Katniss Everdeen is the main character and narrator of the novel The Hunger Games. We first meet Katniss as a teenager of 16 years who must support her family after her father’s death. Her mother also suffers from depression. Katniss must also support her younger sister. Katniss and her family live in a poverty-stricken coal-mining District 12. It is the realities Katniss encounters that shape her traits.
Katniss is the stalwart of her family. She has to support a depressed mother and her younger sister after the death of her father who died tragically in the coal mine accident. The fact that her mother could not cope with the loss made Katniss to take the role of the head of the household.
She must provide for the household, and save her family from starvation. Katniss talks about her roles as follows. “It was slow-going at first, but I was determined to feed us. I stole eggs from nests, caught fish in nets, sometimes managed to shoot a squirrel or rabbit for stew, and gathered the various plants that sprung up beneath my feet. Plants are tricky. Many are edible, but one false mouthful and you’re dead. I checked and double-checked the plants I harvested with my father’s pictures. I kept us alive” (Collins 4.19)
Katniss symbolizes the will of a woman to survive despite all odds. She must be innovative and hardworking to do this through foraging and hunting. These are what form the core of her female roles and identity.
Katniss also offers support to others outside her family. Katniss also extends her protective instinct to a friend and an ally, Rue from District 11. She tells us that Rue too is a survivor, and that is why she formed an alliance with her. This is crucial among the female characters in this novel. They must survive despite all odds.
Katniss’ role of protecting and providing for others extends even to male characters in the novel. Peeta Mellark is a son of a baker who is only good with cake decorations. Peeta lacks hunting and gathering skills we notice in Katniss. Katniss risks her life so that she can deliver medicine that can save Peeta from a near death.
We can see Katniss as a female character who others can rely on for their survival. However, we must ask what role Katniss will play if she wins Hunger Games. This makes her ponder her possible new identity and role in society. “For the first time, I allow myself to truly think about the possibility that I might make it home.
To fame. To wealth. To my own house in the Victor’s Village. My mother and Prim would live there with me. No more fear of hunger. A new kind of freedom. But then…what? What would my life be like on a daily basis? Most of it has been consumed with the acquisition of food. Take that away and I’m not really sure who I am, what my identity is. The idea scares me some” (Collins 23.62)
This reflection remains unresolved at the end of the novel, but we can guess Katniss will have to find herself a new identity and role once she returns to District 12.
Life in District 12 is hard; thus survival is the term other characters use in the description of other characters. This makes Peeta’s mother says “She’s a survivor, that one” (Collins 7.31). Survival is the main concern for Katniss wherever she may be. The needs to survive have made her fish, hunt, fight, and trap all manner of food items.
The survival instinct makes Katniss a hardened person. Katniss has no strong attachments to other characters or things. Thus, she lacks strong emotions to relate with other characters.
Katniss has all her energy directed to daily activities of making ends meet. Consequently, she is a sentimental character. This trait makes her different from other female characters in the novel.
For instance, Katniss shows lack of love for Buttercup, the family cat. Katniss views Buttercup as “another mouth to feed” rather than a playmate. This could be the reason why Katniss tried to drown the cut so as to save it from starvation and death eventually. Likewise, Katniss has no strong attachments to children. She is not thinking of having children.
This makes her tells Gale “Who would fill those mouths that are always asking for more?” (Collins 1.28). The thought of bringing children in a poverty-stricken life scares her. This is a deviation from normal role of female in society. As a female, society expects Katniss to take the traditional role of women, such as child-bearing and house chores.
Katniss does not approach the issue of love like any other normal female. It is difficult to understand her feelings of love given she has to struggle and provide for her family. However, we can notice some form of love among characters she interacts with in the novel. Team Gale provides some of the most important moments in Katniss life.
These are some of the moment happiest times in her life. However, Katniss keeps her feelings to herself because of family responsibilities. We notice this through her opinion on children and the need to cater for her family.
Peeta has always loved Katniss. However, Katniss does not return his love because they are competitors in the game.
Critics may consider Katniss a heartbreaker because Katniss ignores Peeta’s feelings. Peeta declared his love for Katniss before a National Television making a private affair public.
Amidst her confusion, what comes out of Katniss is “Peeta has made me an object of love” (Collins 10.33). In this context, the statement may present ambiguity. It can empower and disempower both characters. Katniss must play a role before the audience that may change her life. She must act as Peeta’s object of love because both of their lived depend on it. Therefore, rejecting Peeta before the audience is impossible.
This shows that women may take up some roles in order to save their positions in society. The idea of relating women to object of love seems to persist in society, and not likely to end soon.
Life changes for Katniss when she enters the Capitol. She becomes a celebrity and engages in celebrity games. However, this looks like an appearance to her than reality. She must change her traits to meet those of celebrities and public figures, and create a persona out of herself. However, she manages these roles with the help of Cinna, her stylist.
She also learns these new appearances from Haymitch, her coach. She can manipulate the audience of the Hunger Games through the romance act with Peeta. We can notice that Katniss can only achieve her success and win the audience through becoming Peeta’s object of love.
This makes Haymitch comments “It’s all a big show. It’s all how you’re perceived. The most I could say about you after your interview was that you were nice enough, although that in itself was small miracle. Now I can say you’re a heartbreaker. Oh, oh, oh, how the boys back home fall longingly at your feet. Which do you think will get you more sponsors?” (Collins 10.24)
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008. Print.