We’re back with our Guest Post Tuesday! This time, we’re hearing from Satsuma! She;s got some interesting character analysis of our often misunderstood heroine, Katniss Everdeen!
Take it away, Satsuma!
You can say that the THG series is about a lot of things. Suzanne Collins might say it’s about war first and foremost, but it’s also about survival, adventure, romance, even psychology. And much like the overall story offers different things to different people, so does its heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Marshall Bruce Mathers III created not just one persona, “Eminem”, but also the “Slim Shady” persona as a spinoff of that. Well, Katniss, along the course of the story, also acquires several different personas. The Girl on Fire. The Star-Crossed Lover. The Mockingjay.
But it’s not just the name. In my perusal of many Hunger Games fansites, blogs, and discussions, I have found a plethora of different opinions about Katniss. Some hail her as a heroine, a role model, a defender of the innocent. Others find her to be an angry, vengeful girl who’s being a hypocrite when she questions Gale’s ruthless actions. I’ve even seen Katniss described as a sociopath who’s really not much different from her chief antagonist, Snow.
Katniss questions her own identity many times in the books. In THG, when she considers her possible post-Games life as a wealthy Victor, she muses, “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.”
As she is heading back to District 12 after the Games, she muses some more:
“I excuse myself to change out of my dress and into a plain shirt and pants. As I slowly, thoroughly wash the makeup from my face and put my hair in its braid, I begin transforming back into myself. Katniss Everdeen. A girl who lives in the Seam. Hunts in the woods. Trades in the Hob. I stare in the mirror as I try to remember who I am and who I am not.”
Well, Katniss, you’re not the only one having a hard time remembering who you really are. Many fans have sharply divergent opinions, about a lot of different dimensions of you. There are so many, I can’t fit them all into one post. So here is the first in a series of them!
First question. is Katniss masculine or feminine? For many readers, the first impression of Katniss, is that she is a classic tomboy, more at home in the woods wearing her old father’s hunting jacket, than twirling around in a dress. Many fans see her and Peeta’s relationship as an example of a complete gender role switcheroo. After all, not only does Peeta bake, frost cakes, and is less than skilled in outdoor survival, he actually wants to settle down, have a family, and pop out kids (or would if he could), while Katniss has that stereotypically male Fear of Commitment.
And yet…Katniss is NOT balking on marriage and family because she wants the freedom to bed every eligible male in sight, or is ambitiously focused on a high-profile career. Unlike Peeta, who’s embraced his identity as a baker, Katniss really doesn’t seem to have any vocational goals. So, while Peeta IS a baker, as Katniss tells him in MJ, Katniss is just “a girl who hunts.” Her hunting is a means to survival first and foremost. It may also provide her with a feeling of connection to her father, and to Gale, but she doesn’t seem to enjoy it as much once she’s in D13 and hunting is reduced to recreation.
So what is Katniss’s REAL identity in the pre-Game days? It’s not “Katniss the huntress”, it’s “Katniss the provider for the family”. While that’s still a more traditionally masculine role, nowadays even traditionalist types who think a “woman’s place is in the home”, will grudgingly allow for mothers to work if they “HAVE to” financially, have no choice because the man of the house died or left, or are actually, you know, starving. Which, really, is all Katniss is trying to do, survive for another day. Also, consider what Katniss knew was the alternative to learning to hunt; joining those starving girls lining up at Cray’s door, selling their bodies. Her finding hunting to be a better option, doesn’t mean she had a secret ambition to become the CEO of some fancy company selling wild game to every household in Panem.
And speaking of fancy jobs…a corollary to the idea of Katniss as a masculine figure, is the idea that “Katniss is Gale with tatas”. Is Katniss more similar to Gale, or to Peeta? Even many Everlark shippers assume the former is true, they just use it as an argument as to how Gale and Katniss wouldn’t have worked because they’re TOO similar to each other.
But are they really? It seems to me that Gale always had ambitions to move beyond the confines of D12, while both Katniss and Peeta see D12 as home and are content to return to it at the end. (Now, technically Katniss HAD to return, but I think that she’d have done so even without that part of her “parole agreement”.) Out of the Love Triangle Trio, the only one who winds up putting career before family, is Gale.
As an aside: I think that Peeta hitting it off with the Capitol bakers, and his artistic nature that Katniss teases him about in CF, suggest that he could have survived, even thrived, in the Capitol after the war. (Also, note that cooking and baking as paid professions, as well as the art world, is STILL dominated by men, so Peeta really isn’t being that subversive in his career choices.) If Peeta was interested in personal advancement, returning to D12 was not exactly the best career move. But did anyone doubt he would?
As for Gale, I think that while he did sincerely love Katniss, she wasn’t his true love. His true love was the rebellion, and in both CF and MJ, he lets his commitment to the Cause drive him and Katniss further apart. He also, in canon, shown to have that stereotypically male tendency to Sow His Wild Oats Before Settling Down. I wonder when Gale would have made a move on Katniss if Darius and Peeta hadn’t made him realize that he’s not the only guy who finds Katniss attractive. Would he have continued his reign as King of the Slag Heap, assuming Katniss would be available once he finally got ready to settle down?
Now, you can argue that Katniss takes Peeta for granted just as much as Gale took her for granted, but Katniss wasn’t playing the field. In stark contrast to Gale, Katniss is, as Peeta puts it, “pure”. Also, it’s not the experienced Gale who awakens Katniss’s sexual “hunger”, it’s Peeta. Hmm, a pure woman who only lets her more primal desires be sparked by a man she knows will be around for the long haul and truly loves her, for more than just her body? Seems like the plot of literally a thousand romance novels. Also, note that Katniss is fairly passive in her approach to romance. She’s never the one to make the first move, with either Peeta or Gale. She might not spend as much time obsessing over her love life as, say, Bella Swan, but here she is following some very traditional female tropes.
And BTW, despite a lot of fanfic/art presenting this as fact: Katniss is NOT a horrible cook. At one point in THG, she describes, in great detail, how she’d recreate a Capitol version of Orange Chicken… “Chickens are too expensive, but I could make do with a wild turkey. I’d need to shoot a second turkey to trade for an orange. Goat’s milk would have to substitute for cream. We can grow peas in the garden. I’d have to get wild onions from the woods…” This is NOT the POV of someone who can’t heat up a pot of Greasy Sae’s stew without setting the kitchen on fire! As a Food Network fan, I’d say that while she might not win Next Iron Chef, she doesn’t need pointers from the How to Boil Water crew either. I think she’s at least at the Rachael Ray level, though with a totally different personality, of course.
And true, Katniss isn’t bubbly and giggly like “Rache”, or Delly. She seems to be more comfortable among boys than girls; not just Peeta and Gale, but Cinna, Finnick, even Haymitch. But she does have a close relationship with the more stereotypically feminine Prim, bonds with Rue, and winds up befriending Madge and Johanna (two very different women, other than being fan favorites to pair up with Gale), as well.
Unfortunately, Katniss not being a stereotypical female in some (though NOT all) respects, has led to her being harshly judged by many fans for not following the Stand By Your Man routine when Peeta’s hijacked. She’s also judged for not forgiving Gale for his part in Prim’s death. Because, of course, women are all supposed to be unconditionally loving, forgiving, and Emotionally Supportive, as opposed to those stone-faced males who have the emotional capacity of a teaspoon (and if you didn’t get that reference, I urge you to read the Harry Potter books again, and if you haven’t yet…PLEASE DO!)
Well, I actually thought it refreshing that Katniss is presented as a believable female character who often has trouble understanding her own feelings, much less expressing them verbally. Because there are times when I find myself in similar situations, and I don’t think this makes *me* less feminine. Yes, for those who don’t know me, I do happen to be a woman, who also has some non-traditionally female interests like baseball and football, but I certainly don’t think that makes me “masculine”, either.
That’s it for now. Part 2 will delve into “Is Katniss a compassionate person, or not?” “Is Katniss a static or dynamic character?” I’ll also return to the topic of how similar she REALLY is to Gale. I think that answering those questions also helps answer that very controversial one of why Katniss voted the way she did in that pivotal scene toward the end of MJ.