CHOICE BOOK AWARD

Awards for Catching Fire: PUBLISHERS WEEKLY’S BEST BOOKS OF 2009: CHILDREN’S FICTION; A PEOPLE MAGAZINE (TOP 10) BEST BOOK OF 2009; A LOS ANGELES TIMES BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK OF 2009; A BOOKLIST EDITORS’ CHOICE, 2009; A KIRKUS BEST BOOK OF 2009; AN AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION BEST BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS SELECTION

Awards for MockingJay: NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE CHILDREN’S BOOK OF 2010, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY’S BEST BOOKS OF 2010: CHILDREN’S FICTION, A BOOKLIST EDITORS’ CHOICE, 2010, A KIRKUS BEST BOOK OF 2010, NPR BEST BOOKS OF 2010, A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS’ CHOICE, A CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR’S BEST CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF 2010, AN IRA YOUNG ADULTS’ CHOICES BOOK FOR 2011

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 35/36/37 (35)

24 Comments on Katniss Everdeen: The Girl who Lived On

  1. I am reading the third book and i have seen the movie.
    eh, movie was 4*s.
    great post! Go peeta!
    #1kid

    • Hi #1Kid! Thanks for dropping by. I agree the movie wasn’t perfect. It could have used a little bit more. Well, i hope you enjoy book 3! do drop by again and share your thoughts. :)

  2. Nice character review!

  3. very well said.

    I think what makes Katniss someone so relatable to others too is that she has to weigh her actions adeptly to play the games well so as not to fall into the decadence and deceptive glamour of the game. There was that struggle in playing in order to survive without losing her heart and soul, which metaphorically represents the culture that plagues the media and entertainment tv we have today.

    Also, I like how Katniss clung on her values of love/compassion, empathy, family, and friendship and how these values have sparked hope to others. It is a validation that what a dystopian world needs is not beauty nor glamour nor fame, but a person who has unshaken principles. Quoting from our national hero, Jose Rizal, “the youth is the hope of our country, ” won’t it make a huge difference if the youth today has the same values as Katniss’.

    • Hi weordkrasa,

      Outside the plot-the dystopian world—Katniss is someone familiar. Someone who isn’t up in a tower or who’s constantly a victim. I like how she grits her teeth and fights despite having fallen. In a greater perspective it does reflect how society (capitalism, media) can eat us and as people we need to protect our hearts and soul. This were some of the things i left unsaid, but would be a great area of discussion around the trilogy.

      And i agree, if the youth valued themselves, who they are and pushed off the walls that dictate who they should be, then yes….those words by Jose Rizal would ring more true.

      Thanks for your very thorough comment. I enjoyed being able to discuss this post. :)

  4. Oh Iphigene, you have shown this young woman so beautifully, as in literature sometimes people call the ‘child-woman’. I loved the books, enjoyed the characters, but was out of the classroom when the books came out & would love to read this book with a few older adolescent girls, to examine your different concepts. How fun that would be, to see what a few fourteen year olds think about her, perhaps to help them make some personal connections. Thanks!

    • Hi Linda,
      I would have to be honest when I saw this book first I was hesitant. I’ve been “traumatized” by my attempts at reading popular YA. Despite Myra’s nagging I really hesitated. But i am glad i read it. It had depth and had layers for discussion. This focus on Katniss being one of them and yes, this would be fun discussing beyond the romance and more into the characters and the ideas being presented.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post Linda. It’s what would be called my “come-back” post assuming i get to write more reviews in the coming weeks. Thanks for the visit. :)

  5. Great character review. I immediately related to Katniss, both the teen me and the adult me embraced her adult shoulders and childlike vulnerability. I do think there are many teens who, while not battling physical death, are sure query life and death and dealing with this on a daily basis. Plot, politics and philosophy aside, I think Katniss is a very compelling teen, whom our teens can look up to. I really enjoyed this post.

    • Thanks Joanna. I’m glad you enjoyed this review.
      Yes, I agree. This book is something that teens should explore. I like that it promotes a character that struggles, but carries on without a need for someone to save her. It’s a good thing to encourage especially among teens. :)

  6. I like the post, but I have to say I disagree. I found Katniss’ character to be a little annoying, and to get more so as the novels went on (I haven’t seen the movie yet).

    She reminded me a lot of the Buffy character. I loved Buffy, it’s my favourite show of all time. But the character of Buffy was not a good person.

    Buffy whined a lot. She complained all the time. She didn’t want to be in the position she was in. While others did what they did for the good of the world, Buffy thought only of herself. She wanted to live her own life, not save the world. She had a younger sister she had to protect. She had no father figure. She had problems trusting people, and letting those who love her into her life.

    In essence, she was a selfish girl.

    Katniss fits into every single one of these. Katniss doesn’t want to be a hero. She doesn’t want to save the world. She doesn’t listen. She leads a unapproved suicide mission to kill the president, but ends up not even reaching him (killing many others in the process). It’s all about her, no one else. It’s what she wants to do, not what is best.

    Did she ever make a decision that didn’t have her own self-interests in mind?

    Both Buffy and Katniss were given a gift that could help many people. But they couldn’t see past their own noses. It was all “Why me?” But others went on and fought the good fight without complaint, even without being “special.”

    I really don’t think Katniss loved anyone but herself and her sister. Even at the end of book three, I never got the impression she loved the person she married.

    • And I like your comment.

      All your points are valid. I do see how you can say she was a selfish girl. I did say it was hard for me to like her as a character. But I also thought aren’t most adolescents like that? That sense of being important, that sense that the world revolves around her….then being thrown into a situation where the “choice” isn’t really a choice much but a need to survive. I won’t push to the point that there’s something noble about Katniss…The Why me? i think is why this resonates to its targeted audience. Most teens feel the world crumble and think they live the hardest life…I like that somehow (even beyond Katniss’ character) this book offers a “why not?”

      But thanks for offering another point of view. It’s something I can also think of and consider.

      thanks for taking the time to read the post and expressing your view.

    • Hi, I like the discussion here, and let me jump in a little bit although my recollections about the book are a tad hazy now since I read it a year ago. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I can understand how you may regard Buffy and Katniss to be somewhat similar. I remembered watching Buffy when I was younger but was not really able to follow through the entire series.

      I think a discussion on motivations and what it means to be ‘selfish’ may also be a tad dicey since it raises a lot of issues as to whether there is anyone who is truly altruistic AT ALL, and whether her being selfish is what makes Katniss so relatable – she simply articulates that which others may perhaps dare not claim because they are ‘trying’ to be the hero that the world requires and live up to people’s expectations. Katniss had no such pretensions because she refused to be an ‘image’ projected onto people. The fact that she ended up being one was not due to some careful calculated deliberation on her end, but the fact that she was simply being ‘genuine’ is what Iphigene shared in her review.

      In more ways than one, I thought Katniss was also naive – she goes through the motions without really realizing the magnitude of what she does – I think more than selfishness, I would extend it a bit further and note that at the very heart of it all is her attempts to survive the best way she knows how. I think the novel is also riveting in the sense that it depicts that savagery of survival made into a travesty by the Capitol – and manipulated skillfully for their own ends and agenda. Thus, Katniss is trapped in that system, struggling to survive, and finding a way out – unwittingly, without her knowing exactly what it would take and what it means. I think what makes Katniss and Buffy distinct (only as far as I can remember since both narratives are hazy to me now), is that Buffy’s world was still quite contemporary (yes there were vampires and werewolves, but perhaps all high schools have them in one form or another) – whereas Katniss was struggling with something bigger than herself, as she fails miserably, and tries again, redefining it in a way that is understandable to her so she can still live with herself. And I also sensed that sensation of being lost in her, and that more than being whine-y, I thought that she was also just deeply unhappy. Regardless of who she ends up with. :)

      • Here was the thing to me: Every other character in the book stood up when they needed to. Gale, Peeta, Haymitch, Cinna, Finnick, Johanna, Mags, Beetee, the team that went on the suicide mission, etc. They all took a stand. They all decided to fight the good fight. They all lost family and friends. And a good many of them sacrificed themselves for Katniss, without a second thought.

        But Katniss wasn’t like that. She hemmed and hawwed, didn’t want to co-operate with others in District 13, didn’t want to listen to people, etc.

        Peeta was the same age as Katniss. Yet he fought non-stop.

        People were willing to die for Katniss and the war. Katniss was willing to hide in the tunnels whenever something happened she didn’t like.

        • You’re right in a lot of respects. Iphigene and I are chatting right now and we both agree that she is the least decisive among the characters. Peeta is something else, isn’t he? He is the “special” one – I believe. Katniss was merely thrust into her role, and she looks right and left, not knowing what to do with it. :)

        • I like Peeta a lot. To continue with the Buffy analogy, he’s a lot like Xander. No special powers, in love with the heroine, will do anything to save his friends, etc.

          But yeah, Peeta is a special one. He really got the ball rolling for the whole thing by confessing his love for Katniss on the stage in book one. Without that, probably none of this happens.

        • When I wrote this post I wasn’t so sure how people will take this, but i’m glad that it lead to a book discussion. I think its evident in the review that Katniss wasn’t an easy character to like because she was the least decisive, she often hanged on to someone to come up with a decision of her own. She was impulsive and didn’t follow rules. She did things her way. And i suppose, based on your comments here and your review of the blog, you felt she didn’t grow up at all and as a character there was nothing to genuinely like about her. This post was in many ways my attempt to look further into her actions. Did I read too much into it? Maybe. But at the same time I felt there was something to like about her. Her context, her experiences, her motivations are things that we all just have to hypothesize about and in many ways I tried seeing Katniss within the context of difficulty (family, poverty, social manipulation, violence, war) and asked myself if i was her how would i react. Was her reaction valid? I guess that’s it. I praise every other character. I liked Peeta since from the very beginning his views showed a less narrower perspective of the situation. Would I liked it that he was the center character? Maybe. Would I wish Katniss to take the back seat? I would.

          Having said that, i do see where your points are coming from. I agree with them. As i noted in my post, this wasn’t an easy post for me to write as Katniss wasn’t the character that resonated with me.

          Thanks again for the discussion.

  7. Really enjoying the post and discussion. I love the complexity of the character. For me, it is the most authentic thing about the book. A girl who is naturally direct but is forced to lie constantly and manipulate television viewers and sponsors. A child who is forced to act like an adult. Katniss is forced to be a lot of things for a lot of people and I think it is a real strength of Collins’ writing that we still are left with an essential sense of who she is at the end.

    • Hi Maeve,
      thanks for dropping by. I think you raise a good point about Katniss. While she played the game (all that manipulation) she didn’t finally succumb to it. In the end, she was herself. I always come back to events in district 2 wherein she stands at gunpoint realizing there was no point killing innocent citizens just because they are from a said district.

      thanks for joining the discussion. :)

  8. Love this review and the discussion it generated! Katniss, I don’t really like her. But I prefer her as a role model over other female leads in popular novels or movies for young adults. By role model she doesn’t have to be someone to be emulated, but her character and her life could be something to dissect, analyze, and then take the good and learn from the bad.

    Have yet to see the movie, and read the two other books. I will read them, and reread your review when I’m done. :)

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